Dissections in Biology Labs Spark Conversation

3D animations fail to show differences within a species


Reported by Desirée Garcia

Humane substitutions for biological dissections, like 3D animations, fail to provide all the educational benefits a real animal offers, according to academics and students.

Many times 3D animations do not show the differences between animals within the same species and may include inaccurate information or design errors, according to a UBC Neuroscience PhD candidate.

Langara College said in an email to The Voice that although they believe useful additions such as alternative educational technologies, like 3D animations and software, can be useful during the student’s learning process, it is not fully capable of providing all of the information possible, such as showing diversification within species.

Parker Holman, UBC PhD candidate in neurosciences, said he stands on both sides of the debate.“I think there are pros and cons. For both, using animals and using other educational technologies, I think the biggest thing I would say is no matter what you use, you’re limited by the instructor in the lesson,” Holman said .

Holman prefers fewer animals to be used and if necessary, they must be treated humanely during the process.

“If there are not good instructions given, students don’t know how to dissect, or where to begin.”

Holman said technologies can be useful but students and faculty should be cautious when using technology because sometimes they are not accurate.

“Many times, technologies are overly simplified, and they don’t reflect the actual biological complexity.”  “I’m not either or, I’m a both advocate,“ Holman said.

Sara Dubois, SPCA Chief Scientific Officer, said technology has advanced enough that students no longer need animal cadavers to learn about them.

“Thankfully the technology has really caught up with our needs for learning and so that has always been the position of the BC SPCA that classroom dissections are unnecessary and you actually have better learning outcomes with alternatives now,” Dubois said .

Dubois said that the culture of science needs to change to be more compassionate towards animals. “We’re not going to do that by teaching young students in high school or in undergraduate studies that animals are tools to be taken apart.”

More humane approaches can be inaccurate

Jasmine Roque, a former student who took biology courses at Langara said she is on the fence about dissection. “Sometimes you do need to do the actual animal just to see what it looks like as compared to a model, because sometimes models they look too perfect or they may not always look like the real thing,” Roque said.

Roque said educational technology alone would not be enough to teach what a dissection can but it can be useful before and after to enhance learning.

“I think 3D models are a good point of practice initially while you’re getting used to visualizing organs and things and then you’d like, go into an actual model afterwards versus having, dissecting, more animals, like if you’re going to do it multiple times,” she said.


1 Comment
  1. Parker Holman says

    I’m case it wasn’t clear from the article, I am very supportive of the responsible use of animal dissection in education. I believe in adhering to the principle of the 3 R’s (https://3rs.ccac.ca/en/about/three-rs.html), and following all of the appropriate guidelines as set forth by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). Done properly, animal dissection can provide an unparalleled learning experience for those students who choose to participate. New technologies can play an important role in enhancing these experiences, but I do not believe that they are an equal replacement at this time.

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