Although dissection is commonplace in high school science classrooms across the province, Alberta teachers should be cognizant of human ethics and animal welfare implications that accompany this practice.
Students may object the practice of dissection on moral or religious grounds. Some school boards in Canada, have created student choice policies to respect student choice, such as the Vancouver School Board. These policies entrench the right for students to use alternative methods to meet curricular objectives that honour their morals or beliefs.
While the act of dissection in and of itself is not inhumane, there are animal welfare implications to consider. For example, mistreatment of an animal at any stage from procurement, handling, transport and killing is a concern and warrants consideration. Non-animal techniques provide cost-effective methods with many benefits to both the student and teacher – besides the obvious benefits to the animals.
For centuries, animals have been used as models to aid in teaching about the human body. Since there were no alternatives at the time, students needed to cut open the animals to expose the internal organs. For the past several decades, however, it has been recognized that the outdated “look-cut-draw-label-memorize” approach does not encourage serious scientific inquiry. The advancement of new technology has now led to other, more advanced methods and to new discoveries about how the method of study influences students.
The use of alternatives such as software and physical models is on the rise. All post-secondary institutes in Canada that use animals for research, teaching or testing ascribe to the 3Rs tenant that guides the ethical use of animals in science. The 3Rs requires animal users to explore alternatives to reduce the number of animals.
The University of Calgary Veterinary College is well-known around the world for their use of models to help veterinary students learn how to practice medicine on a variety of animal species. Read about resin models and horse simulators used to teach vet students in Calgary.
Schools and teachers may want to implement an opt-in policy which can address human ethics, animal ethics and social trends.