Dissection Alternatives for Students
Alternatives to Animal Testing, Experimentation and Dissection - An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM Physicians Committee
February 2019

Whether your subject is human anatomy, the life cycle of a chicken, or fruit fly genetics, students today have cleaner, safer, and more advanced models for biological discovery than ever before.

"Modern" high school anatomy class

Websites like The Science Bank from AnimalLearn offer anatomical models, computer programs, and videos, and detailed charts for loan or purchase, so that schools can provide students with an experiential and exciting scientific exploration without harming animals.

The Physicians Committee has been working to modernize medical student and health professional training for years. Now, no North American medical schools use animals to train newly minted physicians, and a majority of post-graduate programs are similarly animal-free. They use human-relevant methods, including simulators and manikins designed specifically for the tasks they are learning.

Animal dissection is not required to for students to learn about and be engaged in science. Indeed, College Board (AP Biology), the International Baccalaureate, and Next Generation Science Standards make no mention of animal dissection. And the National Science Teachers Association and the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society now approve the use of alternatives as complete replacements for animal dissection.

So what can teachers and schools use instead? Here are a few options [PCRM: These listings are examples, and do not constitute endorsement or exclusion of any particular program.]

3D Anatomy Models

These highly detailed clay or plastic models offer true-to-size or magnified replications of many animals, from frogs to starfish to horses. The internal organs and body parts are often removable and easily held and manipulated, and they can be use repeatedly to ensure mastery.


These DVDs are previously filmed dissections, allowing an up-close and narrated view of the procedures. Animals range from the typical frog or fetal pig to the unusual shark, cow eye, or crayfish, allowing students a much broader and more diverse learning experience.

Computer Programs

There are hundreds of advanced options that go way beyond live animal dissection in the learning experience they offer to students. Purchased, rented, and subscription-based models are available for computers or iPads, and some include multiple animal species, making them a more cost-efficient choice. Some offer a more traditional look at anatomy, some simulate mendelian genetics concepts, and others provide a detailed look at specific physiology concepts such as muscle and nerve functionality. Some offer virtual reality or actual cadaver photos for a realistic experience. Many provide students with the ability to interact with the programs, and, like the 3D models, allow repetition of lessons to enhance learning.

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