Parents and Caregivers Hub

Parents and Caregivers Hub

As primary caregivers, you are the first point of reference for your tamariki. Growing up, they look to the adults closest to their hearts for guidance on morality and life in general. Being confronted with a task that goes against their ethical values, such as having to dissect animals at school can leave children frustrated and, if forced, feeling helpless. We want to help by providing you with important information and tools that you can use to better understand this issue. 

We’ve created this page, especially for caregivers of students, to help inform them about:

Our survey

From June to July 2021, we conducted a nationwide survey about animal use in NZ schools (from primary to high schools). We wanted to understand better which types of animals are used, how they are used, and how confident schools are with the current animal welfare laws and regulations.

From the participating schools (46.8%), we learnt that there is:

  • An urgent need for teachers and school administrators to be educated about the current laws and regulations in NZ.
  • A lack of awareness around the availability and teaching value of alternative and animal-free teaching methods.

Key statistics:

  • 14.7% of surveyed schools use live animals, and 16.6% use animal dissections.
  • 94.1% allow students to opt out, leaving 5.9% where students cannot refrain from dissections.
  • Only 10.9% of schools gain caregiver approval prior to dissection classes.

Find out more in our news article.


Animal-free alternatives — the risks avoided and benefits

Risks avoided: 

Students may feel obligated to participate in assignments, even if they have concerns and the theoretical option of refusing.1

This can lead to a student having to cope with negative emotions that impact their mental well-being. Students who perceive dissections as a negative experience are also usually uninvolved in the processes,2 decreasing their chances of learning well. Feeling forced into dissections can even put compassionate learners off from a career in science altogether.3

Animal-free teaching methods avoid these moral dilemmas, and they are, in most cases, even outperforming animal dissections in their learning outcome.

The benefits: 

Many different tools can be used in place of animal dissections to teach students about anatomy and physiology. These include anatomical models, virtual dissections and anatomy apps, augmented reality tools and more!


  • Encourage kindness and empathy towards animals.
  • Create a safer, more inclusive learning space for students.
  • Encourage future scientists to be compassionate.
  • Enable better learning outcomes for students — see examples below. 

A literature review of 2022 showed that in 19 of the 20 studies, students learned equivalently or better by using non-animal teaching methods. So, in many cases, the non-animal option can enhance student learning.4

Similar results were found in a review published in 2021, comparing “traditional” harmful animal use and “humane” teaching methods. Of the 50 publications analysed, 90% showed equal or superior results with animal-friendly teaching.5

A systematic review of comparative studies between the terminal use of animals (meaning they get killed) and alternative methods found varying degrees of scientific methodology. But in all 17 studies, the learning outcomes did not differ between animal use and alternatives.6

Learn more about the benefits of kind education


How you can support your child

Optimally, you choose a kura together with your child, and you find out the school’s views on animal use beforehand. Having a chat with the science/biology kaiako can help. Suppose the information is not freely available on the school website or through a phone call. In that case, you have the right under the Official Information Act to request information about the curriculum from any state or state-integrated school Board.7

Take your child’s concerns seriously and check in with them again, as peer pressure is known to play a role in their decisions.1 You know your child, so you can decide in what way to encourage them best to stand their ground. Let them know how proud you are that they are being true to their moral compass.

The New Zealand Education and Training Act 2020, Article 50, allows parents/guardians to request the release from a particular class or subject based on religious or cultural views.8

  • This article only covers state schools.
  • The request must be in writing at least 24 hours before the start of the activity.
  • The request must be considered by the principal, and the principal has to find out the student’s view on the matter.

It can be challenging to stand up to authority figures. Support your child in asking their teacher about alternative options to dissection classes. You can point the school to our resources for teachers, with many alternative options and ways they can access them.

If teachers and the principal are not supportive, you can file a complaint with the School Board. The Board is the employer of all teachers of your school, including the principal, and they make all the policies. Please try and find out the “Complaints Policy” at your school, as there are often rules around this. Like, for example, you can only file a complaint with the Board if you tried talking to the principal first.


Letter templates 

An OIA request to the School Board could look like this:

Tēnā koe [school name] Board,

Official information request: animal use at the school

Please supply the following information under the Official Information Act (OIA):

Does [school name] use animal dissections in their teaching? If so, what is your policy around attending the dissections, and are alternative methods provided for students who opt out? Does to school use animals in any other form in their teaching?

If you need any more information from me, please let me know as soon as possible. I understand that a decision on a request for information under the OIA should be made within 20 working days of receiving that request.

If you do not normally deal with official information requests or you need advice on dealing with this request, guidance is available from the Ombudsman at

Ngā mihi mahana,



A written request to release your child from dissection activities could be worded like this:

Tēnā koe principal [name],

I noticed that the school has animal dissections as part of [child’s name]’s curriculum this term. [He/She/They] has strong ethical concerns about this activity and does not want to act against the moral values we hold as a family.

Under the Education and Training Act 2020, Article 50, I request for my child [child’s name] to be released from dissection activities based on our cultural views. [Child’s name] will be able to confirm when you speak to [him/her/them].

We would also love for you to consider replacing animal dissections with alternative teaching methods that are proven to have equal or better learning outcomes. For more information on such methods, I recommend the Kind Education pages of NZAVS.

Ngā mihi mahana,



A complaint to the School Board should include your details, details about the subject (you can copy from the other Board letter above), and the fact that this is a complaint. The exact form will depend on your school’s policy, but apart from the details, it could look like this:

Tēnā koe [school name] Board,

I/We am hereby filing a complaint in regard to the use of animal dissections in classes at [school name]. The practice makes my child/several students deeply concerned, and I/we do not want to participate.

I/We already talked to [teacher name] and [principal name] but was/were turned down. Under the Education and Training Act 2020, article 127, 1, the Board’s objective is to ensure the school is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff (b) and the school is inclusive of and caters for, students with differing needs (c). We feel that the harmful use of animals is not in line with these objectives.

There is ample scientific evidence that these practices can be harmful to a student’s mental well-being. There are also plenty of scientific studies showing equal and often superior learning outcomes using alternative methods of teaching anatomy and physiology.

For resources and options of alternatives, see

Ngā mihi mahana,

[signing names]


How we can help

Please reach out if you need help communicating with your school. We can help get them the right information and sourcing the best alternative methods for your needs (and also with funding in some circumstances). Contact us at


Learn More



  • Kaiako: teacher, instructor
  • Kura: school
  • Tamariki: children