The Mail

To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

We have recently been concerned with the abuse of animal life at Harvard. Although we realize that animal dissection and experimentation is a necessary part of biology, we question whether it is being employed with enough discrimination and due regard to animal sensibilities. We offer the following examples.

(1) In Biology 120, live or freshly-killed specimens were often used where preserved ones would have been entirely satisfactory. Last semester no forethought had been taken about the method of killing pigeons for dissection. One instructor simply announced, "All right, if you want to dissect a pigeon, figure out some way to kill it." Some students soon hit upon the idea of squeezing the birds to death.

(2) This year, and last, one Nat. Sci 5 experiment had been so ill-planned that in most cases no worthwhile results could be obtained. Nevertheless, many hamsters were killed for the exercise, from which most students learned nothing of value. In another exercise, students were so ill-supervised that several dissections were begun on unanesthetized laboratory animals.

We recommend, first, that more supervision and thought be given to experiments involving live animals, and second, that more flexibility of course selection be given to those who are morally opposed to participating in extensive experiments on live animals. Other universities, for example, offer separate degrees in botany.


We wish to stress that we are not antivivisectionists: we realize that certain techniques should be learned be even the beginner, and that much knowledge beneficial to humans has been gained by animal experiments--if these experiments are conducted by competent and caring people. It is only against needless suffering that we protest. Elizabeth Barrett '64   Parker Swanson '63   Peter Hobbe '65   Cynthia Weinrich '65   Jean A. Fellenser '65   Judith Haller '65