Don’t need to dissect animals

To the editor:

When I attended college during the 1960s, the grade I was most grateful for was my worst grade – the D I received in biology lab. I was disgusted by cutting apart formaldehyde-preserved animals. I skipped more labs than I attended. Had I failed the course, I would have needed to repeat it because passing biology lab was a graduation requirement.

Before becoming “specimens” for dissection in biology lab, animals are gassed, drowned, embalmed while still alive, or otherwise subjected to cruel deaths. “Classroom Cut-ups: A Lesson in Dissection” shows what these animals are subjected to before they die. View this video at

According to the National Institutes of Health, the formaldehyde that preserves the animals is a carcinogenic irritant to the eyes, skin, throat, lungs and naval passages of the dissectors.

Disposal of the animals after dissection creates environmental hazards. And safe, humane alternatives including computer programming or plastic models cost taxpayers much less than constant purchases of animals from biological supply companies.

Under New York law, public school students through grade 12 “expressing a moral or religious objection to the performance or witnessing of the dissection of an animal shall be provided the opportunity to undertake and complete an alternative project.” The law does not apply to colleges.

The National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Science Teachers Association and the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (the latter organization represents college level anatomy and physiology teachers) have endorsed replacing animal dissections with alternative teaching tools.

Dissection may encourage students to disrespect life and to become callous. Last year at Newport Harbor (California) High School, students mugged for photographs with dead cats used for biology class dissections, posted them on Facebook, and solicited disturbing comments from their friends.

Consequently, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District followed the example of some other schools that have replaced animal dissections with alternatives. Every school and college should do likewise.

Joel Freedman

Chairman, Public Education Committee

Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York