Call Her CutOut

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5 min read

She may have a funny name, but she’s no classroom cut-up. Just in time for Cut Out Dissection Month (October), PETA intern Jennifer Thornburg has officially changed her name to CutOut Latin for “compassionate frog lover” (I might have made that up), CutOut is on a mission to cut dissection out of school curriculums.

Why is Ms. hopping mad about dissection? Any way you slice it, dissection is cruelty in the classroom. Millions of frogs, cats, dogs, pigs, worms, mice, rats, rabbits, and fish are killed each year for student dissections. Breeding facilities that supply animals to schools rip animals from their natural homes, and some even use stolen or abandoned animal companions. PETA went undercover at one such supply house and caught employees embalming cats and rats while they were still alive!

Animals deserve to be left in peace, not pieces. CutOut couldn’t agree more. Read our interview with this dedicated activist to get the lowdown on her name change and much more.

PETA: What made you decide to change your name?

CutOut I changed my name in order to raise awareness about the 6 million animals who are killed and processed for dissection each year. These animals suffer painful deaths and their bodies are then used in labs, when computer stimulations, diagrams, or 3D models could be used instead. Cutting up animals in school sends the message to students that an animal’s life is worthless. I don’t think that’s a message teachers should be sending. With so many cheaper, more educational, and humane ways to learn, there is no reason for students to be dissecting in high schools today. I hope to raise awareness on this subject, and to cause teachers and students to say “No” to dissection and “Yes” to alternative ways to learn anatomy.

PETA: Did you dissect in high school?

CutOut In middle school I dissected a chicken. I wasn’t into the idea of dissecting an animal, but when I asked my teacher for an alternative, he said that I could only have it if I went vegetarian for the two weeks leading up to the dissection. I thought that was crazy at the time, so I went through with the project. Looking back, I can’t remember much from the actual dissection; I know now that using an alternative would have been much more educational, and I also know that it’s definitely not crazy to be a vegetarian too.

PETA: What do people call you now? My fellow interns call me CutOut, but my family still calls me Jenny. My favorite thing to do is to introduce myself to people as CutOut, which always raises a few questions. This gives me a chance to explain a few facts about dissection—such as how cats are sometimes pumped with formaldehyde while they’re still conscious.

PETA: What have people’s reactions been to your name?

CutOut CutOut is one of those names that you have to say three times, spell out, and use in a sentence before people process it. Once people get my name down, they normally want to know why I changed it. This gives me a chance to tell them about the estimated 6 million animals used in high school dissection labs throughout the United States every year. Once people learn how the animals are gassed, pumped with formaldehyde, drowned or otherwise inhumanely killed for dissection, they are shocked and want to know what they can do to help.

PETA: You’re obviously very passionate about educating people about dissection. Why is that?

CutOut Two years ago, I was an active peta2 Street Team member. I was trying to rake up some points to trade in for a shirt, and I got an e-mail saying that anything that I did relating to dissection during the month of October would be worth double the points. Because of this, I decided to work on getting a dissection-choice policy passed at my high school. When I started to research policies and why dissection is bad for the school, students, and animals, it became an obsession of mine. My senior exit project and my junior year were both dedicated to getting a dissection-choice policy passed at my high school. I was shocked when I read about how much more educational the alternatives to dissection can be, how much money they can save for the school, and how many lives could be spared. It’s shocking to me that schools still use dissection as a part of their science lessons when there are so many humane and equally educational alternatives out there that will also save schools money.

PETA: I know you got the policy passed at your school. Congrats! How excited were you?

CutOut I was super-excited, to say the very least!

PETA: I can imagine. What did the DMV say when you got your new license?

CutOut It took me two tries to get my license. On the second try, the DMV worker looked very amused and confused, but also looked like she was afraid to ask for an explanation. When she finally did ask about it, I had a good conversation with her, explaining that is a real Web site and then explaining why I’m against dissection. She seemed repulsed by the thought of animals being drowned, pumped full of formaldehyde, and gassed as a way of death. She also looked shocked when I told her that it affects 6 million animals per year. When she called over another worker to be a witness to my paperwork, the other worker grinned and said, “Oh, I remember her!” (It happened to be the worker I had talked to on my first attempt to get my license). Overall, it was a great opportunity to start a conversation about alternatives to dissection!

Whether you are a student, parent, teacher, or concerned taxpayer, you can act to end dissection in your town’s school system. Visit (the Web site, not the person) for tips on what to do and help getting started.

Written by Amy Elizabeth

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