Keeping the “Life” in “Life Sciences"
Modern, non-animal teaching methods are more effective, less expensive and more humane than traditional animal dissection. It’s time to make humane education the norm.
of pre-college biology teachers reported
using alternatives to animal dissection
in some capacity, according to
a 2015 NAVS survey
No animal should be made to suffer in order for a student to obtain a good education.
Likewise, no student should be asked to be responsible for an animal’s suffering as part of that education. Yet the dissection of once-live animals still remains the “gold standard” in biology classrooms across the United States.
NAVS strongly believes that no student should be punished for standing up for their right to choose a humane dissection alternative, and we have long touted the advantages of working with humane dissection tools as alternatives to “traditional” dissection.
Through our Compassionate Humane Options in Classroom Education (CHOICE) initiative, NAVS encourages legislators in states lacking student choice measures to consider introducing legislation that would allow students to choose a humane dissection tool. Currently, 16 states and Washington, DC, have laws on the books that allow students to do just that.
However, we know that the goal of replacing classroom dissection with superior humane scientific methods for all students can only be achieved if the key players in this field are persuaded that doing so is the best course of action. We are fighting a mindset—and until that mindset changes, true progress will continue to be stymied.
Key drivers in the perpetuation of this line of thinking are the country’s educational leadership organizations. Standards published by the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) promote to their members the notion of dissection as an indispensable aspect of a biology course.
In fact, a recent update to the NABT’s position statement on the “Use of Animals in Biology Education” even goes so far as to claim that the use of alternatives in place of dissection “may constitute a disservice to many students and does not acknowledge the well-documented educational benefits of hands-on dissection.”
- To fight this mindset, NAVS is working closely with educators and educational experts in the field of biology and related areas, in order to examine the desired learning outcomes of traditional dissection. By weighing the value of dissection against that of humane alternatives—including the educational, financial and environmental benefits of each method—NAVS will then be able to clearly demonstrate that the current course of action (e.g. animal dissection) that is sanctioned and promoted by the NABT and NSTA is not based on core educational values. Doing so will allow us to recommend the development of new educational standards which recognize the equivalence or superiority of dissection alternatives.
- NAVS will also be launching a new, comprehensive online resource showcasing and offering access to the latest state-of-the-art humane science teaching tools. This new resource will demonstrate the breadth of dissection alternatives available and provide guidance to educators who want to replace dissection specimens in their remote and in-person science classes.
Changing long-held beliefs and replacing classroom dissection is not a challenge that will be overcome quickly. However, we believe that it can happen—and that it will.