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Groundbreaking Bill Introduced to Ban Animal Dissection in CA Schools

Hundreds of thousands of animals are dissected each year in California schools, which have 6.2 million students in K-12. (Evan Amos/Wikimedia Commons)

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California could become the first state in the nation to ban the dissection of animals in K-12 schools if a bill just introduced in the state Legislature were to pass. 

Assembly Bill 1586, called the Replacing Animals in Science Education (or RAISE) Act would encourage schools to adopt newer teaching methods such as 3-D computer modeling programs to teach biology. Shalin Gala, vice president for International Laboratory Methods with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said animals aren’t a mere classroom tool and should be treated humanely.

“Animals killed for classroom dissections do not die of natural causes, and the vast majority are not killed painlessly,” Gala said. “Biological supply companies are not in the business of protecting animals from pain and suffering. They only care about selling as many dead animals as possible, not about making sure those animals were treated humanely while they were alive.”

Many science teachers say dissection is an important tool to teach anatomy, and biological supply companies say they follow strict procedures to reduce animals’ suffering. 

There are 6.2 million children in K-12 schools in California. PETA estimates millions of cats, dogs, frogs, fetal pigs, grasshoppers, mink, earthworms, rats, mice, pigeons and turtles are dissected in American schools each year. Gala noted the formaldehyde used to preserve most animals is a human carcinogen and is listed as a toxic substance under California’s Prop 65.

“Superior non-animal teaching tools are readily available,” Gala said. “And they can prepare our students for higher education, or even a career as a board-certified physician, without ever having to cut apart a frog, a pig, a cat or any other sentient individual.”

California is one of 18 states that allow students with an ethical objection to request an alternate assignment. Gala said American medical schools no longer use animal dissection in their curricula, but many veterinary schools still perform surgery on healthy live animals and use dead specimens for dissection.

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