Answers to a Humane Educator’s Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do if I face opposition to humane education from my administration?

If you feel that your concerns regarding humane education aren’t being taken seriously by your administration, bring up the issue with your parent-teacher organization (PTO). You can write a letter or have an open conversation about your school’s problematic treatment of animals. Explain why you believe change is needed, and be ready to suggest some solutions. PTO parents can also get involved by contacting the school and petitioning it to make positive changes for students and animals.

How do I help to cut dissection out of my school’s curriculum?

Dissection is an archaic practice that isn’t necessary for teaching science. Help eliminate it from your school’s curriculum by pledging never to use animals in your classroom and telling your students and fellow teachers about your decision to use humane replacements. Be sure to share information about the cruelty inherent in dissecting animals, the many risks involved, and the harmful message that it sends to students. Learn more about cutting out dissection.

My school is planning a field trip to a place that exploits animals. What should I do?

Visiting places that exploit animals, such as roadside zoos, circuses, marine parks, and unaccredited aquariums, sends the wrong message to students. Seeing animals trapped in dismal cages or being forced to perform silly and uncomfortable tricks leads kids to believe that it’s acceptable to bully those who are vulnerable. Encourage your principal to cancel the trip by sharing facts about animals used for entertainment and offering suggestions for humane alternatives, such as visiting a nature park, a forest reserve, a botanical garden, a museum, a library, an animal-free circus, or an open-admission animal shelter or going on a virtual field trip. Also, get fellow teachers on board by sharing the information with them and gathering their signatures on a petition to present to your administration. Make sure that your colleagues know that there’s no shame in changing plans. That sets a good example for students, too, showing them that it’s never too late to do the right thing.

My school is planning a trip to SeaWorld. What should I do?

Animals held at marine parks are forced to perform confusing tricks and are denied the opportunity to engage in natural behavior. There’s nothing educational about any show that students would see at SeaWorld. Encourage your principal to cancel the trip by sharing facts about animals in captivity and offering suggestions for humane alternatives. You and your fellow teachers can also present a petition regarding the cancellation of the trip to your administration.

You can also teach your students the truth about animals in marine parks with our free TeachKind lesson plans, including the following:

My school is planning a fundraiser involving the use of animals. What should I do?

Animals should never be exploited for school fundraisers. There are plenty of fun, humane ways to raise school funds. If your school is planning an event using animals, suggest a humane alternative, such as a rubber-duck derby race or a vegan bake sale. And get other teachers involved in setting a great example for students.

How do I start an animal rights club for my students?

Students can be wonderful advocates for animals. The first step in starting a club is to get it recognized as an official organization by your school. Talk with your administration about your mission, explaining how it will benefit your students and the school as a whole. Once your club has been approved, you can recruit members by posting flyers and reaching out to those who’ve shown an interest in animals. After that, you’ll be ready to start working on important projects, such as getting vegan options in the cafeteria, cutting out dissection, and volunteering at community animal shelters.

What’s wrong with having classroom “pets”?

Well-meaning teachers often bring animals into the classroom with the intention of teaching students about responsibility, animal companion care, animal science, and so on. However, a busy classroom is not a suitable environment for animals. They’re confined to small cages or tanks, and their needs often go unmet. Many are nocturnal but are forced to endure handling and bright lights throughout the day, which disrupts their natural sleep cycles. They could also be injured by students who are rough with them and don’t understand their complex needs.

These “pets” also pose a risk to student health, because they can worsen conditions like asthma and allergies. Handling them can spread bacteria, such as salmonella, too. Learn more about the problems with keeping animals in classrooms.

How do I get more vegan foods offered in my school’s cafeteria?

Getting vegan options in the cafeteria is a great way to expose students to animal-friendly foods and show them how easy it is to eat vegan. Talk with your administration or the school’s food services manager about the health benefits of offering vegan foods, and share some success stories. If you feel that your suggestions aren’t being considered, try getting others involved by starting a petition to show that there’s support for vegan options. After you have enough signatures, politely present your petition to your principal. Parents make great allies, so be sure to urge them to talk to school officials, too.

Still have a question about humane education? E-mail us at [email protected] for more information. 

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