But some educators argue that nothing can duplicate the smell, feel, and texture of cutting into a real frog.

The debate over virtual dissection software has been raging in schools for some time. But animal rights’ groups have raised it up a notch by touting software programs as a more ethical alternative to traditional dissection. (See “Animal-rights groups push for virtual dissection.”)

Besides the SPCA, the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS)—a Chicago-based nonprofit organization—also is dedicated to this cause. NAVS sponsors the Biology Education Advancement Program (BioLEAP), a library of state-of-the-art dissection alternatives that are available on a free loan basis to students, teachers, school boards, and others interested in advancing science education without harming animals.

Although NAVS does not produce its own software, the group does promote The Digital Frog and other programs from sources such as Dissection Works, Thieme Interactive, Ventura Educational Systems, the UC-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and Nebraska Scientific.

NAVS claims that recent studies have shown the test scores of students who have used virtual dissection alternatives equal or surpass those of students who have participated in traditional dissection.