Alternatives to Dissection

Classroom dissection is not humane education

Humane Educations is the teaching of compassion and empathy for all living beings and respect for their habitats. Classroom Dissection is not humane education and causes the unnecessary suffering and death of tens of thousands of animals in this country each year.

Frogs are taken by the millions from wetland habitats for dissection, despite the fact that amphibians are declining through the world. They are piled into sacks, starved, transported, and inhumanely killed by immersion in preservatives. The mass removal of these animals can have detrimental impacts on ecosystems. Other animals commonly dissected in science classrooms are pigs, cats and rats. Often cats are drowned and rats are injected with embalming fluid to kill them. Many animals are preserved with formaldehyde, a toxic chemical to humans.

Dissection does not aid in learning and understanding the compassionate bond between humans and animals. Students deserve to be taught about respecting living beings and conservation of life, rather than being taught animals are disposable objects.

Furthermore, more than 25 published studies show that students learn better when processes can be repeated, like showing the continuous beating of a heart. More ways to learn that can be used continuously include computer simulations or 3D models. These humane alternatives are often less costly, and will pay for themselves over time. The cost of obtaining animals to dissect on a yearly basis is expensive.

This year the American Anti-Vivisection Society’s (AAVS) Science Bank celebrates its 25th anniversary of providing alternatives to dissection in schools – with the largest loan program of its kind in the U.S. During the COVID pandemic, the Science Bank became a welcome resource for educators facing the challenge of teaching remotely. met their needs by developing a special resource page on the Science Bank website, featuring virtual alternatives that are now available online.

With schools opening back up for full-time, in-person learning this fall, many educators have reached out to AAVS and the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) looking to continue their shift away from dissection and toward humane science projects. NAVS’s all-new website is a comprehensive resource for identifying and acquiring the latest humane alternatives. Educators and students can search for innovative alternatives by animal type, grade level or format to meet the needs of the classroom curriculum.

As a way to help educators introduce humane science tools into their curriculum, NAVS has created a BioLEAP Classroom Grant, which offers up to $1000 to fund materials for humane, non-animal alternatives to dissection activities. Application cycles open annually in January; please see BioLEAP’s website for more information and regulations. In addition, RedRover has also released a Teacher’s Action packet, which guides teachers on how to switch to humane dissection alternatives in their classroom.

Through its Compassionate Humane Options in Classroom Education (CHOICE), NAVS has advocated to pass laws in 21 states and Washington D.C. that allow students to opt out of dissection activities and choose ethical alternatives. Ohio is not one of those states.

Alternatives to Dissection:

  • There are many Humane Science Project ideas that can be used in alternative to dissection. In addition to science based alternatives, behavioral and observational science projects on companion animals, birds, and insects are scientifically educational and ethically non-controversial.
  • In this interview with a Texas science teacher, projects like building a model of a brain out of salt dough, rather than dissecting an animal brain, energize and inspire students to be future innovators.
  • You can find even more humane alternative projects at The American Anti-Vivisection Society’s free library of humane science projects.
  • Read the Animal Welfare Institute’s Dissection Alternatives Article that talks about effective non-animal methods to substitute for animal dissections.
  • To apply for The National Anti-Vivisection Society’s grants for educators to replace dissection activities with humane alternatives, and additional humane alternative projects (go to
  • A study published in The American Biology Teacher has concluded that there is no benefit to dissect animals in a school setting.  The article, Animal Dissection vs. Non-Animal Teaching Methods:  A Systematic Review of Pedagogical Value”, examined studies published from 2005 to 2020 that evaluated the effectiveness of alternatives versus animal dissection. It was discovered that in 95% of the studies students at all education levels (secondary, postsecondary and medical school) performed at least as well and in most cases better when they used alternatives compared to animal dissection. Learn about the alternatives available through Animalearn’s free loan program, The Science Bank.