Endangered Species Handbook

Print PDF of Section or Chapter


Learning Animal Anatomy Without Dissection

Project Summary 
Learn about animal anatomy in non-lethal ways.  New communication technology may provide better knowledge about anatomy, through videos and virtual learning, than does dissection.  Learn about these new resources and discuss their use in the classroom.
In a growing trend, biology classes are being taught about the anatomy of frogs, cats and other animals from CD-ROM software, such as "Digital Frog and Cat Lab," rather than killing live animals for dissection or dissecting dead animals.  An estimated 6 million vertebrates, half of which are frogs, are dissected each year by high school students, who are often so upset by the experience that they turn away from future science courses.  Such school projects are inhumane, often requiring that frogs be killed by the student, for example.  Moreover, frogs are in decline in the wild from a variety of causes, including the capture for such dissections.  Their populations need protection.  Many of the cats killed for use in high school dissection had been house pets that were illegally caught and sold to animal dealers in the United States and Mexico.  Humane organizations have been promoting non-lethal substitutes for many years.
o  Find out if your state's education department allows use of alternatives to animal dissection in classrooms.
o  Review a copy of "Digital Frog and Cat Lab" or another software from the organizations below.  The National Geographic Society sells various films, film-strips and other materials on animal anatomy.  The lessons include function, taxonomy and structure.  The Society's "Educational Services" catalog lists these products (P.O. Box 98019, Washington, DC 20090; 800-368-2728; www.nationalgeographic.org).
o  Contact the American Anti-Vivisection Society (Suite 204 Noble Plaza, 801 Old York Rd., Jenkintown, PA 19046, 215-887-0816), which publishes the brochure "Animals in Education: An Outline for Student Activists" and distributes audio-visual materials.  Also contact the American Fund for Alternatives to Animal Research (175 West 12th St., Suite 16G, New York, NY 10011, 212-989-8073) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) (441 East 92nd St., New York, NY 10128, 212-876-7700), which publishes the pamphlet, "ASPCA Guidelines for Student Experiments Involving Animals."  The Animal Legal Defense Fund (1363 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael, CA 94901) has a "Dissection Hotline": 800-922-FROG, and publishes the brochure "Objecting to Dissection: A College Students' Handbook."  The Humane Society of the United States (2100 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20037, 202-452-1100) publishes the brochure, "Does the Idea of Dissecting or Experimenting on Animals in Biology Class Disturb You?"  Also, the National Anti-Vivisection Society (53 West Jackson Blvd., Suite 1550, Chicago, IL 60604, 312-427-6065) publishes "Reverence for Life: An Ethic for High School Biology Curricula" and "School Project Packet."  The Student Action Corps for Animals (P.O. Box 15588, Washington, DC 20003, 202-543-8983) is dedicated to empowering young people in high school to work effectively for animal rights and acts as a communication network; it began the national "Say No to Dissection" campaign in 1984 and publishes SACA News and brochures such as "Say No to Dissection," "Suggestions for High School Student Animal Rights Groups" and "1-0-1 Non-Animal Biology Lab Methods."

Chapter Index
Animal Welfare Institute
    ©1983 Animal Welfare Institute