Say No to Dissection 

If you are a student in Australia , chances are you will be told at some point to dissect a preserved animal specimen in biology class at high school.  If you go on to study biology, zoology, vet science, medicine, psychology or a range of other science subjects at university there will be more to come, including live animal experimentation.  Do you really want to? 

More and more students, teachers and parents are turning away from dissection – and for excellent reasons.

What's wrong with dissection?

It causes animal suffering and death

Every year in Australia , thousands of animals are killed in school, college and university courses.  Rats, mice, cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, frogs, toads and fish are amongst those most commonly used.  Most are killed and dissected (cut apart).  Others are vivisected (subjected to an invasive procedure whilst still alive), or used in experiments involving harm and/or death.

It devalues life

Dissection teaches that animals are throwaway objects.  It teaches a profound disrespect for the life it aims to study.  Many smart and caring students decide not to pursue careers in medicine, or nursing when they find out they are supposed to dissect animals.  Dissection may be turning students away from professions where they are needed the most.

It is bad for the environment

Many of the animals harmed or killed for classroom use are caught in the wild.  Populations of frogs have been declining seriously in recent years.  Chemicals used to preserve animals are unhealthy, and can cause irritation to eyes, nose and throat.

It's a waste of money

Dissection has a built in economic problem - you can dissect an animal only once.  Alternatives such as computer simulations on CD-ROM, 3-D Models and videotapes can be used over and over again.  These materials, within a year or two will pay for themselves.  For the average school or university, replacing dissection with alternatives can end up saving thousands of dollars.

It is not the best way to learn

More than 25 published studies confirm that those students using alternatives learn as well or better than students who use animals.  This is not surprising: alternative exercises can be repeated and show the continuous processes of life, such as how a heart beats that dissection can't.  Students spend more time playing around, joking and trying to gross one another out during dissection than learning anything.

It is outdated

Dissection was introduced in the 1920's.  Since then, more sophisticated tools have been introduced which provide a better learning experience, cost less and don't kill animals! 

Animals bred or captured for dissection can suffer from the trauma of confinement, inadequate food and care, stressful transport conditions and inhumane killing methods. Housing, feeding and general care varies between suppliers.

Killing animals, as for dissection, may entail considerable suffering.  Although students do not ordinarily witness or participate in the animal's death, this death necessarily precedes any dissection.  Supplying animals for dissection is big business.

Rats are most commonly used in dissection in Australian schools.  They are inquisitive and intelligent. When confined in cages they do not have an opportunity for normal behaviour.  These small but gentle and inquisitive animals feel pain and fear.

Some animals are specifically raised for dissection which contributes to a loss of lives.  Even the use of animal parts from slaughterhouses, where animals have been killed for another purpose is based on the assumption that an animal's life is expendable, and has no value except for human exploitation.

What can you do?

If you are a biology student, ask your teacher/lecturer what the class requirements will be. If animal dissection or experimentation is part of the course, is it optional? Explain politely and firmly why you would like to do an alternative project. Be clear, be positive, and be respectful. The biggest problem your teacher may have with your request is not knowing what alternative to provide.

The following websites also provide information about humane teaching methods for both students and teachers/tutors:

InterNICHE -

The Studies Database of the International Network for Humane Education provides citations and abstracts for over 750 studies primarily focus on educational animal use and alternatives. It is searchable by discipline, authors, and keyword.

Conscientious Objection -

Set up by the University of Melbourne Animal Protection Society (UMAPS), this website is a fantastic resource for students concerned about the harmful use animals throughout their education. It provides information and practical steps on how you can conscientiously object and thereby avoid harmful animal use in your studies.

Humane Learning -

Contains citations and abstracts for over 400 studies of harmful animal use and humane alternatives in various educational disciplines. Of particular interest are reviews of studies comparing student learning outcomes obtained via harmful animal use, with those obtained via humane teaching methods.

Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing -

The Johns Hopkins University Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing promotes humane science by supporting the creation, development, validation, and use of alternatives to animals in research, product safety testing, and education.

If your teacher refuses to grant your request for an alternative, seek support. Your parents may be willing to help out, or alternatively contact HRA for advice. You may need to submit an information packet to the teacher/lecturer/principal/dean. University students can talk to the Animal Welfare Officer and if there isn't one, find out why. If you are still not getting a response, apply pressure with a student petition drive and publicity.

Convince your school to adopt an official policy requiring teachers/lecturers to offer alternatives to dissection and animal experimentation. You may even get them eliminated altogether! Many schools and universities have taken these steps. Keep us updated on your progress and let us know when the policy is in place.

Education ministers by state:


The Hon Yvette Berry MLA 
Minister for Education and Training
ACT Legislative Assembly
GPO Box 1020
Canberra ACT 2601  Email:


The Hon Sarah Mitchell MLA
Minister for Education
52 Martin Place
Sydney NSW 2000


The Hon Selena Uibo
Minister for Education
GPO Box 3146
Darwin NT 0801


The Hon Grace Grace 
Minister for Education
PO Box 15033
CITY EAST QLD 4002 Email:


The Hon. John Gardner MP
Minister for Education
GPO Box 1563
Adelaide SA 5001 Email:


The Hon. Jeremy Rockliff, MP
Minister for Education and Training
43 Best Street
Devonport TAS 7310


The Hon. James Merlino MP
Minister for Education
1635 Burwood Hwy
Belgrave VIC 3160


The Hon. Sue Ellery MLC 
Minister for Education
10th Floor, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street
West Perth WA 6005


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