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Rabbits allegedly killed and dissected in front of Haida Gwaii elementary school children

Lesson was cruel and traumatizing to young students, said animal rights group
An apology letter sent to parents of a Haida Gwaii elementary school after the in-classroom killing and dissection of three rabbits on Jan. 28 in front of nine to 12 years old students. (Image: supplied)

Warning: This story includes graphic details.

At least three rabbits were allegedly killed in a Masset elementary school classroom with students ages nine to 12 witnessing the deaths, sparking condemnation by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.

The incident, which occurred at Tahayghen Elementry School, was brought to the animal welfare organization from someone who was “familiar with the situation,” Samantha Suiter, manager of science education for PETA, told Black Press Media in a telephone interview.

According to Suiter, a teacher at Tahaygen Elementary School brought someone into a science lesson on Jan. 28 for Grades 4 through 7. It’s alleged that the lesson included the killing and dissecting of the animals in front of the class.

“No matter what, dissecting animals in front of impressionable young minds, or, being given permission to cut open an animal can definitely be a bridge to violence of all kinds,” Suiter said.

“Participating in this kind of exploitation just teaches students that animals are no more than classroom tools, like a pencil or a notebook, which really destroys the young person’s ability to empathize with living beings. So, yes, it’s very dangerous. It’s a very dangerous message.”

Black Press Media made several attempts to contact the School District 50 superintendent Carey Stewart, school principal Sarah Finnie, as well as board trustees for comment, but received no response prior to publication.

However, in a copy of a letter sent to parents on Feb. 1 and obtained by Black Press Media, Finnie apologized to parents for the incident and for not informing parents beforehand.

“The Haida values we are learning at school teach us to ‘ahl kyaanaang tlaagang, to ask first. Our responsibility as adults is to communicate effectively with our school community and our families.

“We did not do this. Therefore, today we took our first step in following another Haida principle of Tll’yahda, making it right. Moving forward, Tahayghen will be certain to communicate clearly with our school community and families, remember to always ask first and show Yahgudang.”

The letter also stated the school held a healing circle with the students to apologize and begin the process of Tlyahda promising to communicate clearly on a go-forward basis. It’s unclear if this healing circle has yet happened.

Suiter said she has reached out to the school principal to offer PETA lead in-education workshops, such as TeachKind, which offers ways to replace dissection exercises with animal-free teaching methods, such as simulators. Suiter said she has yet to hear back.

There is no requirement for animal dissection in B.C.’s curriculum for grades 4 to 7, Suiter said, adding that “this lesson was not only misguided but also incredibly cruel and traumatizing.”

Black Press has also reached out to the Ministry of Education for comment.

 K-J Millar | Journalist 
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