Know Your Rights
You have the right not to dissect.
States With Choice Policies
If you’re in grades K-12 and attend public school in California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, or Virginia, just say “no.” These states have dissection choice laws or policies that allow you to refuse to participate in classroom exercises?particularly dissection exercises?that are harmful to animals. Additionally, Austin, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Clark County, Nevada; and other towns and counties have adopted dissection choice policies for their school districts. If you’re unsure whether your school is covered by one of these policies, ask your teacher or administrator, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
These laws allow you to choose humane alternatives, require that you are not penalized for choosing these alternatives, and often require your school to notify you and/or your parents at the beginning of a class that involves animal dissection. Click here for details on each law.
For Canadian students, your right to refuse to dissect is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Nova Scotia’s South Shore; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Toronto have passed student choice policies, and school boards in Kelowna and Westbank, British Columbia, are being encouraged to pass student choice policies as well. Please visit FrogsAreCool.com for more information including details of the policies currently in place.
States Without Choice Policies
Student in other states and students in private schools, colleges, and universities are not covered by those laws, but you can still get an alternative. You and your fellow students cannot be forced to participate in something that goes against your sincerely held ethical or religious beliefs.The belief doesn’t have to be a part of any particular organized religion to be considered religious, just something that you strongly believe in and is part of your lifestyle.
Schools like Sarah Lawrence College, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have implemented dissection choice policies after students campaigned for them. Furthermore, medical and veterinary schools around the world are increasingly choosing teaching methods that do not contribute to cruelty to animals.
As huge institutions with lots of behind-the-scenes politics, colleges are often hesitant to put anything in writing but quite willing to accommodate your concerns on an individual basis. They often have unwritten policies concerning animal use too. Our suggestion is to first secure your alternatives with your professor and get a feel for how the school responds to this. From there, you will have insight into how your school operates, relevant alternatives, and how to request a more broad dissection choice policy regarding animal use.
School Requirements in the United Kingdom
The dissection of animals is no longer a requirement of any GCSE, A-level, or GNVQ course, nor is it required by the Science National Curriculum. Instead, these exam boards leave it up to the teacher to decide whether or not they set a dissection practical in class. So while your teacher or lecturer may slap on the pressure, they cannot make you dissect. There are alternatives, and it’s your right to use them.
Keep in mind that watching is not a suitable alternative—it is indirect participation.