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Which Approach?


Existing Channels and Approaches
Strategic Approaches


girl-and-dogWorking for humane education to become an integral part of each child's formal education is fundamental to the long-term strategy of alleviating animal suffering on a grand scale. As we have seen above, it also has important broader societal benefits. So the over-arching aim should be the inclusion of humane education in the schools’ curriculum, and delivery in practice, using the best-available methodology and educational resources.

See here for more about the inclusion of humane education in the curriculum, and ways of achieving this.

See here for more about the best methodologies for delivering human education.

At present, humane education is usually carried out in a piece-meal way, dependent mainly upon the coverage achieved by animal protection groups, or on the inclinations of individual teachers. This may be satisfying and rewarding at the time, but in practice it is difficult to achieve lasting results without sustained and repeated exposure to humane messages and moral reasoning. This is supported by marketing science, which consistently proves that unless any program achieves a high level of exposure, then it is unlikely to achieve its outcomes. Also, this piece-meal approach is not widespread, so its impact is further limited in terms of numbers of students reached.

The reasons why these piecemeal approaches are currently being used are said to include the following:

  • Lack of political will/humane education not seen as a priority
  • Cultural beliefs/lack of animal protection values
  • Lack of human and financial resources
  • Difficulty of getting into schools
  • HE not in curriculum/curriculum packed
  • Long time period between curriculum reviews (e.g. 10 years+ in Kenya)
  • Teachers often not willing to do the extra work
  • Lack of support from animal protection organizations
  • National scale
  • Bureaucracy and corruption

These are not necessarily insurmountable challenges - given a real will and passion to succeed, coupled with a skilful strategy!

However, before developing an effective strategy, you need to understand the available channels and approaches to humane education. There is more information on these below.

Finally, we consider strategic approaches; including the targeted use of the advocacy tools that you have at your disposal to achieve your educational objectives.

Existing Channels and Approaches

Approaches to developing humane education vary, as do the channels used. These include:




Humane Education Specifically in the Curriculum

The most successful way of achieving lasting change is to establish a coherent, broad-ranging humane education as part of the national curriculum, preferably in a structure that consolidates social, environmental and animal welfare education. The ideal of a broad-based, all-encompassing humane education is important because this consolidation presents an educational package which is difficult for governments and teaching authorities to ignore (or to subsequently drop) – as it widens its acceptability and coverage. As regards the delivery method, if animal protection groups could be training teachers, or preferably teacher trainers (instead of giving one-off lessons) and producing humane education resources, the educational messages would be spread far more widely.

Weaving Humane Education into Existing Curriculum Subjects

The inclusion of humane education as a separate subject in the schools’ curriculum can be a lengthy process, given the packed educational curriculum of today’s society. However, there are usually many existing subjects in the curriculum where humane education can be interwoven; and specially-adapted educational resources provided, together with teacher support. These vary from country-to-country, so each country will need to examine their own national curriculum to identify which subjects to target.

Firstly, there are particularly relevant subjects such as: Life Skills/Life Orientation, Citizenship, Character/Values Education, Peace Education, Environmental Education, Agriculture/Farming, Biology and Social Studies/Social Science. These are ideal, as a good case can be made for including humane education into such subjects in its own right.

Then, there are other subjects, which are often not considered in this context, but which can effectively be used as vehicles for the introduction of humane education. For example:

  • English Language: Using simple animal stories, with humane messages, for a comprehension exercise i.e. studying words and meanings, and then questions and answers.
  • English Literature: Using books with humane messages, examining the link between society, culture and humane values etc.
  • Art/Design: Presenting humane themes and then drawing, painting, photographing or designing these (e.g. in animal protection leaflets or posters on certain issues).
  • Theater: Presenting humane themes and then developing plays about these.
  • Media Studies: Examining media portrayal of animal issues and protests – levels of coverage and understanding, target audiences, use of words etc.
  • Math: Explaining concepts and then using Math to examine these e.g. Overbreeding of cats (not neutered); comparative costs of humane/organic foods, as opposed to mass produced (examine methods of production and prices/mark-ups) etc.
  • IT: Examining web sites of animal protection organizations, both content and design. Consider target audiences and key messages/purposes of the web site etc. Then design a web site for an imaginary animal protection organization (with clear target audiences, purpose and messages).
  • Religious Studies: Religious attitudes towards animals.
  • Philosophy: Philosophers’ views/perspectives on the treatment of animals.

Some creativity and inspiration is needed to integrate humane education messages into these subjects, but it can be done.

Furthermore, these can all involve an examination of the subject in the learners’ own town/village, before this is included: This makes the concepts real and understandable, and learners can relate to them.

Competitions can also be used as a focus for humane education lessons, particularly in subjects such as Art, Theatre and English (drawing, drama and writing competitions).

