Animal dissection in WNY

Dear Editor:
Animal dissection, which was first used in classrooms in the early part of the last century, is still being used in some Memorial High School classes.
In recent years, dissection has been increasingly scrutinized. Experts have reevaluated the educational worth and morality of cutting up animals just to “see how they work,” not knowing that they can destroy not only the environment, but their health as well. Frogs are the most commonly dissected animals. The removal of frogs from ecosystems disrupts nature’s delicate balance. Populations of insects skyrocket, resulting in increased crop destruction, pesticide use, and spread of disease. Also, the way animal corpses and toxic chemicals are disposed of in some schools and supply houses are of public concern. Careless disposal of toxic substances can contaminate groundwater and soil, threaten food supplies, and endanger wildlife. In Addition, animals used for dissection are often embalmed with formaldehyde or a chemical derived from formaldehyde, a preservative linked to cancers of the throat, lungs, and nasal passages, as well as a variety of other health problems. Next to the potentially harmful physical effects on individuals, there are psychological issues to consider.
In his last interview before his death, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer said that his fascination with death and dismemberment began when he dissected animals at school. Such reports are common because animal dissections cause desensitization to the sanctity of life. Compassionate students want to study biology without dissecting animals. Sophisticated computer simulations, videodiscs, and models have been developed to meet the needs of these students. All the studies of this issue show that students who use alternatives perform as well or better than students who use dissection. Biology is the study of life and should teach respect for life, not devalue it by treating living beings as disposable objects. By using humane teaching methods, instructors can teach science and ethics simultaneously.

Joanna Liriano

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