Kids Disrespecting Cats at School

By Elisa Black-Taylor

It is very important that today’s young people show a respect for animals. Their attitudes today will shape the world of tomorrow. So when we see kids disrespecting the cat or any animal in any context it is a cause for concern. Unhappily, we have an example.

PETA decided to step in on November 16, 2012 to make a request for the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to stop teaching science using mutilated cat cadavers.

I read about this case a few days ago on the national news, but it was too disturbing to write as it was so close to Thanksgiving. As it turns out, students from Newport High School in Newport Beach have been posting photos on Facebook of the dissected and mutilated cat cadavers they work with in science class.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), located in Washington, D.C. joined the debate last month when the pictures began to surface on Facebook showing students mocking the cats and making lewd comments on the photos. It showed a definite disrespect of the cats as the Newport High students posed making faces at the cats.

Here are two of the photos. Of course they are horrible but not that sharp so I think it is OK to post them here. I apologize if some visitors are upset.

Kids Disrespecting Cats

Kids Disrespecting Cats. Collage and words by Michael. Photos from Facebook. I have decided that these are in the public domain and if not I argue fair use for educational purposes.

Student Attitudes

Please note that these students also appear happy at the negative publicity this matter is bringing to Newport High School. They’re proud of themselves over this!

Physicians Committee attorney Leslie Rudloff contacted Facebook about the photos stating

“Often such callousness takes the form of posting photographs or videos in public, as if to brag about the abuse.”

It is fair to say that one or two students expressed a dislike for dissection of cats in class. Although these students did not criticize the behavior of these students.

Facebook has a Statement of Rights & Responsibility and Community Standards clause, which encourages members to report offensive photos.

The School’s Response

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District issued a statement that the students had acted inappropriately and had been counseled and disciplined. INAPPROPRIATELY! Statistics for school bullying are increasing at an alarming rate. Judging by the remarks these students are leaving on Facebook, they have a total lack of compassion. This goes a lot deeper than “inappropriate.”

One of the photos was obviously taken outside of a classroom setting (the lower, right picture above). It shows a young lady showing off the cat to what are probably her friends. Was she just carrying around this mutilated cat to show it off? What does this say about a teacher who would allow a dissected animal to leave the classroom? It indicates a lack of discipline.

An English teacher at the high school, Karen Coyle, is the one responsible for reporting this disgusting behavior and has been keeping an eye on the Facebook pages of the students involved. At least one of the photos has been removed.

The Wider Problem

The problem is much more widespread than just this one high school. Since investigating this matter, the Physicians Committee has found similar photos from other high schools on Facebook pages. This is a nationwide problem where animals are portrayed as a disposable object to be ridiculed by the science students.

There are conflicting reports as to how the science students are now being taught. P.E.T.A. issued the request to stop using mutilated cat bodies, but one source reported other animals are still being used in the science vivisection class. Newport-Mesa Unified School District  president of the Board of Education told PCRM’s director of academic affairs in an email dated October 18 that

“the staff at Newport-Mesa Schools decided to eliminate animal dissection and use electronic means in its lessons.”

This leads me to question what their current science program is using to teach the class. In the UK dissection of animal cadavers is being phased out, incidentally.

I’m not sure which topic I find most disgusting. That the science department would allow the practice in the first place, or the fact the students are showing disrespect to the dead cats. Perhaps the latter encourages the former?

I remember science class back in the late 1970’s. We had to dissect frogs. If you refused, you failed the class. I’m not sure how objection to vivisection is handled in today’s classroom. One thing I’ve always found disturbing about dissection is the lack of interest in the students. By this I mean the class is obligatory even though a student might already know their life course won’t include science. Why make students dissect (and we were REQUIRED to do this back then) an animal when the student has decided to go into say journalism or business management? I know a rounded education is important. That’s just my personal opinion. I don’t see how cutting up a cat is going to help a student “balance the books” or write a news article.

I worry about the students of today who pose with these poor mutilated cats and then post the photos online. These are our future leaders. The next generation we’re training to lead this country. It seems to me this isn’t teaching them anything good about leadership or compassion.

I’m sorry for the pictures here, but they’re very necessary to show how horrible this situation is. Who should be held responsible for this? The students showing off for the camera, or the school district for how science is taught. Teachers, I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this subject. How do the readers here feel about this?


