Recently, a Danish zoo dissected a 9-month-old lion cub in front of a classroom of children. Judging by social media, for a number of English speakers, this was an atrocity, for which the zoo should be ashamed. For Danish speakers, who were overwhelmingly supportive of the event, it was seen as a teachable moment, and the kids who got to see it were enthralled.
Social media tells us a lot about people and their opinions, often to the detriment of others, and this situation pointed out some interesting parallels between the early 21st century and the mid-19th century: the perceived “evils” of dissection.
One person wrote that the children who watched the process would be traumatized, and that letting children watch dissections leads them to be callous towards animals. When the same zoo dissected an 18-month-old giraffe a few years ago, staff received death threats.
But in Denmark, pigs outnumber humans about 2-to-1 and there is a strong agrarian sector, so kids there aren’t likely to be as squeamish as English speakers, presumably form the United States and Great Britain, seems to think they ought to be.
You see organizations try to attack veterinary schools for similar kinds of displays but we can’t learn much about animals if we don’t learn about them through close study. Just like doctors had to perform autopsies to learn more about the human body, we have to dissect animals to learn how they work. There was a period quite a long one, where autopsies were illegal, but doctors and surgeons were still expected to save lives. That was, looking back, incredibly dumb, because it actively prevented the advancement of medicine.
By the same mark, making death threats against zoo staff for dissecting an animal is equally dumb, because it literally holds back science. Getting kids interested in watching such a dissection is huge, because getting kids interested in biology is important to keeping the science alive, especially in a country with twice as many pigs as humans. Denmark needs veterinarians, so why not interest kids early?