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What is Humane Education?


Humane Education can be defined as:

"A process that encourages an understanding of the need for compassion and respect for people, animals and the environment and recognizes the interdependence of all living things."

The Institute for Humane Education believes that humane education is the key to achieving “a world where all have the passion and skills to solve the most pressing challenges of our time.” Ensuring that through our daily choices, work and acts of citizenship, we make choices that do the most good and least harm for ourselves, other people, animals, and the earth.

Humane education can be a powerful force for good in the world!

The Institute for Humane Education sets out four key elements of humane education:

  • Providing accurate information (so we have the knowledge to face challenges)
  • Fostering the 3C’s: curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking (so we have the tools to meet challenges)
  • Instilling the 3R’s: reverence, respect, and responsibility (so we have the motivation to confront challenges)
  • Offering positive choices and tools for problem solving (so we will be able to solve challenges).

Thus, humane education not only instils the desire and capacity to live with compassion, integrity, and wisdom, but also provides the knowledge and tools to put our values into action in meaningful, far-reaching ways so that we can find solutions that work for all.

World Animal Protection's 'First Concepts of Animal Welfare' explains the difference between humane education and animal welfare education, explaining that:

“Humane education (HE) is a concept that encompasses all forms of education about social justice, citizenship, environmental issues and the welfare of animals. It recognizes the interdependence of all living things. This is values-based education that:
  • Develops sensitivity to all life, appreciation of diversity and tolerance of difference
  • Encourages children to become more compassionate and learn to live with greater respect for everyone
  • Provides opportunities for children to develop a sense of responsibility and a duty of care for their surroundings and the natural world
  • Contributes to the development of children’s attitudes and critical thinking skills, which can increase their self-esteem
  • Empowers children to make decisions and take action as responsible world citizens.”

We are concentrating here on humane education for school children, because we believe that this is the most effective method of building a caring and compassionate society. Children are extremely receptive, their minds are inquiring and active and they have huge supplies of natural enthusiasm. Important messages they receive at school go in deep; yet, this education is the opposite of indoctrination, since the message is not to believe x, y, or z, but to encourage consideration of different issues:

  • Thinking about others (including animals) and their needs, feelings and suffering
  • Thinking about the effects of your actions
  • Thinking about your world and your place within it.

The aim of humane education is to create a culture of empathy and caring by stimulating the moral development of individuals to form a compassionate, responsible and just society.

Whilst humane education goes wider than just human-animal interactions, animal issues are often an ideal way to introduce a humane education program to younger children – because they feel a natural affinity to, and empathy with, animals.

"Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."Albert Einstein

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