NAVS Takes Important Steps to Combat Dissection


Each year, it is estimated that millions of animals are used in classroom dissection exercises. Some animals are caught in the wild and killed for this purpose. Others are bred specifically to be used as specimens. Regardless of how the animals got into the classroom, dissection is one time-honored educational “tradition” that has no place in modern classrooms.

In this week’s Science First, we’d like to share some of NAVS’ latest initiatives aimed at ending this cruel and archaic exploitation of animals in science education.

This past February, NAVS conducted a nationwide survey of biology educators to collect data on the barriers standing in the way of getting dissection alternatives more widely used and accepted. We reached out to over 27,000 biology educators across the country, and we are now using this information to inform new and innovative ways to reduce animal use in the classroom. We plan to write up the results of the survey shortly and submit the manuscript for publication in an educational journal.

Last month, NAVS convened a panel of biology education advisors and led a virtual discussion entitled “21st Century Science Education: Reforming Animal Dissection Policy and Practice.” Together, these biology educators and experts on animal dissection alternatives reviewed the findings of NAVS’ survey, discussed learning objectives related to dissection/dissection alternatives, and talked about barriers to the widespread use of alternatives. The panel also discussed important changes that should be made to existing animal use policy statements from the National Association of Biology Teachers and the National Science Teaching Association, advocating for both organizations to endorse the use of alternatives as replacements to animal dissection.

It was an incredible experience to be part of this “think tank” of innovative educational experts, all focused on reducing reliance on animals in education. The panel identified a number of new approaches for changing educational practices regarding animal dissection that NAVS will be implementing in the near future.

Over the next few months, we will share with you our strategies for ensuring that dissection alternatives are not just considered “alternatives,” but rather, viewed as the primary way to teach anatomy in the classroom. We will also enhance our dissemination of this information to students, educators and policy makers across the country.

Dissection is already banned in several countries around the world because it is not necessary to teach the life sciences. There is no reason this archaic practice needs to continue in the U.S., especially given that effective alternatives to animal dissection have been developed and are widely available for student and teacher use. As a result of schools moving to at-home “e-learning” due to COVID-19, NAVS has seen an increase in requests for information about—and access to—many of these alternatives from biology teachers. Once teachers and students return to their classrooms, we hope that these educators will continue to see the value in using these humane and educationally-equivalent approaches to teaching the life sciences.

Please consider making a donation today in support of NAVS’ efforts to advance science without harming animals—in education, and in all areas of science.