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In Context #2 (Fall, 1999, p. 11); copyright 1999 by The Nature Institute

Killing to Understand
Stephen L. Talbott

When In Context reader George K. Russell was a biology undergraduate in the late 1950s, he learned to dissect frogs for many experimental procedures. Over time, he became aware of how the gains in knowledge from this work were outweighed by a gradual loss of feeling:

Frogs, for me, had been quite special creatures in my youth, and I had spent an inordinate amount of time seeking them out in their natural habitat, watching tadpoles metamorphose into adults, and pursuing as best I could an amateur's interest and love for the frog's natural history. Later, however, whatever initial misgivings I may have had regarding our laboratory studies gradually diminished, and the frog became a sort of object to be manipulated, a thing rather than a living organism.
Today Russell is a professor of biology at Adelphi University and Editor-in-Chief of Orion magazine. He has also for many years been a pioneer in the development of alternatives to animal use in the teaching of biology. One of the turning points for him occurred when, as a beginning faculty member, he was asked to oversee a laboratory exercise in which a rat was to be killed as a source of liver enzymes.
I seriously questioned the necessity of this procedure and refus