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While education systems are rightfully evolving to embrace holistic approaches, there remains a crucial missing link: humane education. This initiative goes beyond academic rigour and environmental awareness to cultivate sensitivity towards animal sentience and well-being.
By understanding the impact of our actions on both animals and the environment, we can choose sustainable farming practices, support ethical consumerism, and advocate for responsible animal treatment policies. The exploitation and neglect of working animals contribute directly to environmental degradation, from unsustainable land-use practices to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Equipping the next generation with this knowledge and empathy is no longer a choice; it’s the need of the hour. By teaching children to respect animal sentience and understand the interconnectedness of life, we empower them to build a just, compassionate world where kindness extends to all creatures and protects our planet for generations to come. Studies have shown that this not only sensitises children about animals but also makes them more compassionate and responsible overall. This paves the way for a more compassionate and just society, with lower instances of crime and better development indices.
Cognitive and Emotional Development
To recognise the impact of humane education on cognitive and emotional development in students, it is crucial to understand its scientific basis. Research repeatedly shows that engagements in lessons focused on compassionate relationships with animals greatly promote empathy and emotional intelligence development.
The Correlation of Humane Education and Cognitive Consonance
By understanding the scientific basis for ethical development in students, educators and policymakers can make a compelling case for the inclusion of humane education as a fundamental component of holistic and wholesome education. IAF partners with NGOs to successfully champion the cause of humane education with the objective of reducing animal cruelty via the generation of awareness and cultivation of empathy.
Mika Maruyama’s 2005 Thesis discussed an experiment conducted with two student groups about the effects of animals in classrooms. She discovered the daily experiences of non-verbal communication with animals may help children become more likely to consider the feelings of others and to consider another person’s point of view. Students’ self-reported empathy toward animals significantly correlated with reported empathy toward people for all ages tested.
Environmental and Ecological Awareness
Humane education enables students to broaden their horizons. Students who are predominantly acquainted with the concept of humane education are predestined to become more conscious of their contribution towards the sustainability of the planet; they form their choices with respect towards the environment. The humane education curriculum focuses on sentient beings and speciesism. Students are exposed to the needs of animals; they recognise that animals are intelligent creatures and have abilities that are often not seen in humans, like sensing changes in weather, often in connection with calamities like Tsunamis. Students learn about similarities between humans and non-human animals, including a range of emotions.
Another important aspect, interconnected indirectly with humane education is capacity building. This pillar is critical for the successful mitigation of animal cruelty and securing animal rights. Approximately 65% of India’s youth is below 35 years of age. A decade ago, it was hard to imagine one pursuing a passion for animal welfare, let alone transform the same into a career; as times changed, opportunities in the animal welfare sector grew. Today’s youth look forward to careers that not only support them financially but also give them the balance and gratification of pursuing their passion that the earlier generation had reservations about.
The acceptance and understanding of the need for a human-education programme, integrated with capacity building for a life-long career, transpired into The Ahimsa Fellowship, which is India’s first-ever fellowship of its kind that gives direction to one’s dedication and compassion for animals. This programme’s curriculum was curated with input from leading experts in animal protection and the social sector, enabling skill development and entrepreneurship opportunities. Youth from diverse academic and professional backgrounds such as law, public policy, corporate, and tech. have successfully graduated and taken up amazing careers in the realm of animal welfare. Our organisation is an outcome of changing times that call for change in this space. One of our goals is to also enable the education system to incorporate a curriculum designed around animal welfare and its intrinsic aspects in order to boost the intersection of humane health, environmental sustainability and animal welfare.