Now You Know is broadcasting an interview with Dr. Elisabeth Ormandy, executive director and co-founder of the Animals in Science Policy Institute based in British Columbia, Canada. She joins last week’s debate on dissection, a common practice in Canadian classrooms, and explains the results of a survey conducted among teachers in 2017.

Dr. Ormandy reports that 79% of teachers in British Columbia, considered one of Canada’s most progressive provinces, still perform dissections in their classrooms. Throughout Canada, dissections are performed in grades 5 through 12, and typically use a wide range of animals or animal parts provided by biological supply companies. Dr. Ormandy points out however, that in AISPI’s surveys, the majority of teachers still expressed that they would be very willing to switch to non-animal alternatives, if they could overcome the barrier of lack of time to research those alternatives – something with which her organization helps.

There are different ways in which non-animal alternatives are superior to dissections. The main one Dr. Ormandy emphasizes is that students do indeed learn better from simulation or other digital tools, as shown by numerous empirical studies. She explains that furthermore, non-animal alternatives are cheaper for schools, they are the greener option, and are safer and more inclusive for students, allowing everyone to participate.

“There are 3 guiding principles to the ethical use of animals in science. They’re called the 3 R’s principles: Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement. And replacement simply says that if you can meet your scientific or educational goals without using animals, it’s our ethical obligation as scientists in the world to not use animals. So the data about the educational merit of non-animal methods shows us that replacement is an ethical obligation in this case.” – Dr. Elisabeth Ormandy.

Nowadays, students are able to pass science class without having to do dissections, but there are still some challenges. Teachers say that anywhere from up to 25% of students are asking to opt out of dissections, but that leads us to believe that a lot more students witness dissections passively, or feel very pressured to perform them involuntarily in order to continue on with their studies. Dr. Ormandy believes that all schools should have a student choice policy to empower students to take their own decisions and preserve their innate sense of compassion and empathy for animals.

Now you know!

Be part of the change!

  • Ask your school for a student choice policy that will empower students to make their own choices about performing dissections.
  • Ask your school-aged child about dissection, whether they will be doing one in class and what they think about it.
  • Consult Animals in Science Policy Institute’s web resource, researching and providing teachers with hundreds of different alternatives to dissections, including guest class programs.
  • Offer humane education to children in your community by building on empathy for animals and peers, thus allowing them to become better community members themselves.
  • Ask your elected officials to create a policy consistent with the principle of replacement that regulates animal use in science and in education.
  • Help us spread the word by sharing this podcast in your network!

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Kathryn, Gen and the Now You Know team.

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