FB comments (see below)


Kids Disrespecting Cats at School — 13 Comments

  1. If science teacher want to teach the students something about small animals then why not teach them animal CPR and first aid. It would be a lot more useful and not nearly as traumatic. I’d just about bet all of the students would want to take that course.

  2. The fact that they use cats is appalling. Would they use dogs? Using a domesticated animal is wrong in so many ways. Forcing kids to desensitise themselves by having to dissect the same kind of animal they might live with at home is totally bonkers and stupid and badly thought out.
    I refused to dissect anything at school and I refused to look at things I didn’t want to. It got me in trouble but I didnt care at the time.
    The point about it creating a market for dead cats is very important indeed.
    It seems scientists and science – more than other fields – are so objective that they lack emotional intelligence more than other people because they are so caught up in objectifying. I’d also like to add that ‘vivisection’ was mentioned here but I’m not sure if it applies since its far worse, it involves dissecting an animal which is alive. Another wonderful thing our scientists don’t seem to mind doing even when it is not at all necessary.

  3. When I was taking A&P twenty some years ago at Boo-U we dissected minks. They let us take our minks home. I am sorry to say that I chased my sister and the cat around the house with mine. I have matured somewhat since then. I was nineteen and old enough to know better, and still misbehaved. It’s not shocking that high school kids are going to behave inappropriately with their dissection animal. Just another reason to not have them do it. I really didn’t learn anything from that part of the class. The models of the human body and the skeletons (real human bones) were much more useful. I would like to donate my body for that purpose. I think I was best prepared for working in physical therapy as I studied the human skeleton, learning where muscles attach to those bones. If you know where the bones are and where on the bones the muscles attach you know everything because muscles only contract. Questions like “This muscle starts here and attaches here. So what motion does it cause?” were the most useful to me. We’d use theraband and tie it where the muscle in question would go and then pull on it. Why not have kids do activities like that? Learning form and function gets kids into kinesiology and physics, challenging and interesting students in ways that could really lead to careers in medicine. Bringing a dead animal into class leads to kids chasing other kids around with it, cries of “Ew, gross!” and a bunch of butchered corpses at the end of the day. Ew, gross.

  4. I’m as distressed as much from being forced to cut into a frog in 10 grade as I was from being forced to run track in gym class. Do these teachers not realize these things stay with us for life! I feel for the cat lovers in this class who even had to watch this. Teachers turned me against science and running due to their mandatory rules that we had to do these things or fail.

    Thank you Ruth. As a teacher I knew you could add to this.

    • Elisa, I could write a book on how much I hate the way PE classes turn kids off to exercise. It’s weird how the very education that is supposed to get kids enthused about things so often turns them off to it. Sad to say, even music teachers are guilty of it! I liked the PE units we did starting in our junior year. I took the cross country ski unit. If it weren’t for that high school introduction to it I wouldn’t have picked the sport up in my forties. I’ve had a marvelous time with it, but it had better snow this winter! I really am wanting some snow after we had none last winter. Like a lot of snow. And when they find my twisted, lifeless body at the bottom of one of the hills at Pike Lake marked “Novice Skiers Remove Skis” (except that if I get really tired I just go down them anyway) it will be the fault of high school PE classes that I died. Educators need to think of the long term ramifications of what they are teaching kids!

      • Our P.E. teacher would run us a mile around the track with less than 15 minutes to get to our next class. Or 10 minutes before school ended and you’d miss your bus if not fast enough. I used to paint bruises on my knees with eye shadow to keep from having to run. It worked too!

        • That’s horrible! We had to run nine minutes, at whatever pace, but your grade was higher if you ran faster. I’ve been jogging around my yard as part of my workout lately, trying to do sort of what we did in gym class. It seems to be helping with the weight loss when I get my heart rate up. I gained weight in high school when we quit having to do the running my junior year. Bruises would not disqualify from gym class for us. My friend Bonnie and I had really bad bruises on our knees and legs after a weekend ice skating party on Lake Delton in like 1985. We had played “keep away with the shoe” on skates. You grabbed someone’s shoe or boot and everyone tried to keep it away from the person who owned it– all while on skates. You’d get skating so fast and laughing so hard that you were falling constantly. We were both all bruised up but we still had to run in gym class.

  5. Hi Michael,

    You know I have to weigh in on this one 😉

    Thanx for raising the issue. It’s something that has been bothering me for decades.

