Jurisdictional legislation and policies: It is essential to consult your school or school sector to determine the policies and procedures they require you to follow regarding dissections. When considering dissections in schools, there are two main areas for consideration: the ethical and safety concerns.
There are different ethical viewpoints concerning the use of animals for dissections in schools. In Australia, THE NHMRC have published an Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes 8th edition (2013) see https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/australian-code-care-and-use-animals-scientific-purposes/australian-code-care-and-use-animals-scientific-purposes-code . Each state and territory has its own additional legislative requirements as well. It is a decision for either the school or school sector to make the ethical decision regarding whether they will permit the dissection of animals. In most jurisdictions there are requirements for reporting to an animal ethics committee and sometimes permission is required before arranging to conduct a dissection.
For the safety of staff and students, it is essential that all materials used for dissections are free from disease. Therefore dissection materials should either be sourced from suppliers that supply for human consumption, such as from a butcher, supermarket or abattoir or from prepared specimens from biological suppliers. See our list of School science suppliers for companies that supply biological specimens for dissection.
Science ASSIST has prepared a number of SOPs regarding dissections. I draw your attention to the SOP - Performing a rat dissection, where in the introduction we address both these aspects:
“Prior to conducting a rat dissection, teachers should ensure that they are able to meet the requirements of the Schools Animal Ethics Committee (SAEC) in their jurisdiction. It is recommended that they consider the educational objectives for this activity, explore the ethical considerations with students and aim to reduce the total number of rats required for this activity. Students should not be forced to participate in a dissection and alternative activities such as videos and virtual dissections can be used for these students instead, as well as to supplement the actual activity.
Rats that have been humanely euthanised and are disease (or infection) free should be sourced from ethical and licenced suppliers. They can be supplied as freshly euthanised, frozen or preserved specimens.”
With above considerations in mind, we provide the following links for some further reading:
Australian references with state/territory based links:
- National Health and Medical Research Council. 2013. Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes 8th edition, 8th edition. National Health and Medical Research Council: Canberra, NHMRC website, https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/australian-code-care-and-use-animals-scientific-purposes/australian-code-care-and-use-animals-scientific-purposes-code
- ACT: ACT Government, Department of Education and Training. 2009. Care and use of animals in ACT schools, CUAAS200906, ACT DET website, http://www.det.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/65640/Care_and_Use...
- NSW: ‘Animals in schools’, Animals in schools website http://nswschoolanimals.com/ (Accessed July 2016). In particular see http://nswschoolanimals.com/index/dissection-of-animals/
- NT: Northern Territory Department of Education. 2013. Animals in schools policy, NT DET website, https://education.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/436003/ANIMALS-I... in particular see page 1: Dissection of animals in schools in prohibited. (Updated July, 2017).
- Qld: ‘Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee’, Qld Government Education website, https://education.qld.gov.au/curriculum/stages-of-schooling/animals-in-education/QSAEC (link Updated April 2020)
- SA: ‘Animal ethics’, Association of Independent Schools of SA website, https://web.archive.org/web/20180313071911/http://www.ais.sa.edu.au/home... (Internet Archive Version, April 2018)
- SA: Government of SA, Department of Education and Children’s Services, 2010. Dissection of animals in schools, AIS website, https://web.archive.org/web/20180319143254/http://www.ais.sa.edu.au/__fi... (Internet Archive Version, April 2018)
- Tasmania: 'Animal Ethics Committee', Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (Tasmania) website, http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/animal-ethics-committee (June 2016)
- Vic: 'Animals in Schools', Victorian State Government Education and Training website, http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/curriculum/Pages/animals.aspx (September 2014)
- WA: 'Animal Ethics – Complying with the Australian code of practice for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes', WA Department of Education website, http://det.wa.edu.au/curriculumsupport/animalethics/detcms/portal/ (Accessed July 2016)
Additional references (USA, Canada)
- USA: National Science Teachers Association. 2008. NSTA Position Statement Responsible Use of Live Animals and Dissection in the Science Classroom, NSTA website, https://static.nsta.org/pdfs/PositionStatement_LiveAnimalsAndDissection.pdf
- USA: National Association of Biology Teachers. 2008. NABT Position Statement The Use of Animals in Biology Education' The National Association of Biology Teachers website,
- http://www.nabt.org/Position-Statements-The-Use-of-Animals-in-Biology-Ed... (Updated May 2017)
- Canada: Oakley, J. 2012. Science teachers and the dissection debate: Perspectives on animal dissection and alternatives. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education 7: 253-267. Institute of Education Services website, https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ990519.pdf