28 Jul Animal Equality in Education
As teachers, we are told that education should not be political and should remain neutral on the topics of social justice, including animal equality. Yet, it is acceptable for our government to use $10 million to ‘educate’ school children about farming production and a further $31 million invested towards agricultural shows to show children ‘where their food really comes from’ in a bid to reduce changing consumer demands for less meat and dairy products. Could this money be better invested to support our children’s understanding of sustainable food production for a planet clearly in crisis? The question we must ask ourselves is, are we really educating our children for a harmonious future?
If the government want our children to understand the current food system, perhaps more emphasis should be placed on the losses in the meat, eggs and dairy supply chain and the practices used in animal agriculture to reduce these losses, such as using confined spaces to restrict animal movement, grinding up male chicks and separating mothers and babies. But schools have a duty of care to protect children and would be in breach of this if they specifically taught children about the exploitation and suffering that occurs through animal agriculture and the ultimate violent taking of someone’s life who wanted to live. This is where the gap in understanding of animal agriculture practices begins, in education. Meanwhile, children are being indoctrinated to consume products they would likely choose not to if they understood what they were supporting.
The introduction of the Personal Social Capabilities ‘Ethical Thinking’ strand of the Australian Curriculum implies that students are learning about their impact on the wider world. Children do learn about morals and values, we teach them how to treat peers with kindness and understanding, so much so that it is frequently embedded into the key values of most school mission statements. Most children have a natural love of animals, yet are we not being contradictory to the teaching of these empathetic values if we don’t apply these moral codes to all beings? Likewise, schools also teach about discrimination and equality, looking at issues such as religion, race, sex, and gender, yet this is not extended to teaching about equality for all beings. If we wish to instill the values of empathy and kindness in our children and want them to thrive in a world where they become compassionate citizens, then we need to explore teaching the true ideology of equality.
The education system should be taking the lead on initiating discussions on these issues that not only affect children today but also in the future. A number of schools internationally are leading pioneers in this regard. MUSE School in California, the brainchild of Hollywood director James Cameron and his wife Suzy Amis Cameron, Green School in Bali and the recently opened Hagaskolan–Waldorfskolan in Stockholm are using innovative education models that challenge young people to show compassion to all living beings and understand the need to conserve our planet resources for the future. If education has the power to inspire future generations, let it challenge the rise of capitalism at the expense of all life on Earth. Then we can truly hope for a harmonious future for our children and all beings on our planet.
Author: Shiv Paul
Occupation: Secondary School Teacher
Masters in Education Leadership & Management