So I was walking around the University of Melbourne Parkville campus the other day and was handed a pamphlet from a Peta2 volunteer. “Ok, let’s see what they have to say,” I thought. Reading in only a few sentences I was already furious… It was a pamphlet touting an anti-dissection message for students from high schools and universities worldwide. But it was blatantly written by someone who is ignorant to how biology is taught, how the animals are treated, where they come from, how they are euthanised, and how to REFERENCE!!!
This was the monstrosity handed to me below:
These people shit me to tears because they believe they have a monopoly on animal ethics, which is completely ludicrous. These idiots have no idea where animals used in dissections are acquired from, how they’re killed, the benefits of dissection, etc. I’ll go through each of these. [I'll just add that I am speaking from my own personal experiences as a scientist and biologist from Australia.]
Where do they come from? From my experience as a scientist who’s studied biology since high school, and subsequently has carried out numerous dissections of many different animals, all animals are either specifically bred for dissection, or obtained from butchers or fish markets where they would’ve been sold as food.
The rats and mice used in the Zoology Department at the University of Melbourne live in a disease free environment, they receive a constant and adequate supply of food, water and shelter for the entire length of their lives, at the end of which they receive a quick, painless and humane death from professional scientists. The frogs used are the pest species Bufo marinus (or Cane toad), which are either collected from the wild (a benefit to our natural environment and wildlife in Australia) or specifically bred in a lab. And again are killed quickly, painlessly and humanely by professionals prior to being dissected.
How are they killed? Today, no university or high school would be able to legally kill their own animals unless it follows strict ethical guidelines laid out by an ethics committee. Frogs I’ve dissected are either pithed (the brain is quickly destroyed by a needle), or put in an anaesthetic bath or freezer where they die relatively quickly and without pain. Mammals such as rats or mice, and birds like pigeons, are usually killed by gassing with CO2, and then have their necks broken quickly to ensure they have died humanely. This takes only 30 seconds to a minute and again is painless. From what I gather from my vet friends the dogs, cats and other animals they dissect have usually died or been euthanised for some other reason, whether they were sick, old, or a pound simply had too many animals, etc. Considering the huge amount of animals that die and are euthanised on a day to day basis around the world they hardly have to unethically kill and use native animals like the frog depicted above on the pamphlet. (Here’s the real info on the bogus foetal pig argument they use on the pamphlet)
What are the benefits of dissection? Outlined and referenced on the page linked just above re: foetal pigs, benefits are explained as the following:
1. Dissection is a hands-on, investigatory kind of activity for students. Historically, dissection has been the principle tool of investigation for anatomists(2). Dissection allows students to “test the thruthfulness” of what they see in books.(3)
2. Dissection engages students in “observational and kinesthetic learning that instills a recognition an appreciation for the three dimensional structure of the animal body, the interconnections between organs and organ systems, and the uniqueness of biological material.”(2)
3. Dissection impresses on students the normal variation that is present in the natural world. No two fetal pigs, even though they are perfectly normal, will look exactly the same. In fact, to do well on practicals, students MUST looks at several examples of each structure in different animals. Occasionally, quite significant anatomical variations (anomalies) will be noticed. Most would function perfectly normally. This helps to develop “students’ powers of observation.”(3)
Animals are not just collected willy-nilly in the wild, killed inhumanely, and then poked and prodded for the sake of it. How would doctors, vets, biologists, anatomists, etc be trained appropriately if they were denied access to dissections. One can learn a lot from pictures and text in a book but when it really comes down to it nothing can replace practical exercises.
Would you trust a doctor to operate on your heart if he’d only ever read books and never seen or touched a real heart in the flesh? What about a vet operating on your pet dog who’d never actually seen inside a dog before? Or maybe a pilot that had only ever flown simulation, or a bus driver who’d never been in a real automobile? The point is, all of these professions mentioned above require 100s if not 1000s of hours of hands-on practical work in each of their respective areas prior to one completing their training and being a ‘professional’.
To all of the volunteers, supporters and members of Peta2, if you really want to stick by your beliefs, keep a shred of integrity and gain any respect from people like me you will have to refuse all future medical treatment… I can’t imagine a single operation, vaccine, pharmaceutical treatment, etc that doesn’t owe its invention and validity to experiments and trials involving animals/humans. The world as a whole, animals and humans alike, would be a great deal worse off with and enjoy a lot more suffering and needless death but for these experiments, trials and dissections.
Spreading misinformation, propaganda and fear isn’t going to help anyone or anything when it really comes down to it.