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Julie Marshall: A child’s heart

February 26, 2018

Source Daily Camera
By Julie Marshall

It was the usual mad morning rush to get kids with coats and shoes on, out the door, when my 10-year-old, Jazzy, asked me to sign a permission slip. It was for an excursion in a couple of days to the Denver Nature and Science Museum. The fifth-graders were going to be dissecting a pig’s heart.

“Mom, I don’t want to dissect a pig,” said my blue-eyed girl, a sensitive soul, who thinks of a pig as a pet, not a lab animal. She wants a pig this Christmas, but I told her that’s not such a great idea for a house that already has three big dogs and a kitten.

Over the past two years, I’ve watched Jazzy and her humane convictions evolve; she went from a child who relished eating a grilled steak with her dad, to announcing her plans for a meat moratorium. I attribute it to Youtube videos showing how society treats farmed animals. She’s done her research. Every day I hear something akin to, “Mom, did you know people kill baby cows?” She won’t drink cow’s milk because dairies kill those born male, as they don’t produce milk, she tells me.

Aside from a challenging trip to the grocery store for my evolving vegan, I support and applaud her convictions. Which is why on dissection day, she stayed home.

After the big day, my friend Cristen told me that her daughter was in a terrible mood that evening. The museum had switched animals to one she adored. It was one lamb for every set of kids, approximately 40 previously beating hearts. “Anna came home, went and hugged her stuffed animal, Rammy,” Cristen told me. “And cried.”

I understand it’s part of the elementary school standard curriculum for these young kids. For my generation, dissection wasn’t introduced until eighth-grade biology lab. My partner, Riley, mangled our frog before I even got a chance to explore. I was curious, then slightly annoyed at my partner, but I wasn’t headed for a science-based career, so the frog on my table died for no reason, I surmised, even though I don’t know what happened to Riley.

As a journalist, years ago, I wrote an article about Harvard Medical School, and how students protested their mandatory live dog lab, which was part of their curriculum. Dogs came from area shelters, were anesthetized, made into surgical props, then were killed at the end of class time. Student voices were so effective, that the lab was banned and today, medical schools around the country turn to virtual animal lab software programs rather than destroy live bodies for education.

In 2003, while reporting for the Daily Camera, I spent the day with freshman medical students in the human cadaver lab, a critical part of all medical schools. University of Colorado professors of medicine and philosophy, and a chaplain had crafted a marvelously thoughtful curriculum that allowed students to practice gratitude and reverence for the bodies they were about to dissect.

I know that if Jazzy does decide to go to medical school, she will be a quality doctor without having to ever cut into a live or previously live animal. The technology is so good, that killing animals for a one-time exploration seems clearly outdated, besides being cruel and wasteful. Jazzy also inspires me to rethink the commonplace idea that some animals are worthy of sharing our house, while others may be born for death and profit.

The big difference I see is that the humans who donated their bodies to science likely lived a full, happy and healthy life before they died – and decided to leave the gift of a meaningful death afterward. The millions of animals born to end up on the cutting table never had a choice in the matter.


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3 Comments leave one →
  1. karenlyonskalmenson permalink
    February 26, 2018 9:41 am

    to see through eyes unclouded by
    time, prejudice
    to see to the very heart
    from a heart willing
    to see.
    to walk in those
    with feet willing to follow
    through eyes unclouded
    and looking towards

    Liked by 1 person

    • February 26, 2018 12:05 pm

      Absolutely love this, hon, it captures it perfectly, thank you. ❤


      • karenlyonskalmenson permalink
        February 26, 2018 12:44 pm

        You are so very welcome and thank you ❤️


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