Objecting to Dissection:
What to do if you're a student who
doesn't want to dissect.
1. Take a leap for your beliefs.
Since you may be criticized and penalized for taking a stance against
dissection, you need to determine how much you are willing to sacrifice
for your beliefs. Although it can be difficult to stand up for your
values, remember, you are not alone. There are thousands of students who
feel that dissection is wrong, and many of them have been successful in
their efforts to have their feelings about animals respected. Remember
also: The AAVS is willing to help you every step of the way. If you need
extra help get in touch with us.
2. Voice all objections as early as
Never wait until the day of the dissection lab to let your teacher know
your feelings, but rather, approach your instructor at the beginning of
any course which may include dissection. In a clear, calm, and respectful
manner, inform the instructor that the dissection of animals is against
your ethical beliefs, and that you would like to be given an alternative
project. Be prepared to defend your stance, and don't allow the instructor to
bully you into submission. At the same time, avoid trying to convince your
instructor to adopt your perspective - unless he or she is especially
receptive. Remember: The bottom line is that dissection violates your
personal beliefs, and you should not be forced to dissect.
3. Ask your instructor to respond promptly to
your request for an alternative project.
Lists of many alternatives are available from The AAVS and other
organizations, and you should present these alternatives to your instructor so that you both may decide upon an appropriate
4. Go to the Principal, Dean, or Department Director
if your instructor is uncooperative.
Remember to be respectful, and to state your objections in a calm,
clear, and firm manner. Emphasize your willingness to do an alternative
project, and be prepared to state your reasons for objection. If the faculty is still unwilling to
respect your decision, call The AAVS; we will help you as much as
5. Keep records of all communication between you and
They may be important if, as a last resort, you decide to go to court.
It is very rare that this happens. In all of the cases where The AAVS has
provided assistance to a student, there has never been an instance where the situation needed to
be settled legally.
6. Don't get discouraged!
Many times getting an alternative to dissection is a matter of time and
repeated requests. If an instructor says no one time, give it another try
at a different time. If you remember to present yourself in a reasonable manner and have all
the necessary information, you will usually be successful in getting an
7. Find out what laws might affect decisions about
dissection in your state.
Elementary, junior high, and high school students in some states are
protected by laws guaranteeing their right to object to dissection.
Contact The AAVS to find out the law in your state. Currently,
Pennsylvania, California, Florida, and New York have laws that require
precollege students to be given an alternative to dissection if they want one. (In some cases private schools are excluded.) If your state
is one in which your right to object to dissection is protected, inform
your instructor that you plan to exercise your state-protected right. The
AAVS has copies of the law(s) available, and we will assist students whose
instructors are attempting to violate the law.
8. Remember who your friends are.
You may have friends on the faculty or in the administration of the
school who can help you make the case for alternatives. You can also
contact The AAVS for help. The staff members of our organization are
experienced in presenting information about dissection, writing letters on
your behalf, getting you resources so that you can make informed choices
about alternatives, and being of general assistance at any step in the
process of getting an alternative for your science class.
9. Spread the word!
Inform other students about your decision. It will inspire them to
stand up for their beliefs, too. If you are still struggling to have an
alternative project granted to you, try to get the school newspaper to cover your story. If you are
successful, contact The AAVS. We love to hear success stories!
American Anti-Vivisection Society
Old York Road # 204
Jenkintown, PA 19046-1685
1 215 887-0816