The following is a guest post by animal welfare reporter and activist Deborah Kay Steinken.
California’s educational code states, “Each teacher shall endeavor to impress upon the minds of the pupils … kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures.” Eleven states with similar laws are Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin.
“Humane education” is the term for any curriculum that teaches students to care for animals in their homes and communities. The goal is to create a culture of empathy and caring by stimulating students’ moral development and sense of responsibility, therefore creating a more compassionate and responsible society.
TeachKind, the humane education division of PETA, helps to promote these objectives by offering schools free books, lesson plans, videos, posters, and other resources. While students learn math, reading, and writing, they are simultaneously learning about compassion, empathy, and respect toward all animals. Teaching children that they can help animals and make a difference in the world gives them a strong sense of competency and compassion.
If a student speaks about animal abuse at home, teachers must immediately report it to authorities in order to prevent the possibility that other children or family members will be abused. The state of California recently added the humane society, animal control officers, and veterinarians to the list of professionals that are bound by law to report possible child abuse, and the California legislature is now considering a bill that would list animal abusers on an online registry similar to those that currently list sex offenders and arsonists.
By teaching children to foster kindness, respect, and empathy for both human and non-human animals, students are learning the true value of all living things. This is why I’m volunteering to deliver TeachKind materials to schools in my area.