Animal rights activists
have been agitating at Cornell University to ban animal |dissection| and
several weeks ago attempted to disrupt a biology lab class. In February,
Cornell president Hunter Rawlings sent an excellent letter to Cornell
Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, politely making the case
for the continuation of the animal dissection policy.
Cornell already offers students
in most classes alternatives to animal dissection. Only students taking
physiology courses must perform animal dissections. According to Rawlings,
though, even when offered alternatives, most students prefer the live dissections. Of
525 students who took Cornell’s introductory Biology 103, for example,
only 20 chose not to participate in the dissections.
Rawlings also noted that,
contrary to the student activist’s claims, classes were informed a week
prior to the dissections of the upcoming dissections and instructed to
discuss the matter privately with their instructors after class if they
wanted to choose an alternative.
Finally, Rawlings punctures
the oft-made claim that available alternatives to animal dissection are
more than adequate to completely replace live dissection. Rawlings wrote,
It is also important to note that many of the Biological Sciences
faculty agree that existing alternatives to dissection are almost universally
inferior to the level of quality appropriate for Cornell courses or are
otherwise unacceptable … In many cases, and in certain upper level courses,
they say, adequate alternative materials are simply not available … While
alternatives are available in the introductory general biology course,
I cannot accept your position that the university must adopt a policy
that all Cornell courses offer an alternative to animal dissection when
such a requirement is determined by the responsible faculty member to
be an essential element of the course of instruction.