In biology education, the study of structure has traditionally involved the use of dissection. Animal-rights campaigners have caused biology educators and learners to question the necessity of dissections. This study reviews the research evidence for the efficacy of alternatives to dissection and then turns to research evidence on attitudes to dissection. It suggests that the place, practice, and purpose of dissection in biology education can act as an indicator
of the state of society in which those practices are embedded. The current situation in South Africa is reviewed to illustrate how social factors outside the laboratory influence pedagogic practice.