    I remember being repulsed at the thought at dissecting a frog, which is lower on the life chain than a cat. I’m surprised to learn that they were using cats! Domestic mammals! What the heck?

    I can’t believe that in this day and age k-12 is still using dissection. I wish they never had.

    That’s the first offense.

    The second one is that they are doing so using cats.

    To use any animal is ethically unjustifiable. The only thing it teaches is an utter disregard for sentient life. Using one of the two most beloved domestic pets is unforgivable. What do you suppose these students will do next time they see a living cat in the street, respect it? I think not.

    Third offense is the students mocking the dead cats via posting pictures on Facebook.

    You’re right – they are learning that cats are disposable objects and nothing more.

    Ruth raised some good points:

    1. Only a surgeon needs to cut muscle. I’d like to add that few if any are thinking of surgery training at such a young age.

    2. They should be using computers instead. I would add that since the majority of the students won’t be surgeons or even doctors, the digital model would be more than adequate. Furthermore, they don’t need to use non-human digital models. What would be the point except to teach a lack of reverence for non-human life forms?

    I’m glad that P.E.T.A. stepped in and got results – at least in the form of a promise from the school.

    I may not agree with all of P.E.T.A.s methods, but I do admire them. They do make a big difference and often.

    Along with parents and other mentors, school is supposed to be responsible for shaping our attitudes and beliefs from a young age all the way into adulthood. What were they thinking when they introduced dissection so many years ago? They’ve dropped the ball on several fronts including the dissection bit.

    I’m entirely confident that teaching dissection contributes zero to a “well rounded education”.

    Good issue, good article,

    =^-^= Hairless Cat Girl =^-^=

    • Hi Liz, yes I agree it is a good article. I think it is important and your comment is important too as it adds to the information. It is time to stop this sort of thing.

  6. The widespread use of cats for dissection in schools at every level shows just where many of the cats killed at shelters are going. This is why the killing of cats doesn’t stop. There is money to be made. Besides all that there is absolutely no reason for animals to be used in a high school or even in most college classes.

    It’s very difficult to do a dissection properly and if not done properly the students learn nothing from it. If animals are used at all it should be one specimen, worked on by the teacher only, and structures shown to students from that example. Anatomy should be taught as form related to function.

    Only surgeons need to know anatomy in terms of which muscle to cut. There is no reason for anyone who isn’t planning on being a surgeon or veterinarian to be doing any cutting. Even then, a person training to work on humans gains very little by cutting on a cat or any other animal.

    Human cadavers should be used when dissection is necessary, again for training those who will be surgeons. For other professions one cadaver is sufficient, again with the teacher preparing it and leading students to identify structures. If anatomy is taught properly as the relationship between form and function all that messing around cutting, with students usually destroying the structures they are meant to be studying, would be discarded in favor of better methods.

    With computer technology what it is today, students can gain in depth knowledge of anatomy and physiology without having to cut anything. Young students especially just see the dissection part of the class as gross and disgusting instead of appreciating the miracle of life. And why would they not be put off by it. They are being taught about life by being given a dead thing.

    That’s why I think biology and anatomy and physiology teachers need to make use of the technology available today, and do so always with the aim of connecting form and function. Only those training to be surgeons should be doing any cutting on dead things, and only them because it’s better they practice that way before cutting into living beings.

    • Great comment. Love this comment. I fully agree of course. I failed (temporarily) to make a connection with mass shelter killing of cats and dissections at school etc.. Although I have always said that the reason why the mass killing of cats at shelters remains in place is because there is a business reason for its existence. It is a production line for businesses who want cat carcasses. Horrible. Really horrible. Please stop all this and start to respect cats. I truly hate this sort of thing.

      And there is no need in 2012 to cut open animal cadavers for education. We have CGI, computers etc. Let’s do the decent thing, please.

  7. Good article Elisa but a sad and difficult subject. I think it is an important subject as you say at the beginning. If the world is to change for the better it must include a better and more respectful relationship with animals. This story demonstrates that there is work to be done in that regard.

    Today’s youth must learn to respect the cat and all animals. It is time. I am tired of seeing idiotic, mindless attitudes towards the domestic cat. We domesticated the cat. We have responsibilities towards the cat. Can we please discharge those responsibilities properly and decently?

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