Animal Dissection: No Longer Cutting Edge
American Politics 115-01
April 24, 2012
The use of animals in science that results in harm or death has traditionally played an integral role in education. Many thousands of animals have been killed worldwide during attempts to teach practical skills or to demonstrate scientific principles which have, in many cases, been established for decades. Anatomy and experimental physiology started to be practiced around 300 B.C. Notable scientists like Aristotle, Vesalius and Gale conducted countless scientific studies with the dissection of animals almost every day. If the law permitted, human cadavers were also dissected, but the use of animals in vivisection and dissection was generally less mired in ethical or religious concerns. Like today, animals were dissected not only to learn more about them, but also as surrogates for humans. Though animal and human dissections were used to educate medical students, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who wanted to learn to illustrate their subjects with better accuracy, also conducted dissections (Knight). They were also performed simply to illustrate the contents of ancient scientific texts. Later the 1500s, Andreas Vesalius, the founder of modern human anatomy, thought that dissection should be used to correctly teach students about anatomy instead of using illustrations in books, as well as to gain new knowledge (Knight). From this, Vesalius set the foundation for dissection as a teaching and research tool. In the early 1900s, the dissection of animals became more common in biology classes (Knight). Frog dissection was established in college level courses and eventually was taught in high schools. Around 1915, frogs became commercially available for use in education and by the 1920s, many high school classes considered frog dissection routine. A wider variety of animal dissection in high school became widespread after the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS). The BSCS was a federally-funded initiative in the 1960’s to create a science curriculum for elementary and high school students (Gilmore). Also as a result, more high schools offered advanced biology courses with the dissection of cats, minks, and fetal pigs, and even live animals. In 1998, it was estimated that animal dissection occurred in 75-80% of pre-college level biology classes (Gilmore). Most prevalently today, dissection of such animals is now in college anatomy courses. In fact, each year, an estimated 20 million animals - around 170 or more different species - are used in the U.S. in all areas of education and grade level (Capaldo). In most countries, veterinary students learn surgery through surgical practice on healthy animals and then killed afterwards by the students. It’s these practices that are controversial in veterinary school in concern for animals being harmed. But since harm accrues from any pain or discomfort associated with such procedures, and it disrupts of the animals’ normal life, the dissections are harmful. With student being exposed to the vast amount of animal dissection worldwide, students are exhibiting an opinion being forced on them with no options to oppose dissection. Under the stress of forced dissection, education is also is disheartened. When forced to use animals in ways the student objects to, the student is traumatized and invariably learns less (Capaldo). But there are other options to animal dissection like “computer simulations, high quality videos, ‘ethically-sourced cadavers,’ such as from animals euthanized for medical reasons, preserved specimens, models and surgical simulators, non-invasive self-experimentation, and supervised clinical experiences”(Knight). Such options have been studied and proven to over and over to benefit both schools, educators and students. In a 2007 study, “twenty nine papers in which live animal dissection didn’t occur illustrated additional benefits...
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