Millions of animals are used as dissection specimens every year, many of which were killed specifically for this purpose—and more needs to be done to spare the lives of these animals, while delivering a quality education to students.
As part of NAVS’ efforts to end the deeply-rooted tradition of classroom animal dissection, we attended the Illinois Science Teachers Association (ISTA) meeting earlier this month to disseminate information about dissection alternatives and student choice measures to biology instructors.
Even though Illinois passed a student choice law in 2000 that guarantees the right of students who object to dissection to utilize alternatives without being penalized, NAVS has learned that many educators and students in the state were unaware of the law and how it should be implemented.
And the problem is not limited to Illinois.
A nationwide survey NAVS conducted to better understand teachers’ use of and attitudes about dissection and dissection alternatives revealed that 63% of biology teachers had not been notified about whether or not their state has student choice measures in place. We also learned that a majority of educators (59%) felt that information about dissection alternatives is not widely disseminated among biology teachers.
To help fill this void, NAVS provided ISTA meeting attendees with comprehensive information about the advantages of using modern, non-animal teaching methods, including information about their effectiveness and expense compared to traditional animal dissection. We also provided the educators with a copy of the Illinois student choice law and a checklist to ensure that they are in compliance with the law.
Additionally, we utilized this “face-to-face” opportunity to administer a survey to teachers to better understand the current use of animal dissection and alternatives and attitudes toward the practices to help us identify obstacles that hinder the wider use of dissection alternatives. Our findings from this survey will help inform our forthcoming humane education efforts in Illinois and around the country.
It is our hope that NAVS’ efforts will change the perceptions of biology teachers about alternatives and encourage their use in the classroom—and reduce animal use in education in the process.