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Whatever happened to the student who wouldn't dissect a frog?
By TONY GERMANOTTA, The Virginian-Pilot

May 9, 2005

NORFOLK ? Branden Skees failed his biology lab and learned a lot about life and his priorities in the process. Skees is a vegan, a vegetarian who believes it?s even exploitative to drink milk, wear wool or eat eggs. When confronted with the prospect of animal dissection in a biology lab at the Chesapeake campus of Tidewater Community College , Skees launched a drive this spring to allow alternative study methods.

?You can learn about animal anatomy and human anatomy without harming one single animal,? Skees said he discovered during his drive.

He said he gathered about 215 signatures on his petition to force TCC to provide an alternative to dissection for students who have moral objections. He had to take off time from his construction job to work on his campaign.

Skees, 22, of Norfolk, wants to eventually teach, perhaps elementary school science. But he couldn?t, in good conscience, he said, bring himself to slice into a frog.

He left the lab whenever the students began cutting.

Skees said he was eventually told he could provide his own three-dimensional models of the animals to be dissected, but discovered there were none available locally in time for his tests.

His teacher, he said, refused to allow him extra time to have them shipped in or for him to substitute computer dissection programs.

Since Skees would not even look at the cut-up animal parts for identification purposes, believing that would have been indirect participation in their dissection, he failed his lab exam, he said.

That resulted in a failure for the biology course, and left him four credits short of his associates degree, he said.

He?s not going back to TCC to finish. Skees is working this summer and is registered for classes this fall at Old Dominion University. He will have to pick up those credit hours there, where they are more expensive, he said.

Skees is not sure if he will take another biology course at ODU, where some professors don?t require dissection.

A regular volunteer with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals , Skees said he was proud to discover that activists there had used his drive in speeches to students around the country.

Skees said his parents were behind his anti-dissection drive and upset that it resulted in a failing grade in biology.

?My father asked me if it was worth it,? Skees said. ?I replied, every bit of it. My morals and principles are worth way more to me than getting a grade.?

Reach Tony Germanotta at (757) 446-2377 or