In August 2018, NAVS, as part of an international coalition of animal protection organizations, asked the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) to revise its policy regarding the use of dissection alternatives in the classroom from one which views alternatives as adjuncts to the use of animal specimens to one which supports the use of alternatives as full animal replacements.
Considering that an estimated 6-12 million animals of various species are either “purpose bred” or harvested from the wild for use as dissection specimens each year, endorsement of dissection alternatives as full replacements for dissection specimens by the NABT could have a huge impact on animal lives.
The NABT policy on animal use had not been updated since 2008 and did not adequately take into consideration the documented advantages of using dissection alternatives to teach the life sciences. Dozens of studies have shown that students using non-animal dissection alternatives perform as well or better than students using animal models. And since the policy statement had been last updated over a decade ago, the number of dissection alternatives has increased dramatically, including exciting new options using virtual reality and 3D printing to learn the life sciences.
Our letter to the NABT Executive Director and Regional Directors also outlined additional benefits of using dissection alternatives, including a reduction in cost to schools as compared to the use of traditional animal specimens, increased ability for self-paced student learning, and the ability for students to acquire new skills, including computer literacy, using technology-based alternatives.
The NABT revised its policy statement on animal use in the classroom this summer and made the statement publicly available last month. We are disappointed to report that the statement largely ignored the facts our coalition had asked them to consider regarding the documented benefits of dissection alternatives.
The new position statement reads, in part, “NABT strongly supports teaching which allows for student interaction with organisms, both living and dead, that provides enriched, meaningful learning experiences…the engagement of students in well-crafted dissections is a total sensory experience that removes abstraction as students learn about structure, function, adaptation and diversity.”
It goes on to discuss “limitations” with dissection alternatives, going so far as to say that “utilizing a software-only approach may constitute a disservice to many students.”
We were very disappointed that the NABT’s new position statement did not reflect greater support of alternatives. NAVS, and the humane education coalition we are part of, will be reaching out to the NABT soon to discuss our concerns.
In the meantime, we await the National Science Teacher Organization’s (NSTA) update to its policy statement on the Responsible Use of Live Animals and Dissection in the Science Classroom. Our coalition had also asked the NSTA to take a firmer position on supporting alternatives as replacements for animal use. We will be sure to keep you posted on progress in this area.
Please consider making a donation today to help NAVS continue to promote humane science education that does not harm animals and brings the life back into the life sciences.