It's been a big week for our local high school's biology department: they began their fetal pig dissection unit. My niece, Kaity, is a biology class member and she was pretty excited about this development. Excited enough to tweet about it.
The next exciting development? PETA replied to her tweet. Technically speaking, it wasn't PETA, the radical animal rights organization, but "peta2," the youth arm of the radical animal rights organization. That should frighten you. PETA has long been known for targeting children, printing and distributing coloring books, because their research has shown they can more effectively sway animal rights beliefs when they start at an early age. My colleague, Amanda Radke at BEEF Magazine reports their targets of a Louisiana teen, pamphlets for "parents," and showing up at state fairs. No surprise, they're trolling Twitter for dissection tweets like Kaity's.
I recall dissecting a fetal pig as a high school senior 20 years ago and frankly, it never crossed my mind where they came from. So I called up our local veterinarian, Shawn McKim, thinking he very likely has had a lot of dissection experience and would know more. Sure enough, he says fetal pigs likely come from culled sows that had to be shipped for one reason or another and are gestating. At this point, there are two alternatives for the fetal litter: they become byproduct or they are saved and sent to biological sciences companies for teaching and dissection.
In my mind, science is a valid alternative. Science is always a better alternative.
Dissection has become a sticking point at veterinary schools across the country. McKim reports that the alternative is computer programs or latex models yet the question persists: would you like your veterinarian to make their first incision into your beloved pet not having ever worked with live tissue?
This is a question PETA is neither asking nor answering. Perhaps because they really aren't interested in saving animals. As Radke shares, they killed nearly 90% of the dogs and cats in the care of their Virginia headquarters' animal shelter in 2012. That facility placed 19 cats and dogs in new homes and euthanized the rest: 1,647 animals.
The website they referred Kaity to encourages students to be aware of their "rights" to not dissect, and gives them a step-by-step plan for standing up to their school. The language is geared to self-empowerment, a powerful message for young people looking for a cause.
Kaity's classmates rose to her defense - and to dissection's defense - and tweeted back at PETA, but Kaity is still pondering her response. Her guidance counselor's suggestion: "We named him bacon." I kind of love that.
So the question: how should she respond to PETA's tweet? Facts or humor or both? And in 140 characters or less? Or do they even merit a response? Comment below with your best response!