OBJECTING TO ANIMAL DISSECTION
A COLLEGE STUDENT'S HANDBOOK BY NAVS
Formated By Dental Friends
Click Here To Visit NAVS Homepage
The National Anti-Vivisection Society was founded by an idealistic group of people outraged by the infliction of suffering of animals in the pursuit of science. Today we are bolstered by support from those who know there are better and more humane ways of advancing human health and scientific knowledge. We are committed to the advancement of science education which imparts respect for life as well as an understanding of biology. We assert that dissection imparts a contradictory message--one which compromises an individual's empathy to the suffering of others.
We hope that this booklet provides you with the information you need to support your compassionate decision. Please call us if you have any questions or need additional assistance. Encourage your parents and instructors to call us, too, for current information on innovations in science education which do not inflict suffering on animals.
Dear Concerned Student:
By contacting the NAVS Dissection Hotline, you've already taken the first step toward protesting animal dissection in college courses. This booklet is designed to help you take the first step down the path to an ethical scientific education.
Refusing to dissect animals can be a difficult choice. I know from experience. In 1987 my daughter, Jenifer, decided she didn't want to dissect a frog in her high school biology class. Jenifer's simple ethical objection spiraled into a two-year struggle to establish her right not to harm animals in the classroom.
In a number of states students in grades kindergarten through high school have now won the right to refuse to dissect, harm or kill animals--and the right to substitute an alternative project. Other states (California, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania) have policies that guarantee a student's right to refuse dissection. I believe that college students also deserve to have their rights respected.
We designed this handbook to assist students in taking a stand on their beliefs about humane education and respect for the environment. If after reading this booklet you have more questions about how to proceed, feel free to call me at our toll-free number, 1-800-922-FROG (3764).
TO DISSECT...OR OBJECT
A Question of Conscience
When dissection was introduced into the educational curriculum in the 1920s, it was thought to be a good learning tool in the study of anatomy, physiology and the theory of evolution. Today, more sophisticated teaching methods have been developed which can replace dissection and save animals.
But dissection is a big business. Every year millions of animals are killed to be dissected for educational experiments. Many of these animals, such as frogs, earthworms, crayfish and perch, are collected from their natural environments; in the process, their habitats are decimated and entire ecologies are threatened. Many other animals, such as rats, are bred merely to suffer and then die. A recent investigation of certain biological supply houses showed that cats obtained for dissection suffered very painful and cruel deaths.
Equally destructive is the desensitizing effect of mutilating and dismembering animals in the name of science and for the cause of "education." Somehow the study of "life science"-- meant to instill wonderment and respect for life--has become the science of death. Dissection teaches students that animal life is expendable and unimportant. As a result, some of the best potential scientists, who have a deep respect for animal life, may end up dropping out of a field they love because they refuse to take part in senseless killing.
Despite the availability of numerous innovative educational alternatives ranging from detailed models to computer simulations, animal dissection remains a fixture in most college biology, physiology and zoology courses. Year after year, millions of animals needlessly die in U.S. college classes to demonstrate basic anatomy, which could easily be taught by other means.
Recently, students around the country have begun to speak out against this misguided practice. As student objections to dissection become more vocal and visible, the use of humane, innovative teaching methods increases. In fact, many medical and veterinary schools have eliminated, or no longer require animal labs.
Every time a student exercises his or her right not to dissect animals, the awareness of the entire academic community is increased. By exercising your right as a student, you can help create an environment where respect for animals is considered the norm.
SAYING NO TO DISSECTION
Guidelines To Consider When Raising Your Objection to Your Professor
1. VOICE OBJECTIONS EARLY
First, clarify your reasons for requesting an alternative, and decide how far you are willing to take matters. Before the term starts, or as soon as possible thereafter, ask your professor whether you will be expected to dissect or use live animals. Find out precisely what you will be asked to do. Don't rely on your professor to give you advance warning. Tell your professor of your intention not to participate in dissection experiments as soon as possible; do not wait until the day of the dissection lab to voice your objection. This will give both you and your professor enough time to work out an acceptable alternative.
2. BE FIRM, BE CALM
State your objections calmly and clearly, and be prepared to discuss your reasons for refusing to dissect. Never approach your professor in an arrogant, self-righteous or confrontational manner. Presume that he or she may have a different belief system on the issue of animal use, and it is unlikely that you will change those views. On the other hand, stress that you do not wish this value system to be imposed upon you, as it conflicts with your ethical or spiritual beliefs.
