Answer reviewed 11 January, 2023
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). Each state and territory has their own additional legislative requirements as well. It is a decision for either the school or school sector to make 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.
Science ASSIST has prepared a number of SOPs regarding dissections, including 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 (NHMRC) website, (updated 2021), ‘Australian code for the care and use of animals for scientific purposes 8th edition, retrieved from 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 website, (2019), ‘Care and use of animals in ACT schools policy’, retrieved from https://www.education.act.gov.au/publications_and_policies/School-and-Corporate-Policies/school-administration-and-management/animal-welfare/care-and-use-of-animals-in-act-schools-policy
NSW: Animals in schools website, (Accessed January 2023), ‘Animals in schools’, retrieved from https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/animals-in-schools . In particular, see https://education.nsw.gov.au/teaching-and-learning/animals-in-schoolsindex/dissection-of-animals/
NT: Northern Territory Department of Education website, (2013), ‘Animals in schools policy’, retrieved from https://education.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/436003/ANIMALS-IN-SCHOOLS_POLICY.pdf in particular see page 1: Dissection of animals in schools in prohibited. (Updated July, 2017).
Qld: Qld Government Education website, (2021, February 8), ‘Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee’, retrieved from https://education.qld.gov.au/curriculum/stages-of-schooling/animals-in-education/QSAEC
SA: Association of Independent Schools of SA website, (2023), ‘Animal ethics’, retreived from https://www.ais.sa.edu.au/animal-ethics/
SA: Government of SA, Department of Education website, (2021, August 12), ‘Dissection of animals in schools’, retrieved from https://www.education.sa.gov.au/doc/standard-operating-procedures-use-animals-schools-preschools-and-childcare-centres
TAS: Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania website, (2018, May 30), 'Animal Ethics Committee’, retrieved from https://nre.tas.gov.au/animal-ethics-committee
VIC: Education Victoria website, (2022, May 2) ‘Biological materials used in schools’, retrieved from https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/biological-materials-used-schools/policy
WA: WA Department of Education website, (accessed 2023), 'Animal Ethics – Instructions for the correct care of animals', retrieved from https://myresources.education.wa.edu.au/programs/animal-ethics
WA: WA Department of Education website, (2014, August 5), ‘Use of animals in public schools policy’ retrieved from https://www.education.wa.edu.au/web/policies/-/use-of-animals-in-public-schools-policy
RSPCA: RSPCA website, (2020, December 5), ‘Policy D8 Animals in teaching’, retrieved from https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/rspca-policy-d8-animals-in-teaching/
Additional references (USA)
USA: National Science Teachers Association NSTA website, (2008, March), ‘Position Statement Responsible Use of Live Animals and Dissection in the Science Classroom’, retrieved from https://www.nsta.org/nstas-official-positions/responsible-use-live-animals-and-dissection-science-classroom#:
USA: National Association of Biology Teachers NABT website, (2019, July), ‘Position statement: the use of animals in biology education' retrieved from https://nabt.org/Position-Statements-The-Use-of-Animals-in-Biology-Education