Animal Dissection: No Longer Cutting Edge American Politics 115-01 Dr. Griffith Chelsea Morrison April 24, 2012 The use of animals in science that results in harm or death has traditionally played an integral role in education. Many thousands of animals have been killed worldwide during attempts to teach practical skills or to demonstrate scientific principles which have, in many cases, been established for decades. Anatomy and experimental physiology started to be practiced around 300 B. C. Notable scientists like Aristotle, Vesalius and Gale conducted countless scientific studies with the dissection of animals almost every day.
If the law permitted, human cadavers were also dissected, but the use of animals in vivisection and dissection was generally less mired in ethical or religious concerns. Like today, animals were dissected not only to learn more about them, but also as surrogates for humans. Though animal and human dissections were used to educate medical students, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who wanted to learn to illustrate their subjects with better accuracy, also conducted dissections (Knight). They were also performed simply to illustrate the contents of ancient scientific texts.
Later the 1500s, Andreas Vesalius, the founder of modern human anatomy, thought that dissection should be used to correctly teach students about anatomy instead of using illustrations in books, as well as to gain new knowledge (Knight). From this, Vesalius set the foundation for dissection as a teaching and research tool. In the early 1900s, the dissection of animals became more common in biology classes (Knight). Frog dissection was established in college level courses and eventually was taught in high schools.
Around 1915, frogs became commercially available for use in education and by the 1920s, many high school classes considered frog dissection routine. A wider variety of animal dissection in high school became widespread after the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS). The BSCS was a federally-funded initiative in the 1960’s to create a science curriculum for elementary and high school students (Gilmore). Also as a result, more high schools offered advanced biology courses with the dissection of cats, minks, and fetal pigs, and even live animals.
In 1998, it was estimated that animal dissection occurred in 75-80% of pre-college level biology classes (Gilmore). Most prevalently today, dissection of such animals is now in college anatomy courses. In fact, each year, an estimated 20 million animals – around 170 or more different species – are used in the U. S. in all areas of education and grade level (Capaldo). In most countries, veterinary students learn surgery through surgical practice on healthy animals and then killed afterwards by the students.
It’s these practices that are controversial in veterinary school in concern for animals being harmed. But since harm accrues from any pain or discomfort associated with such procedures, and it disrupts of the animals’ normal life, the dissections are harmful. With student being exposed to the vast amount of animal dissection worldwide, students are exhibiting an opinion being forced on them with no options to oppose dissection. Under the stress of forced dissection, education is also is disheartened.
When forced to use animals in ways the student objects to, the student is traumatized and invariably learns less (Capaldo). But there are other options to animal dissection like “computer simulations, high quality videos, ‘ethically-sourced cadavers,’ such as from animals euthanized for medical reasons, preserved specimens, models and surgical simulators, non-invasive self-experimentation, and supervised clinical experiences”(Knight). Such options have been studied and proven to over and over to benefit both schools, educators and students.
In a 2007 study, “twenty nine papers in which live animal dissection didn’t occur illustrated additional benefits of humane teaching methods in veterinary education” (PETA). These benefits include time and cost savings, enhanced potential for customisation and repeatability of the learning exercise, increased student confidence and satisfaction, increased compliance with animal use legislation, elimination of objections to the use of purpose-killed animals, and integration of clinical perspectives and ethics early in the curriculum.
This evidence demonstrates that educators can best serve their students and animals, while minimising financial and time burdens, by introducing humane teaching methods that are not reliant on harmful animal use. Classroom dissection desensitizes students to the sanctity of life. Research has shown that a significant number of students at every educational level are uncomfortable with the use of animals in dissection and experimentation (PETA).
Studies also suggest that exposing young people to animal dissection as ‘science’ can foster a callousness toward animals and nature and even dissuade some from pursuing careers in science. (Wadman) Students simply do not need to cut up animals to understand basic anatomy and physiology. In contradicting, students who plan to go into a medical field can do better to study humans in a controlled and supervised setting, examine human cadavers, or use any of the many non-animal learning methods available, such as those provided by computer models and sophisticated simulators.
The simulation-based education would more accurately reflect what students will encounter when they get to medical school. This is in consideration that more than 90% of U. S. medical schools have abandoned the use of animals in their standard curricula (Wadman). Yet, despite the benefits, from 1986 to 2007, many academics remain opposed to the use of humane teaching methods (AAVS). I think more students haven’t stood up for their rights to not dissect because they do not even know where the animals are coming from and the process that occur.
