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Humane Education



Although dissection is commonplace in high school science classrooms across the province, Alberta teachers should be cognizant of human ethics and animal welfare implications that accompany this practice.

Humane Ethics:

Students may object the practice of dissection on moral or religious grounds. Some school boards in Canada, have created student choice policies to respect student choice, such as the Burnaby School District. These policies entrench the right for students to use alternative methods to meet curricular objectives that honour their morals or beliefs.

Animal Ethics:

While the act of dissection in and of itself is not inhumane, there are animal welfare implications to consider. For example, mistreatment of an animal at any stage from procurement, handling, transport and killing is a concern and warrants consideration. Non-animal techniques provide cost-effective methods with many benefits to both the student and teacher – besides the obvious benefits to the animals.

For centuries, animals have been used as models to aid in teaching about the human body. Since there were no alternatives at the time, students needed to cut open the animals to expose the internal organs. For the past several decades, however, it has been recognized that the outdated “look-cut-draw-label-memorize” approach does not encourage serious scientific inquiry. The advancement of new technology has now led to other, more advanced methods and to new discoveries about how the method of study influences students.

Societal Trends:

The use of alternatives such as software and physical models is on the rise. All post-secondary institutes in Canada that use animals for research, teaching or testing ascribe to the 3Rs tenant that guides the ethical use of animals in science. The 3Rs requires animal users to explore alternatives to reduce the number of animals.

The University of Calgary Veterinary College is well-known around the world for their use of models to help veterinary students learn how to practice medicine on a variety of animal species. Read about resin models and horse simulators used to teach vet students in Calgary.

Opt-in Policy

Schools and teachers may want to implement an opt-in policy which can address human ethics, animal ethics and social trends.

For a look at more technology advances, have a look at  TED talk on a virtual dissection table and this BBC article highlighting an app to help prepare surgeons and medical staff.

Watch our video on non-animal alternatives to dissection

Animals in the Classroom

Zoo Field Trips

Animals in Science Fairs

Circus Animals

Information & Resources for Teachers


Visit the Alberta SPCA's website for teachers.

CTS Courses

Resources for several animal-related Career and Technology Studies (CTS) high school courses.

Humane Education Features

Stories about our Education department, programs and the work we do.

Contact Education Department

Do you have a question about our Education programs? Give us a call or send us an email.

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