Cut Out Dissection
BY REBECCA BINE
Blood, guts, and gore. The implications these things have on adolescents is undeniable. From television and movies to video games, today’s youth is accosted by violence on a daily basis, causing desensitization and therefore a greater tendency towards using it. Schools, however, provide a safe place, free of this over-bearing cultural pressure. Right? Think again. Though it may not initially seem comparable, there is a violent and grotesque phenomenon that goes on each and every day in the “learning environment”. While animal dissection has had a long history of acceptance, it is a purposeless act when done in high school environments. In reality is simply a disregard of life, undermining the very subject which teachers are attempting to edify their student’s about. In the end, actions speak louder than words when we as a society are willing to kill, degrade and defile a living creature in the name of science.
As humans, we sometimes forget that we aren’t all that different from other living creatures on the earth. Most animals, humans included, have hearts, lungs, blood, spinal cords, and the basic functions that result from the brain stem. In fact, one of the few things that differentiates us is the area of our brains known as the cerebral cortex. This tissue which covers the brains of mammals, is what allows us to remember, think, speak, and be self-aware beings. Other than this relatively insignificant detail, speaking in context, the differences between humans and other animals is minimal. It is for this reason that we see animals as the perfect specimens for comparison. To see what our bodies are like and therefore effectively learn about human biology.
However, if we are willing to consider these benefits, we as a moral society must also look at the risks. We base our decision on the similarities humans share with animals, so if we feel fear and pain, so too must they. Obtaining animals for dissection isn’t a simple procedure. And while most of us think about frogs and mice as the usual specimens for dissection, the very animals we call our pets are tortured and murdered in the name of science. Cats that are found on the street, in the pound, and even animal “shelters” are all fair game for biological supply companies. According to an article done by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the cats are then gassed and injected with formaldehyde without first checking their vital signs. Not only is this against the Animal Welfare Act, but formaldehyde, when injected, can cause severe pain according to the Illinois Department of Health. Now imagine your pet, your baby, whether it’s a dog, cat, or even a hamster. Imagine them going through this. Imagine them being trapped in cages, feeling afraid and alone. Would you allow that if someone told you that it was in the name of science? No, you wouldn’t because once you put yourself into the picture and realize what these animals go through, there’s no justification. Pigs, rats, and even frogs must be considered, too. Though we as humans may not relate to these creatures in the same way we do to cats and dogs, we must see that they too feel pain and suffering.
Worsening the situation is the lack of consideration that young and immature students have towards the situation. Even if it is “only” a frog, that frog was still a life that was taken for no reason other than dissection. If students can’t fully understand the gravity of this, there is no way that they can truly appreciate the academic aspects of it. In fact, most of the time, science classrooms turn into zoos when it comes to dissection. Students laugh and joke about it, sometimes even taking pictures of themselves holding the brains of a dead animal. When you think about it, it’s more than just not funny, but rather frightening that most students take such a serious situation so lightly. If the classrooms aren’t benefiting from the activity, it simply means that animals are dying in vain.
This does not dispute the educational qualities of seeing the inner workings of real life bodies, but rather questions the maturity of those trying to be taught. Animal dissection has given humans undeniable information about their own bodies, but we must consider the extent of the harm. Continuing dissection in school only increases the consequences. Alternatives must be considered; virtual dissection and other modeling techniques are viable, used even in medical schools. Science and morals can no longer be separated, we as humans must consider all options and allow ourselves to make better and more compassionate judgments for both animals and our society.