Inner Workings

Storm Taylor, Editor

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It is typical for a student in the US to dissect an animal at least once during his or her time in school. Animallearn.org estimates that around six million vertebrates are dissected in high schools every year, discounting the number that are dissected in colleges, middle schools, and elementary schools.

Like other matters concerning the human influence over life and death, dissection has become controversial. According to the Humane Society, eleven states including California, Oregon, Illinois, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have enacted state laws which give students the choice to dissect, according to their beliefs. Louisiana has made the choice to dissect a “state resolution” while New Mexico, Maryland, and Maine have passed the choice to dissect as a Department of Education policy.

While the issue of high school dissection may seem significant, the other states have no such policy and may penalize students who do not wish to dissect. The matter is not at rest. There are many advocates for and against dissection that are struggling to make their voices heard as they struggle for what they want.

The people against dissection tend to argue that dissection teaches students to devalue the lives of animals, that animals used for dissection are treated cruelly during life, and that many students are disturbed by the process of cutting up animals. People for dissection tend to argue that students benefit from interacting with organic specimens because the quality of information is better that can be presented digitally or in a book. They disagree with students becoming disturbed by dissection, claiming that students enjoy the process.

On debate.org, anonymous posters have reached the consensus that dissection should be banned in schools. Some arguments against dissection include,

“Animals should not be dissected, instead we should use simulations which are better and cleaner to use.”

“We also avoid the other part of the equation: teaching students that animals are here to be used by us for whatever purpose necessary.”

“I have seen students so ill that they retch and vomit through the whole lesson, some get very stressed  for days beforehand and after.”

“Animals are treated unjustly, and by using dissection sets, it is funding and promoting the abuse of animals.

However, the opposition presents these arguments,

“A student can never get the same quality of information from a book or a computer program that they can get from  real specimen.”

“Some students may not want to dissect animals due to their beliefs or other reasons. In those cases, it is fine to seek alternatives, but it will affect the student’s learning of the actual animal.”

“Learning anatomy using a real specimen is not only more fun, but is also more educational.”

Mr Ames, a marine biology teacher at Bob Jones, is having his students dissect sharks and starfish. He has this opinion of dissection,

“It gives students hands-on experience of anatomy and physiology.”

When asked beforehand how they felt about dissection, one student promptly responded, “I want to throw up and die.” Another student said that they have performed dissections before, so it doesn’t seem as bad.

When asked how they felt about dissection after the shark was opened and had its innards exposed, one student replied,”I feel disgusted… and proud.”

It is already known that certain industries do not administer basic needs such as sufficient nutrition and housing conditions for their animals. It is also well known that people are doing environmental damage by over hunting certain kinds of animals. Some view this as devastating while others are indifferent. Whether it is dissection, euthanasia in animals shelters, or any industry that “produces” animals, the culture should deeply consider what the perceived value of animals are. This will reveal a great deal about how we value humanity.

 

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