Objecting To Dissection

It's okay to say "NO" in science class

This page is for students wishing to object to performing dissection in their Biology class. However, the guide can be used to object to the use of any animal in high school study. This guide can be adapted to any campaign involving the use of animals in your education.

High school can be a place of pressure. Whether it be from having to perform academically to trying to be like your peers, you will find that in most cases it is just easier to "conform" to others.

The classroom is no different. Many students who are planning to studying Biology, or in the process of studying Biology, will no doubt be faced with a difficult situation: dissection of an animal.

The initial reactions of some students is one of disgust or pity for the animal that they are going to dissect. Many do not want to dissect, but pressure from the teacher in particular, forces the student to perform an activity that they rather not do. And in most cases, the student gives in and unwillingly dissects. It is in high school that students are taught that animals are a means to a purpose- that their function in the world of science is to be used to answer a curiousity or achieve a specific goal. Students wishing to continue into tertiary studies will then begin to fully accept that it is justified to use animals in their education and research. This results in the cruel cycle of animal experimentation to continue into those science areas that currently use animals in their research. If you are against animal experiments and testing, then fighting to stop it at your school is very important.

YOU DO NOT NEED TO DISSECT irrelevant to what your teacher tells you. Unlike Biology classes 20 or so years ago, there are many alternatives available that can be used instead of live animals. This makes it so much easier for today's students to refuse dissection, yet still effectively learn the outcomes covered for that activity. Students have a choice when faced with using animals in their education.

Of course it is not an easy task to refuse dissection. You may be one of the lucky few who has a teacher that is sympathetic to your belief. However, for the majority of Biology students, the teacher can be the first and toughest opponent towards your goal, yet they are the one that needs the most convincing.

If you are wishing to object to dissection, don't wait to the last minute! When starting the new school term, be aware when the dissection will take place and start the objection process as soon as possible. You may find that it may take several weeks before everything is resolved. You will also find that the alternative available will be on a "loan" basis and you need to plan when you can receive and use your alternative. By leaving it too late will means putting added pressure on you to comply.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If there is an alternative available, the teacher has to consider and adopt the alternative if it is deemed relevant! .

Refer to the NSW Public Schools Guidelines on Animals in Schools: www.schools.nsw.edu.au/media/downloads/animalsinschools/resources/guidelines/a1_13.pdf

Completing your education without the use of animals is achievable. A veterinarian, Dr. Andrew Knight, managed to complete his veterinary degree without having to use 'research or laboratory animals' in his tertiary study.

Below is a guide to how you can successfully object to dissection in your classroom.

Initial Stage of Objection

  1. The first step is to identify the situation and be clear in your aims. Follow this by addressing your teacher telling them of your objection. Preferably not in front of the class as this may lead to unwanted pressure from your peers. Talk to your teacher alone or take a supportive friend with you when meeting with your teacher. Try not to be emotive. Ask the teacher if there is any other means of learning the Outcomes without the dissection.
  2. If your teacher is resistant to your objection and refuses to allow for your choice, don't become upset and give up. The next step is to do some research about dissection and the alternatives. This will allow you to be more confidant when addressing the teacher in the Second Stage of Objection.

What to research?

  • The reasons why you refuse.
  • Research the 3 "R"s of Animal Experiments- Replacement, Reduction and Refinement.
  • Available alternatives that can be used (very important).
  • Whether the alternative is available and how to go about getting it.
  • The advantages of using alternatives over animals, for eg with alternatives, the activity can be repeated more than once, something that can not be done with an animal.
  • If the dissection is assessment based, make sure to include that your alternative has an assessment component which will address the same knowledge criteria.

The best way to go about this is to write a short essay about the reasons why you don't want to dissect. Try to be clear and factual with evidence to support your argument. Also in your essay emphasise the fact that a student does not need to do dissection to learn the physiology of a mammal or amphibian. Include the alternatives and inform your teacher that you are willing to find the alternative yourself. You will find that the teacher will open up more to the idea since they don't have to do anything extra to accomodate you. Talk with your English teacher in helping you with your essay. You'll find they will be very supportive in the matter and you might need their support in the second stage of objection.

Second Stage of Objection

  1. Make a few copies of your essay just in case you need to address the Principal or another 'body'. Hopefully, your teacher will agree to accomodate your choice and the problem is solved, as long as you're willing to obtain the alternative and know how to use it effectively (this requires extra work on your part-in particular at home).
  2. If you find that your teacher is still not supportive, then the next step is to address the Principal with the teacher present. This will be one, if not, the toughest step in the process.This is because you are faced with two opposing authority figures. Don't despair! Before addressing the Principal, ask your parent to come along to support your decision. If a parent is not available, then ask another teacher that you feel comfortable with - in particular, your English teacher. If you are unfortunate in not finding a support base, just contact us and our Humane Education Officer will be more than happy to help you.
  3. In a positive manner tell your Principal about your objection and hand them your essay. Inform them that you are willing to use the alternative that will still address the Outcomes.

Third Stage of Objection

Hopefully, you will not be at this stage. If you do find yourself in this situation, don't give up or become angry. You will find that when fighting for a cause or a goal that is not normally accepted, you will come across many hurdles. But it can be done. This stage involves putting the pressure on the teacher and Principal, rather than on you.

  1. Write to the Education Department informing them of your objection. Make sure to include a copy of your initial letter, as well as a summary of what has happened so far. Email them as well so that you have a written record. This may be the best way as it will provide quicker communication between the Department and yourself.
  2. In the meantime, create a simple information brochure and hand copies to other students, in particular other Biology students in your class, as well as the students in the grade below you, as they may be studying Biology the following year. Find other students who are supportive and sympathetic to your cause and get a petition happening. You will find that the teacher will need to address your objection more seriously, as it is no longer a single student objecting, but many. The petition idea may not seem effective, but it has shown to be a very successful means of bringing about change.
  3. This may seem excessive, but write a letter to your local newspaper telling them of your situation. You will find that local newspapers love students writing in. You may even have the newspaper visit the school to interview you or the teacher. This will let the school know that you are very serious and not willing to back down. Also, if your school has its own newsletter, it may be worth contacting them too.

Fourth Stage of Objection

  1. Make sure you keep in contact and updated with the Department. Emphasise the fact that you want the matter resolved as quickly as possible. Give a copy of the petition to both your Biology teacher and Principal.
  2. Hopefully by this stage the matter is resolved.

Remember this: Despite all objections to your decision, your teachers and Principal will no doubt admire you for your belief and conviction.

Important Note: If at any time your teacher wants to talk to you alone, it's okay to have someone else present. This will help you not feel pressured talking with the teacher.

Don't think of the objection as just a single victory. It is through your dedication and hardwork that other students will follow your lead and will wan't to object to dissection. Think of yourself as starting a worthy and positive change in your school. It is extremely commendable and something to be proud of.

When you are successful and you did involve the local newspaper, make sure to inform them of your victory.

At any time, if you need additional information or support, feel free to contact us. We're here to support you.

If you need someone to visit the school to help you talk to the teacher or Principal, our Humane Education Officer will be more than happy to oblige.

Invaluable resources:

Info against dissection:

What are the three "R"s?

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