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Monday, 20 October 2014 18:26

Humane Education: Creating a Compassionate Future

Written by  Janice Cox

World Animal Net (WAN) has just released a new section of our web site – focusing on Humane Education (HE)!

WAN co-founder and director Janice Cox with Humane Education program in Africa.This was prepared to ensure that international ‘best practice’ in HE was made available to WAN’s primary constituency – animal protection organizations. We hope that it will be helpful in their work; encouraging them to revitalize their humane education programs – re-thinking strategies to achieve maximum impact; using different approaches and methodologies; finding great new educational resources which they can adapt to their national situation; and ensuring that they no longer forget the all-important monitoring and evaluation (always the boring part, but vital for funding, support, advocacy and continuous improvement!). We will never achieve the success that the animals deserve if we don’t take a long hard look at our programs and ‘up our game’ for the future.

Speaking about advocacy: We included ‘the Need for Humane Education’, which makes the case for HE using a raft of positive benefits (in additional to animal welfare) – including the creation of stable and peaceful societies; and the development of compassion and empathy, pro-social attitudes, ethics and values. They are valuable and varied reasons why HE is needed in our current society, and can easily be adapted to national priorities and concerns to make a compelling case for the introduction of HE.

SchoolIndeed, as the case study highlighting the work of the Humane Education Trust of South Africa (HET) shows, this is exactly how HET went about making a case for HE in South Africa. They highlighted the importance of humane education in stemming the seeds of conflict and violence in the country - a major societal problem which also impacted on school life, carried out a pilot project which was monitored by a clinical psychologist, and then advocated for the inclusion of HE in the schools’ curriculum based on the project outcomes. And succeeded!

Having been a trustee of HET throughout this period, I am a passionate convert to the wider benefits of HE. I actually believe what we ‘write on the label’ when we make claims such as:

“Humane education can play an important role in creating a compassionate and caring society which would take benign responsibility for ourselves, each other, our fellow animals and the earth.”

I think there is tremendous scope – and need – for HE in our current society. We are at a period when society is rapidly becoming more materialistic and individualistic (some would say selfish!); violence and criminality are increasing; values are eroding; the natural environment being destroyed by the never-ending quest for growth and economic progress; and animals caused immense suffering, exploited and pushed to the verge of extinction.

It is not even as if economic and technological progress is a recipe for happiness. According to the World Happiness Report the striking economic achievements of the world’s economic superpower, the United States, over the past half century have been without gains in the self-reported happiness of the citizenry. Indeed, concrete expressions of unhappiness – such as depression and alcoholism - have increased rapidly. So is it not high time for a thorough reappraisal of society’s direction – and the awakening of new values to create a humane, sustainable and happy future?

Michael-schoolHE has the potential to be the building block of a humane and ethically responsible society. When educators carry out this process using successfully tried and tested methods, what they do for learners is to:

  • Help them to develop a personal understanding of ‘who they are’ – recognizing their own special skills, talents, abilities and fostering in them a sense of self-worth.
  • Help them to develop a deep feeling for animals, the environment and other people, based on empathy, understanding and respect.
  • Help them to develop their own personal beliefs and values, based on wisdom, justice, and compassion.
  • Foster a sense of responsibility that makes them want to affirm and to act upon their personal beliefs.

So HE has the potential to turn the next generation into earth activists! The Institute for Humane Education has given a new name to these new humanely educated citizens - ‘Solutionaries’. They explain that a ‘Solutionary’ is someone who identifies inhumane, unsustainable, and exploitative systems and then develops practical, effective, and visionary solutions, both large and small, to replace them with those that are restorative, healthy, and just.

This underlines the vital role that HE can play, and explains why WAN will continue to develop its HE programs and advocacy through 2015 and beyond.

Has your organization incorporated or instituted a successful Humane Education curriculum? If so, we want to know about it! Tell us your story in the comments below, or write us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.!

About the WAN Blog

The WAN blog allows us to share our expertise in the fields of policy, science, communications, management, and more in a manner that animal protection organizations can easily incorporate into their everyday work for animals. The blog also provides the opportunity to highlight important work of individual organizations and campaigns, and allows researchers, experts, and others outside of WAN to provide useful information to the animal protection community. 

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