Alternatives to Animal Dissections

Alternatives to Animal Dissections

Many different tools can be used to teach students that don’t harm any animals. Including anatomical models, virtual dissections and anatomy apps, augmented reality tools and more! These alternative methods have many benefits!

There is such a wide range of alternatives available that there are searchable databases that showcase the many options:

There is an enormous variety of dissection alternatives! Some are more basic, and others are highly sophisticated and interactive tools. Here are some of our favourites:*
*NZAVS is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned below. We are simply listing options and do not get any form of commission.

Basic anatomy models

Some of these imitate animal dissections and mimic the body position of animals and have visible skin flaps, for example:


More traditional classroom models are usually made from durable hard plastic and have removable organs, for example:


For a cost effective option, we like the paper dissection models designed by Mel and Gerdy:

  • They have downloadable paper dissection designs that can be printed and then cut out and assembled by students.
  • There are many species to choose from, with licences being valid per classroom/teacher.
  • They even offer sturdy vinyl versions to be used for demonstration by the teacher which can be ordered and shipped from the US.


4D puzzles are designed as toys but we think they are reasonably accurate for teaching and are a fun way to get children engaged:


Dissectable models

These can be cut open with a scalpel and fake organs can be extracted. There are two providers for this kind of model, both are US-based.


Software solutions

These include 3D anatomy programs, dissection apps for handheld devices and fullscale virtual reality experiences. For example:



  • Virtualitee is a US-based product. Combined with their T-shirts, the software creates a (simplified) virtual view inside the body (for Android and iOS).
  • zSpace is a US company selling hardware and a wide variety of applications creating an augmented reality learning space.
  • The Merge cube (US-based) lets you hold digital 3D objects you can then interact with. It works together with special glasses and interactive software. The company also has a VR headset that can be used alone or in combination with the cube.


The benefits 

Using these alternatives to animal dissections has many benefits:

  • Animals' lives are saved (when alternatives are used in place of killing animals for dissection exercises)
  • The ethical concerns of students can be respected:
    • These may not always be shared with the teacher, but studies show that many students would opt for something else given a true choice. Sadly, peer pressure and persuasion by authority figures play a role in the decision.1
    • Students can find the act of dissection disturbing. Performing dissections requires the students to develop a certain amount of desensitisation and coping mechanisms (for example, in the form of emotional distancing, light-hearted humour, and engaging in the mutilation of the “specimens”).2
  • Students viewing dissections as a negative experience are usually uninvolved in the processes,3 decreasing the potential to learn. Contrary to that, alternative methods have positively affected student learning and motivation.4
  • Not liking the experience of animal dissections can put young people off a career in science entirely.5
  • Analysing 20 publications comparing animal dissection to alternative teaching methods, a review found that, almost exclusively, the animal-friendly alternative led to an equal or better learning result than dissections. 6
  • Similar results were found in studies comparing “traditional” harmful animal use and “humane” teaching methods, with 90% of the 50 publications indicating equal or superior results with animal-friendly teaching.7
  • Unlike animal dissections, models can be re-used many times, and some alternative methods (like software) can be used indefinitely. Therefore, alternative methods can be more sustainable and cheaper in the long run.8


Learn more:



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