We get a lot of questions about dissection. (Well, TBH, we get a lot of misinformed comments about it, too—but that’s another story.) If you’ve ever thought, “I don’t want to dissect but I want to be a doctor, so I have to” or “I don’t want to dissect, but I’ll fail if I don’t,” then you’re in the right place. PETA is here to save the day and answer all your dissection-related questions. (OK, maybe not all—so if you have a question that we didn’t answer below, let us know!)
Let’s get to it! Check out PETA’s answers to FAQs about dissection:
What’s the problem with dissection anyway? It’s just a class project.
Plain and simple: It’s WRONG. More than 10 million animals—including frogs, rats, cats, and fetal pigs—are used in cruel classroom dissections every single year. Animals are living beings who feel pain, suffer, and want to live, just like we do—so why are we reducing them to classroom tools? It doesn’t make sense to teach about life by cutting up dead animals. There are so many modern, educationally superior alternatives to dissection, so there’s no excuse for cutting open a dead animal.
But aren’t the animals dead already?
The animal on the dissection table is dead, but don’t forget that he or she was alive once! The animals used for dissection don’t donate their bodies to science. Many are stolen from their homes in the wild, killed in slaughterhouses, or bred in warehouses and then gassed or suffocated to death—so f*cked up.
Will I learn as much from an alternative as I would from an animal dissection?
Yes! Dozens of studies show that students who use humane alternatives learn as well as—and in most cases, better than—students who dissect animals. Studies have also shown that students interested in science sometimes lose that curiosity after being forced to go through the traumatic experience of dissecting animals. Plus, if you make a mistake while dissecting an animal, there’s no undoing it, whereas with virtual-dissection software, you can repeat any step that you need to—meaning that there are actually more opportunities to learn. ♥
Do alternatives to dissection cost more?
Nope. Think about it—what’s cheaper: buying dead animals for students year after year or buying a single computer program that can be used forever? Using interactive software saves schools money, and some programs are even FREE. Another bonus? Students won’t be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde (which is used to preserve dead bodies).
Do you have to dissect animals to become a veterinarian?
Many vet programs have largely replaced dissection with modern methods such as computer software and realistic models. But just as medical students need contact with human patients, veterinarians-in-training need contact with live animals, and humane programs can provide these opportunities. Students often learn through clinical experience in which they observe and assist experienced veterinarians in treating animals who have legitimate medical problems and will benefit from the treatment.
Some veterinary schools and veterinary-technology programs also allow students to opt out of performing unnecessary or harmful procedures on animals that they find objectionable. With sufficient research, compassionate individuals who refuse to harm animals should be able to find a veterinary program that will not require them to compromise their principles.
I want to be a doctor. Do I have to dissect animals in medical school?
Drumroll, please: 100 percent of U.S. medical schools do NOT ask students to cut up dead animals! Andexperience with animal dissection or experimentation on live animals is not required or expected of anyone applying to medical school. Medical students are trained with a combination of human-patient simulators, interactive computer programs, safe human-based learning methods, and clinical experience. Heck, you can even become a board-certified surgeon without harming any animals.
Is it true that dissection hurts the environment?
Yes. Frogs are the most commonly dissected animals. The removal of frogs from ecosystems disrupts nature’s delicate balance. Populations of insects skyrocket, resulting in increased crop destruction, pesticide use, and spread of disease. In addition, the way that animal corpses and toxic chemicals are disposed of in some schools and supply houses is of public concern. Careless disposal of toxic substances can contaminate groundwater and soil, threaten food supplies, and endanger wildlife.
My teacher said that I HAVE to dissect and if I don’t, I’ll fail. What should I do?
Check it out: If you live in a state or school district that has a dissection-choice policy in place, you can say NO to dissection and ask for an alternative assignment. If your teacher refuses to give you a humane alternative, it could be illegal! Check to see if your state or school has a dissection-choice policy.
If you live in a state or district without a dissection-choice policy, have your parents call your school and ask that an alternative assignment be given to you. If that doesn’t work, e-mail us for help.
Print out leaflets and bring them to school to let people know why you’re choosing not to dissect. Once your classmates learn the truth about dissection and realize that it supports cruelty to animals, they might want to opt out, too!
OK, I choose NOT to dissect. How do I talk to my teacher about this?
Yay! We’ve got you covered. This form will generate a letter to your teacher (which will be sent anonymously) explaining why dissection is wrong and why he or she should use humane alternatives instead.