Animal Dissection Is Wrong

By April 22, 2013Education

Dear Editor. My name is Delaney and I am a Grade Eight student in an Abbotsford middle school. Our science class will be dissecting a cow eye tomorrow and I wanted to explain why I think the rules of animal dissection should be changed.

Schools are always talking about how bullying is wrong and that everyone should stop it. I think this is ridiculous because animal dissection is us taking a creature who is weaker and smaller than us and killing them for our own purposes. In this way, animal dissection is the same as a bigger kid killing a smaller child and taking them apart just to have fun. It’s hypocritical. Schools often teach about non-violence, yet during a dissection lab the kids are told to go forth and cut open an innocent being that hasn’t done anything wrong.

Dissection teaches that creating suffering in another living organism is alright. Also, dissection is bad for the environment because of the dangerous chemicals used for preservation. Formaldehyde causes cancer.

There are other ways for students to be learning about the biology of living things. For example, schools could buy computer programs that teach the same thing, if not better, than dissection would teach them. This way would also become cheaper in the long term for the school because you only have to buy the program once and it lasts a lifetime. You have to continuously buy animal parts for children to dissect.

I hope people will take this into consideration the next time that they are thinking about doing a dissection class with their students.

Delaney Coughlan

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Meghann Coughlan says:

    Well said, Laney!

  • ian backs says:

    well put young lady…well put

  • Richard Peachey says:

    Very interesting letter, Delaney! As a science teacher I can understand both sides of this debate. Many students simply don’t like the idea of cutting up animals or parts of animals (such as a cow’s eye), and that revulsion or distaste is an important factor in the discussion. To say the least, I think students who have thoughtful convictions about this matter should be given some options. Have you respectfully informed your science teacher of your views and requested an alternative assignment? That sort of action, on a small scale, can serve as a beginning to further developments on a larger scale.
    Would you please allow me to challenge a few of your statements, if only to help you sharpen your arguments for your position on this controversy:
    (1) Killing animals “humanely” (as we say) is not actually “bullying.” We kill animals for many reasons, including euthanizing suffering animals, slaughtering animals to eat, “sacrificing” animals during experimental medical procedures, and “culling” animals whose population is considered too large. The eyes dissected by Grade 8 students may come from cows slaughtered locally for food. This is done quickly and as painlessly as possible. You might legitimately contend that we should avoid eating animal products (as vegans would argue) but the word “bullying” is not truly applicable.
    (2) Cows are not actually weaker or smaller than most of us. Even a relatively small cattle breed will weigh at least 600 pounds (just under 300 kilograms) when mature. Google “cow weight” for more info.
    (3) You are right to be concerned about formaldehyde, which has been recognized as a carcinogen. But I doubt that a properly managed Grade 8 classroom will experience significant exposure to this chemical, assuming proper ventilation (open windows). Buckets of cow eyes should have their lids put back on quickly, once the eyes have been removed, and the eyes should be rinsed in running water. Also, students should be provided with disposable gloves (latex or otherwise). You should also be aware that formaldehyde has been somewhat phased out as a biological preservative, and that specimens may now be kept in mixtures involving isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) or ethyl alcohol. You could check with your teacher regarding what preservative is used for the specimens in your classroom.
    (4) Computer simulations can be useful up to a point, and may be worth pushing for in combination with your discussion of the downsides of animal dissection. But doing an actual dissection on a real animal body or part arguably provides a higher educational experience than would just watching a screen. I would not want to be operated on by a doctor whose only anatomy experience was on a computer, just as I would not want to fly with a pilot whose only training had been on a flight simulator! There’s just something extra, educationally speaking, when you experience three-dimensional reality with all your senses, as compared to a flat screen that you can only see and listen to. Besides that, computer programs may well involve continuing costs such an annual licence fees charged to the school district, which may not necessarily be cheaper than the cost of a small bucket of animal parts. It’s worth investigating in further detail.
    In conclusion, Delaney, I hope you keep thinking for yourself, and don’t let anyone (especially teachers!) discourage you from forming your own convictions.

Leave a Reply