Understanding Reluctance to Use Non-Animal Dissection Alternatives in Secondary Education


Dr. Elisabeth Ormandy, Executive Director, Animals in Science Policy Institute

Advocacy groups have worked on the issue of dissection for many years; however, the pace of change is slow and animals are still widely used for dissection in North American secondary science education. This occurs despite evidence that non-animal alternatives: 1) are often superior in educational merit compared to dissection, 2) are more economical, and 3) provide a safe, inclusive educational experience. This is also despite the ethics-based Three Rs argument that if non-animal alternatives exist, then they must be used.

We sought to better understand why these practical and ethical arguments have not led to greater uptake of alternatives to dissection. We surveyed science teachers and the public in British Columbia (BC), about their views on dissection to identify possible points of resistance to non-animal alternatives. We learned that the primary barriers to teachers adopting non-animal alternatives are lack of time to research suitable alternatives, perceived cost and a belief that traditional dissection is a superior learning tool. In both the teacher and BC public survey, the majority of participants would like to see written student choice policies in every BC school district to give students the right to opt out of dissection and to be provided with meaningful alternatives.


  1. Why is secondary school dissection problematic?
  2. Barriers to adoption of alternatives to dissection are surmountable.
  3. There is willingness among teachers and the public to make the shift away from dissection.

Dr. Elisabeth Ormandy is Executive Director of the Animals in Science Policy Institute, a registered Canadian charity that aims to build an ethical culture of science that respects animal life by promoting the reduction and replacement of animals in teaching, research and testing. Elisabeth brings to this role her background in Neuroscience and PhD-level expertise in animal ethics and the governance of animal-based science. She worked for the Canadian Council on Animal Care as a research fellow from 2009-2011, and subsequently sat on the Standards Committee until 2016. Elisabeth currently sits as an Advisor on the Environment and Animal Welfare committee for the Vancouver Foundation and on the Advisory Council of the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods.