Dissection

dissect 002Dissection is the cutting into of a dead animal to learn about the anatomy or physiology of the animal. It involves cutting into a dead animal while vivisection entails cutting into or dissecting a live animal. Over six million animals are killed for the dissection industry each year.

Animals Used for Dissection

Sources of Dissected Animals

What happens to the animals used for dissection?
Some animals, such as amphibians and reptiles, may suffocate or become crushed during transportation to biological supply companies; most of the animals used for dissection are killed and “processed” at such companies. Undercover investigations have revealed animal abuse at biological supply companies. Frogs, for instance, may be piled into bags for days or even weeks while still alive. Rats may be embalmed alive. Cats may be forcibly injected with preserving fluids after being only partially euthanized, thrown into gas chambers, or drowned.

The Effect on the Environment
When one type of animal is removed from an ecosystem, the entire food chain is affected. Frogs, for example, naturally consume many insects. With so many frogs disappearing (as a result of habitat destruction, pollution, and dissection), the insect populations have risen substantially. Because there are more insects, there is greater use of pesticides, which can damage the water supply and food chain. 

Types of Classes in which Dissection is Taught 

The Danger to Students
Animals used in dissection are often embalmed with formaldehyde, a chemical preservative which can damage the eyes and cause asthma attacks and bronchitis. Moreover, the chemical has been linked to cancer of the throat, lungs, and nasal passages. Symptoms of formaldehyde exposure include eye, nose, throat, and skin irritation; a persistent cough and other respiratory ailments; a headache; and nausea and dizziness.

Objecting to Dissection

If you live in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont or Virginia you have the legal right to refuse to participate in dissection in class!

Feel free to contact an animal protection organization at any point; we are here to help!

Alternatives to Dissection
Numerous studies have shown that students using humane alternatives learn as well, if not better, than students who dissect.

The Expense
In the long run, dissection alternatives are less expensive than dissecting live animals. Unlike the former, alternatives such as CD ROMS can be used time and time again, therein permitting students to practice the techniques as many times as they need to truly learn the material. In addition, they are typically accompanied by a manual and do not require supplementary tools such as scalpels or dissections pans.

States that Have Dissection Choice Laws

States with informed student consent laws (K-12):

States with student choice policies:

States with legislation proposing student choice:

Read each state’s individual law.

Passing a Student Choice Policy
Ask your school to to adopt a student dissection choice policy.

Ask your school district or state Department of Education to adopt a student dissection choice policy. More information.