For Parents and Caregivers

How to help and support your child opt-out of animal dissection classes.

As primary caregivers, you are the first point of reference for your tamariki. Growing up, they look to the adults closest to their hearts for guidance on morality and life in general. 

Being confronted with a task that goes against their ethical values, such as having to dissect animals at school can leave children frustrated and, if forced, feeling helpless.

We want to help by providing you with important information and tools that you can use to better understand this issue. 

How you can support your child

First, we encourage you to learn more about this issue. You can find out about the many benefits of alternatives to animal-dissections, including the positive impact they can have on academic outcomes here. 

Optimally, you choose a kura together with your child, and you find out the school’s views on animal use beforehand. Having a chat with the science/biology kaiako can help. 

Suppose the information is not freely available on the school website or through a phone call. In that case, you have the right under the Official Information Act to request information about the curriculum from any state or state-integrated school Board.1

Take your child’s concerns seriously and check in with them again, as peer pressure is known to play a role in their decisions.2 You know your child, so you can decide in what way to encourage them best to stand their ground. Let them know how proud you are that they are being true to their moral compass.

The New Zealand Education and Training Act 2020, Article 50, allows parents/guardians to request the release from a particular class or subject based on religious or cultural views.3

  • This article only covers state schools.
  • The request must be in writing at least 24 hours before the start of the activity.
  • The request must be considered by the principal, and the principal has to find out the student’s view on the matter.

It can be challenging to stand up to authority figures. Support your child in asking their teacher about alternative options to dissection classes.

If teachers and the principal are not supportive, you can file a complaint with the School Board. The Board is the employer of all teachers of your school, including the principal, and they make all the policies. Please try and find out the “Complaints Policy” at your school, as there are often rules around this. Like, for example, you can only file a complaint with the Board if you tried talking to the principal first.

Email templates 

These are just templates to get you started. It is always best to personalise your email or letter and incorporate your individual situation and feelings.

An OIA request to the School Board

Tēnā koe [school name] Board,

Official information request: animal use at the school

Please supply the following information under the Official Information Act (OIA):

Does [school name] use animal dissections in their teaching? If so, what is your policy around attending the dissections, and are alternative methods provided for students who opt-out? Does to school use animals in any other form in their teaching?

If you need any more information from me, please let me know as soon as possible. I understand that a decision on a request for information under the OIA should be made within 20 working days of receiving that request.

If you do not normally deal with official information requests or you need advice on dealing with this request, guidance is available from the Ombudsman at

Ngā mihi mahana,


Sending a written request to release a student from dissection activities

* This needs to come from the student’s guardian if they are under 16.

Kia ora principal [name],

I noticed that the school has animal dissections as part of [child’s name]’s curriculum this term. [He/She/They] has strong ethical concerns about this activity and does not want to act against the moral values we hold as a family.

Under the Education and Training Act 2020, Article 50, I request for my child [child’s name] to be released from dissection activities based on our cultural views.

We would also love for you to consider replacing animal dissections with alternative teaching methods that are proven to have equal or better learning outcomes. For more information on such methods, I recommend visiting the NZAVS website.

Ngā mihi mahana,


A complaint to the School Board

Tēnā koe [school name] Board,

I am/We are hereby filing a complaint in regards to the use of animal dissections in classes at [school name]. The use of animal dissections is making me/several students deeply concerned and I/we do not want to participate.

I/We already talked to [teacher name] and [principal name], but was/were turned down. Under the Education and Training Act 2020, article 127, 1, the Board’s objective is to ensure the school is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff (b) and the school is inclusive of, and caters for, students with differing needs (c). We feel that the harmful use of animals is not in line with these objectives.

There is ample scientific evidence that these practices can be harmful to a student’s mental well-being. There are also plenty of scientific studies showing equal and often superior learning outcomes using alternative methods of teaching anatomy and physiology.

For more information on available alternatives, please see the NZAVS website.

Ngā mihi mahana,

[signing names]

How we can help

Please reach out if you need help communicating with your school. We can help get them the right information and sourcing the best alternative methods for your needs (and also with funding in some circumstances). Contact us here.


  • Kaiako: teacher, instructor
  • Kura: school
  • Tamariki: children
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With your help we can end animal experimentation in Aotearoa.