The IFAW-sponsored Jungle Theatre Company teaches humane education through theatre in South Africa. Great fun, delivering humane messages and creating lasting impressions.

Kindness/Animal Welfare Clubs (extra-curricular clubs)

Where it is not possible to work directly within the existing curriculum, it may be possible to start an extra-curricular animal protection/kindness club. A school club is a good way to discuss and share knowledge and views about animal issues, educate and inform other students and teachers, and inspire them to get involved. Clubs have the advantage of not being tied to any set curriculum, and can be more action-orientated.

If you want to be a school club, then you will usually be required to meet certain guidelines in order to be officially recognized as a school organization. But if you cannot gain recognition, then you still have the option of being an informal club.

The way in which most ‘Kindness Clubs’ work is by examining the issues, considering the local situation, deciding on priorities, and then taking action. Where many go wrong is by trying to tackle everything – and having no practical focus or results. There are endless animal welfare issues, and just looking and talking about these can have a really depressing effect! But informed action can be quite the reverse – giving the uplifting feeling of having ‘made a difference’.

Jane Goodall’s ‘Roots and Shoots’ program (see below) is an excellent existing club program which works in this way. It is broadly environmental, but many of its clubs are working on animal welfare issues (especially wildlife and companion animals). So you could join an existing club, or set up your own (under the Roots and Shoots program or outside of this). Here are some tips taken from the way in which it works, applied to animal welfare issues:

  • Explain the different animal welfare issues (categories/types)
  • Investigate the animal welfare problems in your area
  • Prioritize the problems
  • Call in the 'experts'--organize talks (and/or members' research and presentations)
  • Develop a plan for a solution
  • Set up a Facebook page (if possible)
  • Take action

When working out your action plan, make sure that you use your members' skills, abilities and contacts.

Further Resources:

Roots and Shoots
Last Chance for Animals

Non-Formal Humane Education

Humane education can be carried out in numerous different ways in addition to the more formal approach used in schools; including non-formal methods such as campaigning. Changes in attitude and behavior have been successfully achieved as a result of powerful campaigns, which are a way of bringing awareness to specific issues relatively quickly, but can lead to sustained change if messages are repeated reinforced over time.

Any method of delivering information, provoking thought and bringing awareness is part of the education process. Public opinion has immeasurable force and can be harnessed in numerous ways:

  • Media campaigns
  • Television documentaries, advertisements, news items, plays, debates, etc.
  • Videos, books, magazines, newspaper articles
  • Advertising
  • Leaflets, information packs
  • Awareness events (exhibitions, open days)
  • Demonstrations
  • Labelling on products, in supermakarkets, etc.

Animal protection campaigning is an effective method in raising public awareness of animal issues. It can also act as humane education if messages are repeated and reinforced – for example, when messages are (re)presented using many facets or angles (e.g. providing reports, leaflets and other factual materials in addition to more creative/visual mediums, such as media coverage and demonstrations).

Many animal protection societies also use each and every contact with external audiences as an educational opportunity. This is excellent, as it builds interest and understanding of animal welfare issues.


Direct Delivery

Animal protection societies delivering lessons directly is a time-consuming and ultimately unsustainable approach – unless this is in a ‘pilot project’/case study which will be used for advocacy and/or the development of future programs. Good levels of coverage can only be delivered by training additional educators, but this is costly (and recruitment, training and monitoring time-consuming). Even if the funds can be found for wide-scale roll-out, this is ultimately not sustainable (as ongoing funding is seldom possible). With smaller-scale project, the level of coverage remains low, and the option is either to stay at a small number of schools and ensure that messages are reinforced as needed; or move on to new schools (in which case there is no progression). Unless this approach is combined with advocacy and teacher training, there is no significant roll-out.

Teacher Training/Teacher Trainer Training

Teacher training is an excellent way of obtaining ‘multiplier effects’ from your work. The same is even more so of training teachers’ trainers i.e. training those who deliver courses at teachers training colleges. This is especially effective where you have designed targeted programs to tap into the existing schools curriculum. This approach often links with that covered below – the provision of educational resources. Teachers’ workshops need to be well designed, in order to gain ‘buy-in’ and interest from trained teachers; so these benefit from specialist/expert input.

Educational Resource Provision

When providing educational resources for schools and teachers, materials must be adapted to the local situation and educational syllabus.

Various humane education resource materials are available, which may be able to be used or adapted to the local situation. However, in some cases, it is necessary to put in more work (e.g. by commissioning local teachers or – preferably - involving the authorities responsible for curriculum development) to ensure that materials correctly target the national system, circumstances, and audiences.

The production/use of a variety of educational resources (and methods) improves interest and coverage. These can include: teachers’ manuals, students’ workbooks, books with humane messages, poetry, film, Power Point presentations, classroom posters and coloring sheets.