3. SUGGEST ALTERNATIVES
Suggest reasonable alternatives that will meet the teaching goals of the course by some method that doesn't involve the harmful use of animals. This could include writing a paper, preparing anatomical charts or studying diagrams, videos or models. The alternative project should take an equivalent amount of time and effort and be relevant to the course work. Be prepared to be tested on the same materials as other students, as long as the test itself does not include a practical dissection, or the use of dissected specimens. You should not be penalized for doing an alternative project.
4. ASK FOR A STRAIGHT ANSWER
Ask your professor to respond promptly to your request for an alternative project so you'll have enough time to complete it. If you get a noncommittal or negative response, take your request to the appropriate department head or dean.
5. GET LEGAL ADVICE
The NAVS Dissection Hotline has had great success in negotiating with educational institutions on this issue. If you want legal advice or need to take legal action to defend your right to object to dissection, the NAVS Dissection Hotline can put you in touch with an attorney.
6. PASS A POLICY
Another approach is to organize like-minded students and go to your professor and department head as a group. Request that a formal policy be instituted which offers alternatives for students. Put your request, and the suggested policy in writing, and ask for a reply by a specific date. Get letters of support from students who have avoided science classes because of dissection requirements. You can also use the campus newspaper and radio station as a forum for discussion. Go to the Dean and Board of Trustees if necessary. Be polite but persistent. Tenacity is the key to success.
PUTTING IT INTO WORDS
Communicating Your Thoughts and Feelings About Animals and Dissection
Some students who refuse to dissect encounter resistance--and even hostility--from professors, department heads and deans. When your ethical beliefs are challenged, it's important to be prepared. Here are some arguments that you might come up against if you object to taking part in dissection, along with some possible responses.
HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE IS ESSENTIAL TO UNDERSTANDING BIOLOGY
There are many practical alternatives to dissection. I can get "hands-on" experience by using detailed models of animal anatomy, observing live animals, or dissecting plants. Also, some people learn more from clear, detailed diagrams or computer simulations than from animal specimens.
DISSECTION IS A COURSE REQUIREMENT, AND YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT'S REQUIRED TO PASS THE COURSE.
I'm willing to be tested on my knowledge acquired by means other than dissection. I'm willing to do as much work as anyone else--by studying books, computer programs, videos or models--to meet the standards of the course.
THE PROFESSOR'S ACADEMIC FREEDOM IS AT STAKE.
My freedom of belief is what really is at stake. All the professor is being asked to do is consent to an alternative procedure for me because I am morally opposed to dissection. Students who are willing to dissect can still do so.
YOU ARE BEING SQUEAMISH. YOU SHOULD FACE YOUR FEARS AND MAKE YOURSELF DO THE DISSECTION ANYWAY.
Refusing to dissect has nothing to do with being afraid. Being opposed to dissection is not a sign of emotional immaturity, but of compassion for animals.
YOU ARE NOT A VEGETARIAN (OR YOU WEAR LEATHER SHOES), SO THEREFORE YOU ARE NOT ENTITLED TO OBJECT TO DISSECTION.
I have the right to draw the line where my conscience dictates, and to have my beliefs respected. Some people believe that it is necessary to use animals for food (or clothing) while at the same time believing it is unnecessary to kill them for dissection. Others who eat meat believe it is wrong to eat dogs and cats, or to hunt. Everyone draws the line somewhere, and because of my moral beliefs, I draw the line at dissection.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO DISSECT, JUST WATCH.
I can't watch someone else doing something that I think is wrong. Watching is still taking part in the dissection, and I am unwilling to do that. I would like to be excused from the lab while the dissection is taking place.
DISSECTION TEACHES US TO UNDERSTAND LIFE.
Biology is supposed to teach us respect for life, but dissection teaches us that animal life is cheap and expendable.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO KILL THE ANIMAL, IT'S ALREADY DEAD.
Using an animal that was captured, bred or killed for dissection still contributes to the cruelty involved. Even if the animal was killed for other reasons (such as a dog or cat that was euthanized at an animal shelter), using the animal for educational purposes is supporting the notion that animals are merely "tools." Recently, biological supply companies have come under scrutiny for cruel and inhumane treatment of animals "processed" for dissection. Cats which were pets have been stolen and sold for profit, both in the U.S. and in Mexico. There is no way to determine if the animal you are asked to dissect was treated in a humane manner.
PUTTING IT IN WRITING
When you refuse to dissect, it may be necessary to send letters to your professor, department head and, if necessary, the dean in order to formally explain your beliefs.
Here are some suggestions for writing these letters:
|Reprinted with permission of:
The National Anti-Vivisection Society
53 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60604