Virginia Legislature Disses Dissection

by Paula Moore

Virginia Governor Mark Warner has just signed legislation giving students the right to choose humane alternatives to animal dissections. With one stroke of the governor's pen, Virginia became the ninth state in the nation;along with Florida, California, Maine, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, New York, Rhode Island, and Illinois;to put a dissection choice law in place.

Now every other state should follow suit. While a few lawmakers may joke about saving Kermit from the knife, to the student who believes that it's wrong to kill and cut up animals for classroom projects, this is no laughing matter.

Every day, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals receives calls and e-mail messages from students seeking help after being told to "dissect or fail." Teachers and parents who think dissection dissenters are just being "squeamish" aren't looking at the big picture. Schools, of all places, should be havens from violence, and young people deserve an education that does not violate their ethical beliefs.

Perhaps educators need to remind themselves that every time they purchase an animal "specimen" for the classroom, they are condemning an animal to death. PETA's investigation into one of the country's largest biological supply companies;which sells animal bodies and parts to schools;uncovered nightmarish acts of cruelty.

Video footage taken by PETA's investigator shows cats moving their paws (which are tied down) and clenching their teeth on the sponges stuffed into their mouths as employees prepare them for embalming. Rats kick furiously even after skin is pulled back from their necks to their mid-sections. Live frogs are painfully injected with formaldehyde. Every year, millions of animals;frogs, cats, mice, dogs, and others;are cruelly killed and shipped off to schools.

If the animals' plight doesn't move you, consider this: Tomorrow's violent criminals may be learning dangerous lessons in today's biology classes.

Such a connection isn't unlikely: In his last interview before his death, notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer said that his fascination with blood and guts began when his school instructed him in animal dissection. Many violent criminals;including the school shooters at Columbine and other schools;have histories of killing animals.

The saddest part of all this is that it's so unnecessary. Modern, humane alternatives, such as CD-ROMs and "virtual" dissections, are readily available. A number of organizations will even loan dissection alternatives to students and schools;although schools that can afford animal corpses shouldn't use cost as an excuse for not providing students with humane choices. Once a dead animal is dissected, there is nothing to do with the body but throw it out. Computer programs, discs, and other alternatives can be used again and again.

Biology is supposed to be the study of life, not death. We owe it to our children and to ourselves to teach them to respect life;not coldly disregard it.

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