Breaking! New Bill Aims To Replace Animal Dissection With Humane Alternatives In Schools In California

California State Assembly Member Ash Kalra (D-San Goes), accompanied by co-sponsors Social Compassion in Legislation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, today announced the introduction of AB 1586, Replacing Animals in Science Education (RAISE) Act. Under the proposed legislation, all California schools would replace animal dissection activities with contemporary and humane teaching methods in line with industry standards and best practices.

Dissecting animals is costly, exposes students and educators to carcinogenic chemicals, hurts animals and the environment. Advances in medical-simulation technology, educators’ need for better teaching and assessment tools, and growing concern about animal use in laboratory experiments have all contributed to a paradigm shift in biomedical education. Today, simulation-based learning is more widely available.

The popular understanding of dissection in schools is the dissection of frogs and worms. However, a recent survey of schools that require dissection as a part of their science curricula include: fetal pigs, cats, sharks, sheep and other species. The use of these animals can number in the hundreds every academic school year. When accounted for in totality, it provides a clearer picture of both the fiscal impact to schools and the impact that the sourcing of these animals can have on the environment and fragile ecosystems.

“Learning about anatomy in schools is important scientific pedagogy but dissection presents a significant impact on the environment and our fragile ecosystems. Advancements in educational technology have expanded access to this important scientific instructional methodology without having to rely on animals,” said Assembly Member Kalra. “With the development technological alternatives, virtual and computer-based science teaching practicum offer more humane teaching methods that help to better prepare students for higher education and careers in science.”

Judie Mancuso, Founder and CEO of Social Compassion in Legislation, added, “The fact is, we do not need to put our young people through this. There is a better way, and California can and should move to the more modern and accepted use of digital dissection resources. There is no reason for any student to cut apart an animal or be exposed to carcinogenic formaldehyde when there is state-of-the-art 3-D software available for free. Not only is getting rid of dissection the right thing to do, it will save taxpayer money.”

Top academic programs including the International Baccalaureate, the Next Generation Science Standards (which California adopted in 2013), and The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program do not require—or even mention—animal dissection in their curricula.

“PETA hears from scores of students who are being compelled to dissect animals, either with the threat of a failing grade or with perceived ostracism from teachers or peers,” says Samantha Suiter, Professor of Biology and PETA’s Manager of Science Education. “Formaldehyde is used as a preservative and also found in cigarette smoke—it is classified as a human carcinogen, and repeated exposure to low levels can cause respiratory difficulty, eczema, and skin sensitization.” Suiter goes on to say that “Passage of AB 1586 would end the practice of animal dissection without relying on individual students to voice their ethical concerns when they may not feel comfortable doing so. This is a step forward for science, educators, students, and animals.”

John J. Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., director of academic affairs at the Physicians Committee, adds, “It’s long past time for animal dissections to be replaced by modern, interactive dissection software that is far more comprehensive and a better educational tool.”

AB 1586 is also supported by the National Hispanic Medical Association, Humane Education Coalition, Center for Healthcare Education, Inc., and the United Federation of Teachers -Humane Education Committee.

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