September is synonymous with cooler temperatures, spending more time indoors, and back to school of course! This week, Kathryn and Gen wrap up this month’s topic on Animals in Science by reminding us of a few experts’ tips on how to avoid the unethical treatment of animals at school.

In regard to science classroom dissections, they underscore the importance of checking in with your children to see if they are being asked to dissect, and suggest that if so, they ask for an alternative. Perhaps an even better solution, they argue, is to spread the word about all the resources available to teachers directly. Teachers can also opt out of zoo trips, or at least make sure to check if the facility they intend to visit is a good one. In regard to classroom pets, since this is an unregulated area. Gen and Kathryn encourage teachers foremost to take their students out into nature where they can really learn best about animals and ecosystems.

Gen points out that during her veterinary studies, students were asked to bring in their own cats and dogs to practice physical examinations, instead of sourcing other animals. Moreover, bringing in one’s own pet to class makes it easy to show off a specific species without inducing unnecessary trauma to an animal that is going to be orphaned afterwards – and it can actually show to kids what’s involved in taking care of the species properly or can even discourage students from acquiring pets that are not the most well-suited to being in homes.

“I think it is a good experience, I understand why some teachers would like to do it, but I think that most people don’t think it through, and you need to know what you’re going to do with the animal in the end. Think about the animal welfare consequences for that animal.” – Gen Douyon.

Animals in science is definitely a wide-ranging topic that will be back into our lineup. Scientists are constantly conducting research on animals and this month we have only touched the tip of the iceberg by talking about animals in schools. We hope we peaked your interest; keep on listening!

Now you know!

Be part of the change!

  • As a first resource, schools should opt to use computer models of dissected animals which are widely available and easy to implement options.
  • Start a dialogue with your child’s teachers, school administrators, and school boards, asking them to look into digital alternatives to dissection such as the ones listed in Animals in Science Policy Institute’s database.
  • As a parent, explain to your child that in Canada you do not have to perform classroom dissections, and encourage them to express it openly.
  • Ask your elected officials for a legislative resolution against dissections in classrooms, a practice ingrained in the education system that has been proven ineffective.
  • Speak out against the use of animals in the education system – ask for policies about animal use in schools. Speaking out is a fantastic lesson in itself!
  • If a teacher brings in an exotic pet at your child’s school, do research about the animal and its needs, and inform the teacher about the ramifications of its life in a classroom.
  • Encourage your school to notice and enjoy natural wildlife on its premises, and to create good living conditions in its courtyard for animals, allowing kids to interact with them in a natural setting.
  • Require that your local government dictate the criteria that need to be satisfied by zoological facilities for visitors’ safety and by schools that want to bring kids on an outing to such sites.
  • Express your preference about kids visiting sanctuaries or natural reserves where animals congregate naturally and can be observed in their native habitat.
  • Request alternative education for your children, that explains why zoos aren’t good examples for learning about animals.
  • Appreciate the smaller species in addition to the large charismatic and exotic species in zoos – most animals on earth are small, infinitely fascinating and we depend on them for our survival.
  • Spend time outdoors, take walks in the park, and discover the ecosystems around you and their inhabitants – engaging with them is easy and it’s fascinating.
  • Let kids interact with real wildlife and teach them that this is how animals should be – in a courtyard or in the woods, instead of in a box in a classroom.
  • Challenge the way people look at nature, and ask them to look all around them, even in the city.
  • Learn more about animals online – the internet is an endless source of information.
  • Help us spread the word by sharing this podcast in your network.

What’s next?

This month, help us reach out to actress and activist Shailene Woodley. Ever since she stood up with the Sioux tribe in Standing Rock, North Dakota, she has been calling out for change for the environment. She recently embarked on a Greenpeace year-long expedition campaigning to help save the seas and reduce plastic and microplastics. Animals are definitely a priority for her and one of the easiest actions one can take is against their use in education, through dissections or captivity. Ask her to step up for the cause by tagging her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with a link to this month’s episodes.

Learn more

Listen to the full interview with Dr. Lori Marino, Dissection Part 1: Classroom Dissection – Impacts and Non-Animal Alternatives.
Listen to the full interview with Dr. Elisabeth Ormandy, Dissection Part 2: Classroom Dissection – Non-Animal Alternatives as Superior Teaching Tools.
Listen to Now You Know Politics episode “What is Wrong with Using Animals in the Classroom?” with Kathryn Sussman and Rob Laidlaw.

If you’ve enjoyed listening to our podcast, we’ve a favour to ask. A lot of volunteering goes into making Now You Know, but it still takes money to run. If you’d like to help us make future Now You Know podcasts, please consider donating. Thank you!

Kathryn, Gen and the Now You Know team.

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