Humane Science Education - BC SPCA
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Humane Science Education

The use of animals in teaching is still a common practice. Live animals are often used in non-invasive behavioural studies or observations, or more invasive studies such as physiology lessons or medical training procedures. Dissections of deceased animals or their tissues are also a common use.

The animals can be sourced from the food production system or as fisheries by-catch (e.g. fetal pigs, dogfish), bred for this purpose (e.g. rats), collected from the wild (e.g. frogs) or provided by animal owners with their permission (e.g. often pets for non-invasive studies or as veterinary patients). Although some international shelters provide bodies of deceased companion animals for dissection, the BC SPCA does not.

Further, the BC SPCA does not see a need for using live animals or their parts in teaching, unless part of a specialized post-secondary animal care program (such as veterinary sciences, animal health technology, animal welfare, etc.) and with permissions of owners for companion animals. Non-animal alternatives can meet or exceed learning outcomes for elementary, secondary and many post-secondary courses (Ormandy et al. 2022). For teachers, find Humane Science Education unit plans below.

Read the BC SPCA’s position statement on the use of animals in teaching and animals in schools.

3D plastic model of the internal anatomy of a frog
A plastic anatomical model of a frog

In a 2015 literature review conducted for the BC SPCA, non-animal alternatives provided equal or better ability to help students meet their learning outcomes (PDF). This supports the idea that replacing the use of animals in teaching is possible, and can even enhance student learning.

The Canadian Council on Animal Care recommends replacing any present procedures involving the use of animals in teaching, testing and research. This means that if you can meet your scientific education goals without the use of animals, you should. With advancing technology there are many sophisticated alternatives to using animals in teaching that should replace most educational animal use.

Student in a red shirt holding plastic 3D model of a heart

Among UBC students surveyed, 30% wanted to be offered non-animal alternatives (PDF) to dissections in courses they had already taken or were intending to take. Of those students who never took or intended to take courses involving animals, most opted out of courses requiring dissection because they believed it was unethical (PDF).

Courses that involve animal dissection rarely offer alternatives, forcing students to opt out or be left behind. Some classes may allow students to simply watch another student perform the dissection, but this is not a true alternative and does not consider their personal or cultural beliefs.

The humane science education unit plans below were developed to provide equivalent or greater standards in education for Canadian youth, without the use of animals.

Humane science unit plans for teachers

Teacher with two young students using a tablet

These humane science education modules can be used to create classes based on the BC Science Curriculum. Recommended virtual anatomy tools are available for each unit.

Frog anatomy (Grades K-6):

Rat anatomy (Grades 5-6):

Pig anatomy (Grade 12):

Human anatomy (Grade 12):

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