Traditional teachers’ workbooks - loose-leaf, with lesson sheets that can be photocopied for children are particularly useful.

Humane Education Competitions

Humane education competitions are an excellent way of encouraging teachers to introduce humane education into their classes, and to awaken the interest and involvement of pupils in humane principles.

Competitions can cover a number of areas: essay writing, letter writing, painting, designing a humane T-shirt, poetry composition and cartoon drawing. It is amazing how creative and inspirational children's entries can be!

The key is to develop creative and imaginative titles for the competition categories. Teachers need to be encouraged to persuade their classes to take part too (perhaps by a teacher award, or kudos?). Prizes are often donated, and media coverage can be achieved (spreading both humane messages, and the organization’s name and reputation).

Practical Projects and Visits

Visits connected with animal issues can be particularly useful, as they bring educational messages alive. For example, a visit to a local animal shelter; or to different types of farms (e.g. to compare the lives of animals in free-range and intensive farming systems). Wherever possible, a visit to see animals living in the wild, or local nature and beauty spots, are invaluable in helping the learners to (re)connect with nature and animals.

Where schools allow, practical projects which help the community to understand and improve animal welfare issues are ideal for bringing the humane ethic to life; and for spreading awareness of humane principles and the positive benefits of good welfare into the broader community.

Use of Animals

Another level of humane education tackles the use of animals either in classrooms (classroom ‘pets’) or in scientific education (as ‘model’ or for dissection etc.). In the first case, some groups try to dissuade against keeping animals in classrooms, whereas others try to improve welfare (such as the RSPCAs). There is now an international movement against the use of animals in scientific education, coordinated by an organization called ‘Interniche’, which supports and resources people and groups seeking to replace the use of animals and press for ‘conscientious objection to experiments on animals in education.

Strategic Approaches

As can be seen, there are many different channels for delivering humane education, and many different approaches. In order to take a strategic approach to your humane education work you need to be aware of these, and to research your own situation thoroughly. Then you need to chart a path towards your ultimate goal (which should be the specific inclusion of humane education in the national curriculum).

Firstly, you need to assess what is the most productive way of working which is currently feasible. Then you need to work to carry this out in the most effective way possible, and in the process to build support for the next ‘rung on the ladder’ towards your ultimate goal.

Build a good ‘case of need’ for humane education, which uses the many arguments available (many of which are examined in this resource) – but tailor to your own country’s particular needs and priority concerns. For example, most of the advocacy work that was successful in obtaining a place in the curriculum for humane education in South Africa was built around the need to tackle the escalating violence and abuse in that society (and its schoolrooms). The Humane Education Trust of South Africa (HET) invited Phil Arkow, an international expert on the link between animal abuse and human violence who had co-authored a book called ‘Child Abuse, Domestic Violence and Animal Abuse: Linking the Circles of Compassion for Prevention and Intervention’, to the country to spread the message about the important role of humane education in building a culture of compassion and non-violence in society. A year later, HET was given the go-ahead by the education department’s ‘Safe Schools Programme’ to pilot a three-month humane education project to prove that humane education should be incorporated into the national curriculum. The pilot project was carried out in 11 schools that had been affected by violence, and was monitored by a clinical psychologist attached to the Department of Correctional Services. It was a resounding success, and humane education was later added to the curriculum.

There is another important point here: The need to involve the education authorities. Not only in your lobbying, but also in your humane education programs (and your progress and success).

Then you will need an effective impact assessment of the value of humane education – see ‘Monitoring and Evaluation’. Anecdotal evidence and learners' and teachers' feedback are important, as well as measurements/more formal assessments

Treat all your educational work as pilot projects – providing feedback on their successes and strengthening the case for humane education to be included in the curriculum. The other real benefit of effective monitoring and evaluation is that this enables you to constantly improve and perfect your programs.

If your country is less then receptive about animal welfare education, then try linking with other organizations (social, nature, environment, peace, values etc.) to provide a broader humane education package. Then you can highlight animal welfare education as an appropriate ‘entry point’ for younger learners, before building greater support and awareness from the education department.

Also, be aware of the need to build public support and awareness – because ultimately subjects will only stay in the curriculum if they matter to people.

Keep checking when your curriculum is due for review. Then work towards this in your pilot projects, and your advocacy. Even if you are not successful on the first occasion, at least the issue will have been raised and aired – and next time around will be recognized and better understood.

Once you have been successful – and humane education is in the curriculum, don’t stop there! Keep on the advocacy, and the PR. Otherwise it will not be perceived as important, and left out in a future review.

Always showcase your humane education programs to parents and the local community – thereby spreading the impact and outreach, and turning these important constituencies into allies.

Photo credit: "Introductions" by Porsche Brosseau, used under CC BY 2.0

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