For Students

How to respectfully say “no” to animal dissections and make a stand for animals.

How to get out of dissection classes

Whether you’re an animal lover or you simply find animal dissections gross, you shouldn’t have to dissect an animal at school if you don’t want to.

Importantly, you aren’t alone in this – some of your classmates might feel the same way but are not brave enough to speak up!


The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child1 is an international treaty that sets out the basic rights of children and the responsibility of governments to protect those rights.

New Zealand is part of this treaty. This means that NZ must protect and promote the rights of children as outlined in the convention.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states:

  • You have the right to a good quality education that helps you develop your personality, talents and abilities to the full.
  • You and your values should be treated with respect.
  • Discipline in schools should respect your dignity.

This means you have a right to demand respect for your values. This should give you confidence to opt-out of animal dissections.


It can be scary to voice your concerns to teachers, parents or other authority figures. But it helps to have your facts and solutions ready!

We also created pages that you can share with your parents and teachers to help educate them too:

  • Teachers can find information on some of the many animal-dissection alternatives and where they can source them here.
  • Parents, caregivers and teachers can learn about the many benefits of animal-dissection alternatives, including the positive impact they can have on learning outcomes here.

Step one: Simply talk to your teacher and let them know how you feel - it's likely that you'll be able to opt-out with a polite and honest conversation.

Step two: If having an informal conversation with your teacher doesn't work (or isn't possible), and you are over 16-years-old, then you have the legal right to request to be exempt from a class or subject based on your religious or cultural views - you can use our helpful email templates below.

If you are under younger than 16, your parent or guardian can make this request for you.

The part of NZ law that we are referring to is the New Zealand Education and Training Act 2020, Article 50.2

Keep in mind that:

  • 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 talk to you about it.

Step three: If all else fails, you can write a complaint to the School Board - again, you can use our email templates below to get you started.

The Board is the employer of all teachers of your school, including the principal. They make all the school rules. They are legally required to deal with complaints. This will have more weight if more people sign the complaint.

Please try and find out the “Complaints Policy” at your school, as there are often rules around this. For example, you may only be allowed to complain to 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 text and add details and feelings.

Asking your teacher if you can opt-out:

Kia ora [teacher name],

I value your knowledge as a teacher and I am eager to learn, but I do not want to dissect animals, and I would like to opt-put of this part of our lesson.

I am writing to formally request that I be given an alternative assignment.

It is not compatible with my ethics to use animals in this way. There is also scientific evidence that being pressured into doing dissections can have a negative impact on mental health and well-being.

I can provide resources about alternative methods, which in most cases have equal or superior learning outcomes compared to dissections. You can access more information here.

I know teachers do important mahi for us, and that you are working hard to adhere to the Code & Standards of the Teaching Council.

Thank you for taking my concerns seriously and treating my personal beliefs fairly.

Ngā mihi mahana,

[student name]

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

If the adults in your life are still not supportive of your ethical standpoint, you can ask them to contact us directly.

We can help getting them the right information and sourcing the best alternative methods for your situation (and maybe with funding).

Contact us at

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With your help we can end animal experimentation in Aotearoa.