Humane education can be defined as the teaching of compassion and empathy for all living beings and respect for their habitats. AWI encourages teachers and educators to incorporate animal-friendly science education into their lessons and teach respect for rather than exploitation of animals.
The study of animals in their natural habitats can be particularly educational for students and can even be done in urban environments—such as observing birds at feeders, squirrels in parks, and insects on plants. In an effort to connect children with the natural world, some animals (such as hermit crabs, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals) have become popular classroom pets. Unfortunately, these animals don’t always receive adequate care, and some are taken from the wild in a manner that is inhumane and ecologically harmful. Click here to read an AWI Quarterly article about the problems associated with hermit crabs in captivity. Instead of purchasing animals for the classroom, teachers and students can set up temporary habitats in the classroom to study smaller invertebrates found locally, such as earthworms and insects, whose habits are not disrupted by captivity and who can be released following the classroom observations.
Read AWI’s Humane Education brochure for more information and project suggestions.
More than 12 million animals, including frogs, cats, rats, fetal pigs, fish and a variety of invertebrates are used for dissection in the US each year. The use of animals for dissection causes unnecessary suffering and death, can have negative effects on the environment and human health, and teaches students to rationalize the unjustified killing of animals.
Investigations into the capture, transport, warehousing and killing of animals destined for dissection have documented cruel and callous treatment. An estimated 20,000 to 50,000 cats are used for dissection each year; many have been aggressively collected from residential communities in the US and Mexico to be sold to biological supply houses for use as specimens. Frogs are taken by the millions from wetland habitats for dissection purposes—despite the fact that amphibians are declining throughout the world due to a variety of threats including habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, disease and collection for commercial use. Frogs are piled into sacks, transported, and then inhumanely killed by immersion in preservative. The mass removal of these animals can have detrimental impacts on ecosystems.
AWI encourages the use of cost-effective, reusable dissection alternatives, including state-of-the-art computer programs and three-dimensional models which sacrifice neither animals nor quality education. A variety of alternative methods designed to replace dissection have actually been shown to provide superior learning outcomes for students.
Cats, frogs, fetal pigs, grasshoppers, mink, earthworms, rats, mice, dogs, pigeons, and turtles are just some of the many animals used in school dissection projects. Investigations into the capture, transport, warehousing and killing of animals destined for dissection show that the procurement process cause unnecessary suffering and death. Millions of frogs are taken from wetland habitats, piled into sacks and inhumanely killed by immersion in preservative. Frog populations are rapidly disappearing worldwide and the use of wild-caught frogs for dissections is a contributing factor to frog declines in many parts of the world.*
Many students and teachers are questioning the educational value and ethics of using animals in the classroom. Modern technology can teach students about the biology of living beings and to appreciate the vital role that all animals play in the natural world—without sacrificing the animals themselves.
Dissection Alternatives Databases: A valuable source of information on available alternatives
- Norwegian Inventory of Alternatives (NORINA) (external link)
Dissection Alternatives Lending Library Programs
- The Science Bank (external link)
- Biology Education Advancement Program (BioLEAP) or 800-922-FROG (external link)
Humane Science Projects
- Humane Science Projects (external link)
AWI Quarterly Articles
- Compassion in the Classroom (AWI Quarterly, Summer 2017)
- Texas Science Teacher Employs Humane Education to Energize Students (AWI Quarterly, Spring 2012)