In Europe, up to 400.000 animals are used each year for education. Taken from their natural habitat or bred in unacceptable conditions, they are killed for this pointless activity of dissection for educational purposes.
Years ago, when dissection was brought into schools, teachers thought that it would help the students to learn more easily. Today, still with the view of an optimal educational experience, professors want to use alternative methods.
In Sweden and Norway, for example, dissection is rarely used at high/secondary school. the scientific level in these countries is one of the highest according to a recent international comparative study of maths and science.
Some teachers probably hope that dissection will encourage students’ interest in science. But the truth is that very often, it repels them. Many students are naturally concerned about the well-being of the animals but dissection frequently discourages them to continue their scientific career. A large amount of students have this opinion.
A 1992 study involving 468 youths of 14 to 15 years old showed :
Not only do the alternative methods cost thousands of euros less than dissection but they last years without needing to be replaced each year for each new class.
With these alternatives, students can follow the lessons at their own rhythm, can catch up missed courses and can review the programs as often as necessary until they have fully understood everything. They will moreover be able to benefit from a considerable computer experience.
The frequent disciplinary problems related to dissection are suppressed. Other advantages are that there are no longer risks of injury from sharp instruments or secondary effects from the preserving agents (eg formalin), most of which are carcinogenic and can cause serious crises of asthma or allergies.
Formalin is used to preserve desiccated animals. However, it represents a potential sanitary risk for the humans exposed to this preservative. This chemical is often irritating to the eyes, the skin and to the respiratory system. A concentrated product can cause serious damage and even death. The use of formaldehyde is equally related to cancer of the throat, lungs and nasal system.
The key element for learning is repetition. This is not possible with dissection.
Once the animal is dissected, the exercise cannot be done again. Computer techniques allow the students to explore the human or animal anatomy as often as required, until they have fully understood the information.
The non-profit association InterNICHE promotes alternative methods to the use of animals for education (biology, medical and veterinary lessons). This worldwide network provides teachers and students with pedagogic multimedia material (CD ROMs, videos, books, models…) of high quality. These are lent for free (except postal charges) for a period of 6 weeks.