Mixed reaction to the use of dead cats for dissection in HBO series “Generation”

NEWS AND COMMENT: HBO Max’s Generation is a new 30-minute teen drama produced by actress Lena Dunham. The first of three episodes will be aired on March 11 and a further eight episodes will be premiered on the streaming service later in the year. The title is technically as follows “genera+ion”. It is described as a series which “follows a group of high school students whose exploration of modern sexuality (devices and all) test deeply entrenched beliefs about life, love and the nature of family in their conservative community.”

That’s the introduction and now for the cat bit which has caused consternation in some people but bemusement in others. The episode contains a scene in which cat cadavers are used in a biology dissection class. These were real dead cats apparently. We are told that two extras in the scene was so disturbed by the cat cadavers that they walked offset. They were subsequently dismissed on full pay.

HBO apologised for using the dead cats and the scene was edited out.

HBO Generation trailer on YouTube
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

HBO Generation trailer on YouTube. Screenshot.

Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

They also said that the cast were informed in advance of what to expect and therefore it was planned and known about although the executive producer Lena Durham said that she was unaware that real cats were being used. She supports the removal of the scene from the show.

Online, the reaction to the use of dead cats in the series has been mixed. Many people point out that many schools in the USA still include dissection of cats in biology classes.

The discussion or controversy started on Friday apparently following a tweet on Twitter from user @Lilith_RoseX which read: “Got word from a friend in the industry, HBO has a new show called Generation coming out…They brought in real dead kittens for background to dissect on set. No warning, people had trauma responses.”

Tweet about cat cadavers used on HBO Generation series

@Lilith_RoseX tweet which started the controversy

This information conflicts with what we are told that the staff were warned about it. It’s interesting, by the way, that the producers felt it necessary to say that the actors were warned about it which means that it is traumatic and yet we are also told that dissecting dead cats happens across America all the time. Do you see something rather strange in that dichotomy?

The story about two background actors walking off the set comes from the journal Variety. HBO stated that they informed everyone in the shoot that real cat cadavers would be using advance and that it would be “a sensitive scene involving a real dissection”.

This indicates that they were going for reality which squares up probably with the ethos of the show. Therefore the whole thing was planned and it wasn’t a careless mistake or an oversight. Perhaps they decided to use real dead cats because, as mentioned, real dead cats are used in reality in schools.

Apparently @Lilith_RoseX in a second tweet said that the actors (and production crew?) on the scene had been told that frogs will be dissected but when they showed up real dead kittens were there.

This is another discussion point: what’s the difference between dead frogs and dead kittens? There is an emotional difference quite obviously. But they are both species of animal with equal value. Perhaps the point is that dead cats and kittens should not be used in school classrooms. Surely we have moved on beyond these sort of crude teaching methods. Is there is no better way of teaching children biology?

A further note worth making is that the kittens or cats used in this dissection scene have come from somewhere and the source is probably animal shelters where there are many unwanted cats. Are animal shelters selling carcasses of cats for commercial gain or are they selling live cats or kittens which are then subsequently killed to be used in commercial enterprises? I don’t know. But they came from somewhere and I think we should know where they came from.


Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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