Pound seizure is a term that not many people are familiar with unless they are against humane animal dissection. Any animal shelter or pound that is located in a state that has a pound-seizure law, must turn over animals who are not claimed within a about five days, to laboratories that ask for them. These animals are then used in animal dissection or experiments and usually the healthiest animals are used for dissection.
This presents an uncomfortable situation for families when they learn this because if their cat should run away and is not found for a week, chances are the cat has gone through pound seizure and since it’s a healthy house cat, their child might see her cat in the next dissection lab. Education institutions know this very well and support it because pound seizure provides an inexpensive and easy source of animals and allows educators to continue using animals instead of switching to better and humane alternatives that may require a financial outlay.
For example, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center had bought cats for decades from a local animal shelter. They paid fifteen dollars for each cat and used the cats in cruel and deadly medical training exercises and dissections. Cats used had tubes lodged down their throats and needles stabbed into their chests, even though sophisticated simulators were available (City of Odessa). However, after PETA sprang a campaign that uncovered the school’s relationship with the shelter, the school stopped buying animals from the shelter and ended the use of animals in their courses (Hartman).
More controversy is spiked from claims that the best educational learning is solely attributable to dissection on animals (Animal-Dissection); this is simply not true. An article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine evaluated the claims and concluded that it was not supported by any evidence (PETA). In fact, most animal dissections are not relevant to human health, don’t add meaningfully to medical advances, and many are done out of sheer curiosity and don’t even hold promise for curing illnesses.
People are only under the misapprehension because the media, experimenters, universities and lobbying groups exaggerate the potential of animal dissection to lead to be the only way to learn and how they have helped in past medical advances- as in centuries ago with Galen, which is irrelevant with today’s technology-. In the last presidential election, 2012 midterms and most recent republican primaries, no laws or acts were implemented against animal dissection in education.
The obvious reason is because the public is not concerned with the issue and is not being properly informed. In a 2009, a survey of opinions was conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to a general public of 2,000 adults. The poll reviled that “59% of the people thought regulations on animal research are not serious at all of an issue and only 27% said it’s a very serious issue”(PRCPP). However, past progress has been made, but it’s minimal.
The following states have laws safeguarding students’ rights to choose humane alternatives over dissection without being penalized: Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, Virginia, Oregon, New Jersey and Vermont. Currently, student-choice legislation is pending in Connecticut. In Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Mexico the Board of Education have policies, and Louisiana passed a state resolution in 1992. Numerous schools and school boards have also independently enacted student-choice policies because of student-run campaigns.
This information relates to Bill of Rights that is frequently discussed in class and what we have learned about one of its ten parts; the freedom of religion, speech, press, right of assembly, petition. PETA itself is a non-profit government organization that despite many people who disagree with their beliefs, still releases revolutionary and controversial articles such as this one because of its right to freedom of speech and press. Hundreds of large, infamous companies have been fined millions, given a bad reputation, and shut down like PLRS because of PETA.
I am sure many large research companies that use animal testing, zoo’s, food industry CEO’s and others would like PETA to keep their mouths shut and silence their undercover workers so they can stop sweating through late night anxiety attacks about whether PETA will catch them red handed next. But, because PETA’s work is protected under the Bill of Rights, their beautiful, righteous, revolutionary, jaw-dropping and god-like work can continue to save millions of animals’ lives.
I am for the new virtual dissections because of its significantly better educational attributes and it prevents innocent animals from being victims of companies trying to make a quick profit. I would improve animal dissection in education by implementing a law that requires all education institutions to provide students with an option to dissect real animals or do the virtual dissection. In addition, the optional agreement must provide each student with a list of both the positive and negative facts about each option because not many students will know why they should choose one option over the other.
This shows both a lack of awareness and education of the severity of animal experimentation. In order to allow the student to form their own opinion, they must be given the correct facts about both options. Plus, PETA provides a wonderful service that allows you to create your own leaflet (brochure) advocating an issue your concerned about so I would start a campaign urging local high school students not to dissect animals, create leaflets for the students or download or order PETA’s anti-dissection leaflets and then expand to my college. This issue greatly impacts my life now and in the future.
Currently, I dissected a fetal pig last week and was told my juniors who are also majoring in biology, that I must also dissect a cat and human cadaver. I understand the person who died did not die for the purpose of being dissected and willing donated their body to science, unlike animals. If I had been informed of where the fetal pigs came from and if there was a virtual option available, I would have definitely chosen the virtual option. Therefore, I am comfortable dissecting the cadaver but not the cat or any other future animals for dissection.
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