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Proposed California Law Would Outlaw Classroom Dissections

By Andrew Sheeler, Sacramento Bee - Rep: May 7, 2019

Dissecting frogs and cats – a common assignment for kids in California biology classes – could soon be a thing of the past.

A bill from Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, would prohibit animal dissections in K-12 schools, both public and private.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a sponsor of the bill. The animal rights organization has documented methods used by companies that supply schools with birds, cats and amphibians for classroom dissections. PETA argues the practice is “miserably cruel.”

Cats used for dissection tend to be euthanized animals acquired from shelters; frogs and other amphibians are often gathered in the wild.

The bill is set to be heard on Wednesday at the Assembly Committee on Education. Other sponsors of the bill include the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the group Social Compassion in Legislation.

Companies that sell preserved animals for dissection in classrooms describe the assignment as an important experience for students learning life sciences.

The California Department of Education’s science safety handbook encourages teachers to consider alternatives to dissection, such as models and computer programs. It says “the instructional activity should be planned to foster in students a greater respect for life and to provide learning that cannot otherwise be achieved.”

Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik wrote a letter to lawmakers this week urging them to pass Kalra’s bill. PETA shared her letter.

She argues that the act of cutting open an animal can discourage students from pursuing careers in science. She says the animals are no longer necessary. “No medical schools in the U.S. or Canada use animals for their undergraduate medical education programs. If animal dissection isn’t necessary to become a board-certified physician, it certainly isn’t needed for K–12 science classes,” wrote Bialik, who has a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA.

Current law allows students to opt out of performing a dissection if they have a moral objection. Those students instead are required to complete an alternative assignment to gain the same knowledge.

Assembly Bill 1586 applies to both vertebrate and invertebrate animals. That means no frog or worm dissection for biology classes.

Source: Sacramento Bee

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