Our First Look into How Animals Are Used in NZ Schools

Our First Look into How Animals Are Used in NZ Schools

Every year in NZ, thousands of animals are used for teaching; in 2020 alone, over 25,000 were used for teaching. Our goal isn’t to get this down to zero – it’s to eliminate all cases that cause harm to animals which is where our Kind Education campaign comes in…

Kind Education: The use of education to nurture compassion and respect for living things. It’s where students are taught with methods that don't involve the harmful use of animals.

The first step for our Kind Education campaign is to stop the killing of animals for dissection purposes in NZ schools. Using dead animals to teach children about anatomy is easy to replace – we have an abundant number of alternatives available, including computer programmes and plastic or paper models.

To best tackle this problem, we needed to learn more about current practices in NZ. This information didn’t exist anywhere (even the National Animal Ethics Committee didn’t know the extent to which animals are used in school dissections). So, we set out to fill this knowledge gap with a special survey, and we can finally share the results with you!

Our survey

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

We sent our survey to 2,518 schools. 1,179 schools filled in the survey (46.8%).

From the participating schools, we learnt that:

  • 30.9% were not familiar with any regulations regarding animal use in schools.
  • 14.7% use live animals.
  • 16.6% use animal dissections.
  • The most used animals or animal parts in animal dissections were “cow’s eyes”, followed by “hearts” (mostly cows, sheep, and pigs), “plucks” (lungs, heart and liver of an animal; usually sheep), “chicken wings/legs” and “fish heads/gills”. Rats, whole fish, and other organs and feet were less frequent but still common.
  • Three schools reported that the animals were killed specifically for the purpose of dissection.
  • Animal dissections are conducted at primary schools: Of the 195 schools reporting the use of dissection, 5.1% were full primary schools. 

This is the first time anyone has had access to information like this! You can read the full report here.

The main problems

There is an urgent need for teachers and school administrators to be educated about the current laws and regulations in NZ.

One of the most notable results from our survey is the unawareness of current laws and regulations regarding animal usage in education, with 983 schools (84.3%) describing their awareness of animal welfare regulations as “unfamiliar” or only “somewhat familiar”. It is especially concerning that 22.9% of these (225 schools) use animals in their teaching.

Other problems include:

  • A lack of awareness around the availability and teaching value of alternative and animal-free teaching methods.
  • Primary schools using animal dissections is particularly problematic – childhood is a crucial time to be installing values of kindness and empathy towards animals. We don’t want our future generation to grow up viewing animals as mere lab tools.


What’s next

  • We will try and work with schools to see if we can assist with fully replacing the killing of animals for dissection purposes. If they’re open to it, NZAVS can source and donate alternative teaching methods that could be used for years to come.
  • We will focus on creating resources for students, parents, and teachers to help them understand their legal obligations and options.
  • We will share our findings with anyone we think can benefit from this information. For example, we’ve shared the survey results with the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC). We’ll now encourage them to do more to educate schools about legislation and share our new resources when they are ready.


The benefits of Kind Education

Not only is Kind Education better for animals, but it is also better for students and their learning outcomes. Students can find animal dissections distressing which has many negative impacts, including their ability to learn properly.Stressful situations like this may even put students off wanting to pursue a career in science.2

One of the most compelling arguments against animal dissections is that students often perform just as well, if not better, when using alternative methods.

The Society for Humane Science conducted a literature review to explore this. Their analysis found that in 19 of 20 studies, students do just as well and, in most cases, better when using non-animal methods than dissection.3

Another analysis from 2021 found similar results, with 90% of the 50 studies showing superior or equal results to humane alternatives over traditional harmful animal use.4

So once again, we have science and ethics on our side!


How you can help!




Whānau – Family

Tamariki — Children 


  1. https://doi.org/10.1177/089124197026001002
  2. https://doi.org/10.22329/jtl.v8i2.3349
  3. https://doi.org/10.1525/abt.2022.84.7.399
  4. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010114