Mustangs have to face the guts and glory of dissection at one point in their science classes, specifically in biology and anatomy. Here, the ethicality of dissection soon comes to hand when sauntering around the carcass of an animal and the question of practicality and accuracy surfaces from a pool of body parts lying in front of a student. This all leads to the curiosity of dissection being a truly beneficial and an enlightening experience for some but the dismay and disgust for others.
Dissection is such a deeply-rooted tradition in biology education, with 84 percent of pre-college biology educators reporting the use of dissection as a teaching tool, according to a nationwide survey of biology educators commissioned by NAVS in 2014.
It’s purpose is to provide students with a deeper knowledge of the anatomy of ourselves and the organisms around us, as well as giving students a better understanding and appreciation of all the different things that make up life around them.
“Charts and diagrams give a 2D appearance. Although, actually cutting and physically holding a specimen gives a better perspective. You can touch and feel the texture [and] weight, and see things in a 3D nature,” anatomy and biology teacher Patricia Hoffert said.
Animal dissection for biology education in U.S. schools has taken place since the 1920s, and became more widely practiced and known with the establishment of the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study in the 1960s. Most individuals will come to dissection’s defense and value its hands on and tactile experiences that help students retain the information easier, along with its supplication of a real world perspective.
“Manipulating and seeing the organs or body systems in a real life situation rather than the cartoon style picture from textbooks [are] one of the many positive parts of dissection,” biology and chemistry teacher Luke Pigott said.
Another question that comes up is where do these animals come from?
“The organs that we receive come from animals that were being farmed for the purposes of providing food. In our case, we are simply maximizing the use of the animals, since the organs would not typically be used,” Molloy said.
Within the large pile of animals to dissect and use on practicals, confusion can occur based off of the precision of the anatomical structure being dissected when students have only studied the human body for weeks, given the anatomical differences between a human and animal.
“Animals are very similar to humans, so I feel like it’s somewhat accurate, but we can’t completely base that off humans. However, you’re so used to memorizing exactly what the pictures on the Powerpoint look like, and when you cut open the actual animals and look at the parts, it can sometimes be confusing. All in all though, it was a good learning experience,” senior Zoey Lundstram said.
Not everyone feels the same, however. “I just think there’s something wrong with the idea of certain people playing around with the insides of an animal without really acknowledging what its purpose is in the classroom,” junior Megan Corkey said.
Mustangs are given a series of animals to dissect: biology is required to do fetal pigs, frogs, and rats while in anatomy, sheep parts are mostly dissected, involving their heart, lungs, and kidneys. In addition, there are also cow parts, which include the heart, lungs, and eyes.
“The organs that we dissect are remarkably similar to human organs- the main difference is in size. Sheep organs are smaller than human organs,” anatomy, chemistry, and future medical professionals sponsor and teacher Timothy Molloy said.
By extension, “students get a better understanding of the structure, location and function of the anatomical parts. Moreover, I think most people would prefer having a doctor who has actually worked on a cadaver over someone who just looked at drawings,” Hoffert said.
Dissection has its flaws, with an estimated amount of 12 million animals dying annually at the expense of biological study. For example, frogs, the most commonly used animals for dissection exercises, are harvested specifically for this. Fish and sharks are also captured by fishermen who sell them to biological supply companies to make a profit. India, among its variation in animals and beautiful wildlife, has even stopped dissection to prevent the disruption of biodiversity and maintain ecological balance.
“I get that it’s all for educational purposes, it just feels like some people don’t take it seriously, and it loses its value, which mean the animal died for nothing.” Corkey added.