PETA has approached dozens of schools with offers of money for switching to virtual dissection software


A national animal rights group has offered a cash-strapped Pennsylvania school district an undisclosed amount of money if it allows ads in school promoting the use of virtual dissection software or other alternatives to actual animal dissection.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has approached dozens of schools across with country with the offer, said it found out about the Kutztown School District’s financial woes over the internet.

The group recently sent a letter to Superintendent Nicholas Lazo Jr., offering to pay money if the school allows the posting of ads that say, “STOP SCHOOL VIOLENCE. DO YOUR HOMEWORK—CHOOSE NOT TO DISSECT.” Different versions of the ad feature rats, frogs, and fetal pigs.

“We believe it is inappropriate for a school district to subject students to any such advertising,” Lazo said in a statement, adding that PETA is “not the first entity to offer to provide something of value to the district in exchange for advertising access to our students.”

Lazo also said Kutztown already makes available to its students “a computer-based dissection option that we have found to be very successful.”

Last week, amid community protests, the school board approved a $28 million budget that calls for the elimination of nearly 13 teaching positions.

PETA spokeswoman Ashley Gonzalez said the group has made similar offers to dozens of schools across the country in the past few years, but none has accepted. Some schools, however, have taken the group up on its offer of free software that allows students to perform digital “dissections,” Gonzalez said.

“We are always on the lookout for schools that can benefit from our support,” she said.

The group has not specified how much money it would provide to a school that allows ads to be posted, but it said that would depend partly on how many ads were placed and in how many schools.

“We’d have to sit down with them and work out how much exposure we would get,” Gonzalez said.

PETA isn’t the only animal-rights group that advocates for the use of software as an alternative to actual dissection. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also donates virtual dissection software to schools, such as The Digital Frog.

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.