Humans create arbitrary barriers to exclude anyone who isn’t like them. We have justified war, slavery, and sexual violence by believing that humans who are “different” are not worthy of moral consideration. And we do the same thing with animals.
This is wrong.
We are taught the Golden Rule as young children, and all major religions teach principles of nonviolence and kindness. But the Golden Rule must be extended to all living, feeling beings—reptiles, mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, crustaceans, insects, and others.
We are taught from a young age to discriminate among sentient beings. We’re fooled into eating the flesh of farmed animals and accepting the deaths of hunted ones, while cuddling with furry baby animals. We grow up confused—as adults, most of us feel sick and sad when we see animals being tortured or killed, yet we continue to purchase and consume the flesh, secretions, fur, and skins of animals on a regular basis. We work hard to deceive ourselves and each other in order to maintain the illusion of human supremacy.
As an educator, you have a chance to teach your students that all animals—whether rats, pigs, dogs, or children—feel pain, happiness, and fear and want to live. Teaching empathy and compassion for animals not only helps animals but also lessens the likelihood that kids will grow up to be cruel to other humans. We know, for example, that many violent offenders, including many serial killers, started out harming animals before moving on to humans.
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