Dissection of endangered species!!

Frogs, Snakes, Salamanders and the deep freeze


One of the most distressing aspects of running an Animal House was that I had to deal with the other animals that were bought for dissection in the Biological Sciences. My friend Pete and I had given up all dissection on principle. We thought it unnecessary. Unfortunately back in 1969-71 London University did not agree. They persisted in including a wide range of animal dissection on their syllabi.

These were not confined to laboratory bred animals. They included more exotic wild-caught animals including frogs, salamanders and grass snakes. The frogs were brought in from Ireland and the grass snakes and salamanders from the continent. At that time salamanders were already on the endangered list but they were still being brought in for dissection in large numbers. This was simply because they were still included on the university syllabi.

The living animals were shipped by train in cardboard boxes stuffed with moss. My job was to collect them from the rail station and take them back to the Animal House to unpack.

I do not know how long they were in transit. I do know that when I unpacked the frogs 50% of them were dead. By the time I had unpacked them all there was a great heap of dead, live-caught frogs that were not fit for dissection and so had to be disposed of.

I found it tragic. I took photos of the heap. It looked like something out of Belsen.

I was later warned to dispose of those photos. If I circulated them I might be subject to prosecution.

I took the boxes of grass snakes and salamanders over to the college. They killed them by putting them in the deep freeze. I witnessed one occasion when they thawed them out and some were still alive.

There had to be a better way.

There was no need to put animals like that on the syllabi in the first place.

Let us have some sanity.

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