By Andrew Puccetti
Every year millions of students around the United States dissect animals with no regard as to where that animal came from or how it suffered. Although the dissections are for learning purposes, does the value of this type of education outweigh the cruelty that goes on behind the scenes?
Dissection animals are born with the miserable fate of being raised specifically for dissection, or are purchased from factory farms, animal shelters, or fur farms. Most invertebrate animals are taken out of their natural habitats, and many dogs are found in “free to a good home” advertisements, or even taken off the street. Surprisingly, dissection dogs can even be taken out of their guardians’ backyards.
The practice is horrible for kids too: Due to the chemicals used to keep the animals from rotting, like formaldehyde, dissection can cause health issues such as cancer, eye damage, asthma attacks, and bronchitis. The process of dissection has also been linked to environmental issues due to the removal of animals from the wild and the disruption of fragile ecosystems.
Thankfully, there are a few ways to oppose dissection is a peaceful manner. Student Choice laws are currently in place in the states of Florida, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Illinois, Virginia, Oregon, New Jersey and Vermont. Under these laws, students have the right to seek an alternative assignment to dissection without being penalized, and they do not have to participate directly or indirectly.
If this is a law in your state, take advantage of it! Usually, all you will need to do is respectfully ask your teacher for an alternative assignment. If the teacher does not respect your beliefs, you can take it to the principal, the school board, or even the superintendent. You have a right to speak up for your beliefs and nobody can tell you otherwise.
If you do not live in a state with Student Choice laws in place, do not give up—you still have a voice! Request a meeting with your teacher as soon as possible after dissection is assigned so that he or she has ample time to come up with an alternative. Be open about your concerns and clear that dissection violates your moral beliefs. Let your teacher know about the many alternatives available, such as computer programs, models, and books. If you have trouble finding these, there are many nonprofit organizations that lend them out. Chances are you will not be the only student worried about dissection—form a group and voice your concerns together. There is more power in numbers!
Why should students have a right to alternatives? For one thing, dissection teaches students that animals are disposable, and students who respect animals should be able to oppose this. Using alternatives teaches students to respect all life while at the same time offering a cruelty-free choice for education. Students should not have to worry about cutting up an animal, or feel forced to participate. Class should be fun and educational, not stressful or inhumane.
Though only fifteen years old, Andrew Puccetti has already shown immense dedication and passion for the well-being of animals. Every other week Andrew will be here talking about the relationship between young people and animal rights–how they can make a difference, how they are already making a difference, and how important it is for kids to continue the fight for our animal companions. Learn about Andrew’s non-profit organization Live Life Humane and check out his blog!