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School’s Anatomy Lesson Intensifies Debate Over Animal Dissection in Classrooms

School’s Anatomy Lesson Intensifies Debate Over Animal Dissection in Classrooms

For years, the dissection of animals in high school classrooms has been a topic of debate for many.

The debate has surfaced once again after video footage of students using cat intestines for jump rope began circulating the web. Not intended to be disrespectful, the activity was actually part of a teacher-led lesson used to show students the length and strength of body parts.

"The lesson was intended to demonstrate and explore the strength of the organ...The teacher participated in this same lesson in her college courses at Texas A&M,” said the district’s spokesperson, according to

But despite the quick explanation, the damage had already been done. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) was quick to jump in, condemning how animal dissection desensitizes students to life and urging for schools to consider using virtual alternatives.

For animals rights groups, most notably PETA, animal dissection is inhumane and should be substituted for online programs that instead provide virtual dissections.

For others, like English teacher Karen Coyne, animal dissection is viewed as a way to wreak “emotional havoc on impressionable teens,” according to the Pacific Standard.

In 2014, Coyne filed a lawsuit against her school district after she said she was retaliated against by her administration for publicly questioning the need for students to dissect live animals.

While people like Coyne and others support the use of alternatives to live dissections, many members of both the science and education communities disagree. Many say there is simply no alternative to the real thing, and others argue that virtual programs are rendered useless by district connectivity problems.

Groups like the National Science Teacher Association adamantly stand behind live dissection "because observing and working with animals firsthand can spark students' interest in science as well as a general respect for life while reinforcing key concepts.”

The NSTA says it is at the teacher’s discretion when animal dissections are appropriate.

"Should a teacher feel that an alternative to dissection would be a better option for a student or group of students, it is important that the teacher select a meaningful alternative. NSTA is aware of the continuing development and improvement of these alternatives,” it said on its website.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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