Cats Dissected at California High School & You Can See Photos Online

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In June of this year, students at Newport Harbor High School in Orange County, California posted photos on Facebook of cat dissection in anatomy class. They were not scientific photographs for learning you would expect in a classroom. Students were seen posing and smiling with mutilated cats. Videos were made and posted on Facebook. One showed a girl holding up the headless cat carcass, smiling and sticking out her tongue toward the cat. This elicited a student comment, "Ewwww ... u look like ur trying to lick it."

"The staff at Newport-Mesa Schools decided to eliminate animal dissection and use electronic means in its lessons" wrote David Brooks, Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) Board of Education president, to John Pippin, M.D., PCRM's director of academic affairs, in an email dated October 18, 2012.

Karen Coyne, an English teacher at the high school and faculty adviser for the school's animal rights club, contacted the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). PCRM sent a letter to the school district and kept up correspondence throughout the summer months.

However, it has now been discovered that NMUSD has ended cat dissection only; other animals will apparently still be used in vivisection activities in the classrooms. Dr. Pippin was disappointed to find only cats are being eliminated in dissection lessons. His numerous emails with Mr. Brooks were worded as such that it led him to believe the decision would eliminate dissection of ALL animals in all classrooms within the district.

In a telephone interview with Dr. Pippin, he expressed to me his concerns about vivisection. "Science education needs to move beyond animal dissection" he said. "Don't send the message that animals are ours to use and throw away. It is unethical to teach that life is cheap."

After PCRM found similar photos from other high schools of students mugging with dissected animals in classroom settings, they sent a letter to Facebook asking the pages and photos be removed, in accordance with its graphic content policy. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) joined PCRM in requesting the photos be removed and dissection not be used in teaching anatomy. The Orange County Register quoted Coyne. "It's certainly better for the cats, and at least it's gotten people to discuss this issue more," said Coyne. "I just wish they could see that dissection really is an archaic practice and unnecessary, and we need to teach these kids compassion toward these helpless beings."

"In light of the fact that PCRM found other photos online at different schools, we know this is a big problem not just locally but across the nation," Coyne said. "Especially with the rise in teen bullying and school shootings, we need to be teaching them compassion." Coyne reported overhearing two students state "that the [dissected cat] head had been placed inside a student's locker as a prank."

Animals like cats and dogs are often acquired by biological supply companies from shelters. This means many of the animals used for dissection were strays and lost family pets. It is often a greater advantage for the shelter to euthanize pets and sell them, instead of attempting to find the animals owners. Shelters actually receives income when selling the animals and this also makes room for even more strays. This is made possible thanks to local ordinances that only require shelters to hold found pets for as little as 24 hours to several days.

There are more humane techniques for teaching anatomy to students in middle school, high school and college level classes, like computerized dissection modules. Numerous medical schools have been changing their training to stop using live animals while others have not. PCRM lists a number of alternative options to dissection on their site.

Facebook refused to comment on the specific events at Newport Harbor High School and instead advised anyone who thinks a photo is inappropriate to use the site's report links.

Caring Teen Wants to Take Photo With Every Species:

Related Care2 Reading:

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New Technology More Reliable and Ethical Than Animal Experiments

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Callousness toward animals should not be tolerated in schools - or anywhere else for that matter. Lack of respect for all living creatures is shameful. If people would be responsible pet owners and get their pets spayed or neutered, some of the problem of pet overpopulation could be controlled - not a bad idea for a lot of people either.

November 26 2012 at 5:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Much of the problem is where and how these animals are obtained and how they are killed, not to mention the treatment they receive in the meantime. Some animal 'shelters" sell animals to schools. If people would be responsible and have their pets spayed and neutered some of the problem of overpopulation could be controlled. Respect for all forms of life is sadly lacking in our society.

November 26 2012 at 5:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I know I'd rather have my doctor learn how to do surgery on an online model than the real thing!

... Or maybe not.

November 20 2012 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The problem is not the dissection. The problem is how they are getting the animals. I also have a problem with grade school students having to dissect an animal period. This is something that is useful if you go on to careers where you need this experience and knowledge. Tell me something if your career path leads you to hmmm let's say an accountant did you really need to know how a cats heart works?!

November 20 2012 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What the heck is the difference? Cats, dogs, rabbits, frogs, human cadavers, aborted fetuses, or what is left from late term abortions... What of it? In biology, and other higher classes in pre med, veterinary studies, even speech pathology students have to direct human brains, and almost the entire torso of cadavers to learn the muscles and more for the production of speech. You bunch of cry babies.

November 20 2012 at 11:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't see what the big deal is to be honest. Animal is already dead. It isn't like they were mutilating a live cat here. These kids were probably uncomfortable (like most people) dissecting an animal, and were using humor to diffuse the situation.

November 20 2012 at 10:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have never been fond of cats, I grew up near a "crazy cat lady" and those cats would walk all over my car after I washed it, we found about 5 batches of kittens under the shed over the years, and they would crap in my neighbors kids sand box, The last straw was when one of those nasty animals sprayed in my car! Animal control did nothing so, I had to start shooting them with my BB gun, after that they finally stopped coming anywhere near my house. CATS SUCK!

November 20 2012 at 10:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to vacheezehead's comment

I have never been fond of vacheezeheads, I grew up near a "crazy vacheezehead lady" and those vacheezeheads would walk all over my car after I washed it, we found about 5 batches of baby vacheezehead under the shed over the years, and they would crap in my neighbors kids sand box, The last straw was when vacheezehead sprayed in my car! Animal control did nothing so, I had to start shooting vacheezehead with my BB gun, after that he finally stopped coming anywhere near my house. vacheezehead SUCK!

November 20 2012 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree, it's a dead animal. When I was in high school, I had to dissect a cat along with my classmates. It was a required course in order to graduate. Sure, we were a little squeamish, but we got over it.

November 20 2012 at 8:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I do not see where dissection to an already deceased animal is considered cruelty. The learning process from an actual dissection is not something that can be duplicated through 'computerized dissection modules'. My son's anatomy class in high school dissected a cat and although I initially felt squeamish about it, he was intrigued to the point it led him to continue taking anatomy classes in college and is looking at a career in the physical therapy field. Without this hands on process, I cannot say for sure he would have considered learning about the human body. Taking anatomy class was out of left field for him, but it turned around his thoughts of a career path. Our cherished kitty is the reason I was initially squeamish about the dissection, but it in no way changed the way my son continues to care about her.

November 20 2012 at 6:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Maria Lank

They are removing animal dissection from colleges and using online programs?

Now that scares me to death. No pun intended. These kids in college will be all wonderful and educated when it comes to a computer program, but how about when it comes to the real thing? There is so much to learn from actually experiencing it and actually seeing it, not from a computer screen.

When I was in high school, we dissected fetal pigs my freshman year. Senior year, I was in an anatomy course where we dissected cats. We saw how they worked and learned so much. We even had sheep brains, hearts, lungs, livers, pig uterus, etc. It's such a different way to apply something you learn about and then being able to piece it with what you actually can see and feel. Now mind you, some of the cats had worms. My teacher decided the next year not to use them again, so what did he use instead? He went to the closest college and got a human cadaver for seniors in high school.

If they are taking this experience away from college students, I see absolutely no good from it. Do you want your future vet or doctor to be proficient at computer programs? I mean, if he can save a virtual dog, go him, but when it comes to the real world and can't solve that twisted stomach because it doesn't look like his virtual world, what good is he?

If these animals have already passed, then what is the harm in using their bodies to help educate our future students? If humans do it, then I don't see a darn thing wrong with having students use animals that have already passed.

November 20 2012 at 2:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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