Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss has an interesting look at the current state of animal dissection in American schools. Among other things, the article suggests that animal dissections are more common now than ever, in part due to the popularity of animal dissection at lower grade levels.
The article claims that,
Across the country, more dissections are performed than ever before, according to the advocates and critics of dissection. The nonprofit Humane Society estimates that 6 million vertebrate animals are dissected in U.S. high schools alone; the number of dissections of invertebrate animals is probably comparable, it says.
Unfortunately, Strauss doesn’t include any information on estimates of animals dissected over time, so readers have to take her word for it. Moreover, the increase in animals dissected over a much earlier time could represent the large increase in population in the United States over the past few decades rather than any genuine increase in the popularity/prevalence of animal dissection.
One genuine change appears to be an increasing number of animal dissections at the middle and elementary school level (the first time I remember doing an animal dissection was in the 7th grade).
Of course animal rights activists argue for replacing animal dissections with computer models of the same, and 9 states require students who object to animal dissection to be given some sort of non-animal alternative. But Kenneth Roy, chair of the Science Safety Advisory Board of the National Science Teachers Association, defends animal dissection,
I would use the example of driving a real car versus a driving simulation on a computer or in a game room machine. The real-time dissection provides awareness to all of the senses — touch especially — texture, form, etc.
When cutting up in class is okay. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, March 5, 2007.