The Problem with Dissection & Vivisection

Every year, millions of animals are dissected or vivisected in schools and universities. It is estimated that 170 animal species or more are used for dissection and vivisection. Cats, frogs, fetal pigs, grasshoppers, mink, earthworms, rats, mice, dogs, pigeons, and turtles are just some of the many species used.

While most of the animals used in schools and universities are purchased as dead specimens, many are subjected to painful and lethal procedures while still alive. Animals are also obtained as 'byproducts' of extremely cruel industries. For instance, slaughterhouses provide fetal pigs and fur farms sell skinned mink, foxes, and rabbits. Most of these animals led deprived lives and standards at such facilities are sometimes not enforced.

Moving Toward Alternatives

Over the past several decades, educators have begun to question the value of the use of animals. Now, teachers and professors recognize that students can learn equally as well and often better through the use of modern technology. The majority of studies published in peer-reviewed journals show that students learn more when using alternatives to dissection. There is also an important lesson taught when not using real animals: Students learn to respect living beings and begin to appreciate and understand the role of animals in nature. This is fundamental to biology, the study of life.

Desensitization to Suffering

Seeing and cutting into dead animals who were once someone's companion can be very traumatic or otherwise difficult for students, especially if they find that the animal is pregnant. Use of animals from slaughterhouses, fur farms, or shelters and pounds neglect the greater problems of animal cruelty, why these animal lives have been wasted, and the animal overpopulation crisis. It instills a utilitarian view of animals, disregarding the study of life, and it promotes desensitization towards animal suffering. The purchase of cadavers for dissection creates another demand for these cruel industries.

Dissection Statistics

A reasonable estimate is that about six million vertebrate animals are dissected yearly in U.S. high schools alone, with an additional, unknown number used in colleges and middle and elementary schools. The number of invertebrate animals dissected is probably comparable to that of vertebrates.

Species used and where they come from

The most commonly dissected vertebrates are frogs, fetal pigs, and cats. Others include dogfish sharks, perch, rats, pigeons, salamanders, rabbits, mice, turtles, snakes, mink, foxes, and bats. Invertebrates include crayfish, grasshoppers, earthworms, clams, sea stars, squid, sea urchins, and cockroaches.

Most animal species used in dissection are predominantly taken from the wild. These include frogs, spiny dogfish (sharks), mudpuppies and other salamanders, birds, snakes, turtles, fish, and most invertebrates. Other animals used in dissection are fetal pigs, and mink, which are by-products of the cruel meat and fur industries. Cats used for dissection are purchased from 'Class B' dealers who procure cats from a variety of legal and illegal sources, such as animal shelters, 'free to good home' ads, and pet theft. These animals used in dissection are sold to biological supply companies, who then sell them to schools and colleges/universities.


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