Responses to Arguments Against Dissection Choice

Argument: You’re just being squeamish.
Believing that dissection is wrong has nothing to do with being afraid or squeamish; for many students, it is a violation of deeply held principles. Furthermore, it is quite normal to be repulsed by something that you find morally offensive.

Argument: If we make an exception for you, other students will claim that they have the right to be excluded from all sorts of requirements.
This doesn’t address the issue at hand: the students’ right not to be forced to violate their beliefs as part of their education. There’s no quota on how many people are allowed to exercise their rights, and you can’t take away rights because many students are exercising them. Furthermore, the objection is not to the content of what is being taught, but to the methodology used. If a student can learn the same information through means that are equally (and often more) effective, then this should be respected.

Argument: Students aren’t qualified to determine whether or not dissection is a necessary part of the curriculum.
Students are entitled to speak up when asked to do something that violates their beliefs. If they are “qualified” enough to participate, they are “qualified” enough to decide whether they object to participation on moral grounds. It would be difficult for anyone to keep up with the rapid development of alternatives to the use of animals, so students should be allowed to participate in their educational process by suggesting alternatives as they find them. A number of studies also prove that alternatives to dissection are more efficient and cost-effective teaching tools than the use of animals is. You can learn more about this at

Argument: Dissection wouldn’t be taught if it weren’t an important part of the curriculum.
Teaching techniques are constantly evolving and should be reevaluated regularly. Countless students are educated every year at top undergraduate, medical, and veterinary schools without dissecting animals. Higher education is all about critical thinking, and students should be commended for their efforts to find better ways in which to learn.

Argument: There is no substitute for laboratories that use animals.
Actually, there are many substitutes, including detailed physical models of animal anatomy, cell cultures, and computer simulations. Furthermore, once students reach the level of education where they’re required to learn specialized methodologies, they will be working with medical doctors, veterinarians, epidemiologists, etc., to learn the techniques of their field.

Argument: There are no suitable alternatives.
New alternatives are being developed every day. The Alternatives in Education Database, from the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and the Norwegian Inventory of Audiovisuals, contains thousands of alternatives to animal use in education. Many institutions and organizations offer alternatives for everything from a basic anatomical comparison to a complex behavioral laboratory. (Most instructors who use this argument haven’t considered any particular alternatives, so ask what specific alternatives the professor has considered and rejected and why.) See peta2’s “Info on Alternatives” page for more information.

Argument: The student’s claim to be a conscientious objector is inconsistent; he or she eats meat, wears leather, eats dairy products, etc.
Religious freedom means that you can subscribe to any set of views. If a student believes that it is immoral to wear fur or dissect animals but acceptable to wear leather shoes, no one can dictate a different set of moral values to that student. Everyone has the right to draw the line according to his or her conscience. Of course, it would be great if everyone would stop supporting every cruel practice in the world, but steps must be taken in the course of educating people about compassionate choices.

Argument: The school doesn’t have enough money in its budget to purchase alternatives.
Many groups make alternatives available on loan to students who need them. And alternatives to dissection are more economical over time; many students can make use of one CD-ROM for instance, but dissection requires that multiple animals be purchased time after time.

Have questions that still need answers? No problem—just e-mail [email protected] and I’ll be glad to help.



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