Humane Education

Animals in Education

The MSPCA recognizes the many benefits of studying animals in a hands-on setting.  Our primary concern, however, is for the welfare of animals used in education.  There are important considerations to make before acquiring a classroom pet, and there are effective, humane alternatives to live animal study and dissection.  If the principles of scientific inquiry are humanely taught—without causing pain, injury, stress, or suffering to any species—they can also foster respect for and a connection with the animals who share the planet with us.

Classroom Pets and Live Animal Study

Interacting with live animals can help children develop compassion, respect, and responsible behavior.  Opportunities to explore the mysteries of life can be highly compelling and enriching experiences for elementary and secondary school students, increasing children's interest in and understanding of all forms of life.  However, keeping animals in the classroom requires a commitment of time, effort, and money on the teacher's part.  Visit this link to learn more about the considerations to make before integrating live animals into your curriculum, and ideas for lessons that involve animals that are the most humane.  Topics include:

  • Guardianship and Care of Classroom Pets
  • Live Animal Studies & Science Fairs
  • Classroom Chick Hatching Projects
  • Developing a School Policy & Animal Care and Use Committee

Dissection and Alternatives to Dissection

In 2005, the Massachusetts Board of Education adopted a policy that allows students throughout the state to opt-out of animal dissection projects and participate in a comparable alternative.  While many science teachers value dissection as an important learning opportunity, there are an increasing number of alternatives available in the form of videos, CD-ROMs, and 3-D models that effectively address anatomy and physiology learning strands without the use of animals.  Many students have chosen alternatives because they have ethical concerns about dissection, including how the animals are obtained and killed as well as the philosophy inadvertently taught that animal life is disposable.  Visit this link to learn about student rights, responsibilities and options as they apply to dissection projects.

Resources and Materials

There are a wide variety of books, videos, software programs, manipulatives, and lesson plans available to teachers interested in incorporating humane education into their curriculum.  Many resources are free and available online.  Additionally, several humane education organizations have established libraries of lending materials that can be checked out by educators.  Resources include:

  • Humane Education Lessons and Projects
  • Classroom Chick Hatching Project Alternatives
  • Free Online Dissection Videos and Simulations
  • Books and Guidelines Related to Animals in Education
  • Organizations with Free Lending Libraries
  • Massachusetts Department of Education Frameworks
  • "Animals in Education" Laws & Regulations (FAQ)