I Was Told to Dissect a Cat or Get an ‘F’—Here’s My Story

Written by peta2 intern Katharine Hampton

If you’ve ever been told to dissect an animal for a class without being told about or given other options, you’ll prob relate to my story a lot. 😯 I thoroughly enjoyed my four years at Oak Ridge High School in El Dorado Hills, California. Most days throughout my time there blurred together, but some stood out more than others—particularly one during my senior year.

Like a lot of high school students, I took a human physiology class. I knew that part of the curriculum had students dissect animal carcasses. Some schools have their students dissect rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, minks, birds, turtles, or snakes, and my high school decided to have its students dissect cats. As an animal advocate, I knew I’d request a humane alternative assignment instead.

The time came when my teacher mentioned the dissection lesson she had in store for the class. She said that one of the cats would be pregnant—and that the group that received this animal to dissect would somehow be lucky. My jaw hit the floor when I heard that.

After class, I stayed behind and explained to my teacher that I would sincerely prefer not to do the cat dissection and would legit do any humane assignment to make up the points. Seemingly amused at my request, she smiled and said something like “Oh, don’t worry, it’s not that bad. You should just do it.”

Her response shocked me, as I knew my request was reasonable. After my teacher explained why I should “just do it,” I told her I was a longtime vegan. But to her, that wasn’t a valid justification for my request not to cut open an intelligent, emotional animal who had been killed for a classroom lesson. ❤️

I left the meeting feeling helpless and panicked that I would have to participate in this dissection to avoid failing the project. 😰 It was one of our more critical assignments for the year, so I knew getting an “F” on it would negatively impact my overall grade. I brought up the subject a few more times with my teacher, but I received the same responses every time. 😒

As a longtime vegan and animal activist, I knew that some animals used in classrooms come from breeding facilities that supply experimenters. I also knew that some of them are taken from their homes in nature, killed, and given to dissecting programs—or that they could be stolen or abandoned animal companions.

By the day of the cat dissection, I had moved to remote classes for other reasons. Because of this change, my dilemma with the human physiology class was thankfully over. 🙏 Unfortunately, I still had friends in the class who told me all about what they had witnessed.

According to one of my class friends, the teacher said horrible things, like “These are just street cats … They were going to be killed anyway.” 🙀

My friend also clearly remembers that once the dissection process started, the teacher had everyone gather around the pregnant cat to watch as the kitten fetuses were extracted from the cold, lifeless body of the mother, as if the act were some really cool thing.

Some people in the class had to step outside because they couldn’t handle being in the room while the fetus extractions took place.

One of the most disappointing parts of this experience was that the teacher didn’t offer anyone an alternative assignment. Instead, she mentally and physically upset students just so she could give them a passing grade. 🤦 I fought for my right to be excused from this cruel assignment, but my friend didn’t even know that the option should have been available to her. If she had learned about an alternative assignment, she—along with many other students—would have def done that instead.

There are so many better ways to teach about the body than by pressuring students to cut open a dead animal who probably looks similar to a living one they have at home. Schools can use synthetic animals, digital programs, videos, and other options.

Studies show that students who use non-animal methods perform as well as, if not better than, peers who dissect animals, according to a newly published study coauthored by PETA and published in The American Biology Teacher, a leading, peer-reviewed science-education journal.


Now that I’m a couple of years past my experience in this class, I realize that it was not only unfair of the teacher to try to pressure me into doing this assignment but also utterly disgusting. I was a senior in high school who was simply trying to graduate with a good GPA, so I would’ve done almost anything that was asked of me—but I refused to feed into a system that labeled a living, feeling being as a disposable science experiment. 🙅


Make sure you know what to do if you end up in my situation—visit our new “Cut Out Dissection” webpage for all the info you need on animal dissection and how to get it out of our schools!

Text peta2 to 30933 for ways to help animals, tips on compassionate living, and more!

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