The authors argue that humane education should be an integral part of humanistic philosophy. They outline 2 key components of a humane education: (a) an understanding of the sociological and psychological dimensions of animal abuse and (b) the cultivation of empathy for nonhuman animals.
The Greatness of a Nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way that its animals are treated.
The special issue of The Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development on Character Education (Hayes & Hagedorn, 2000), although timely and very welcome, we believe was deficient in at least one important respect. This was its lack of attention to the important role of humane education in a well-rounded humanistic philosophy. The cultivation of empathy with our fellow creatures and the understanding of how humans often abuse them are, and must be, essential ingredients of a properly humanistic philosophy. The virtual exclusion of humane education from the disciplines that study and foster character education and development for children is unfortunate because, as Gandhi pointed out, respect for nonhuman animals is a sine qua non of a civilized society.
In this article, we offer a preliminary account of two key components of a humane education. The first is an understanding of the sociological and psychological dimensions of animal abuse. The presentation of animal abuse here focuses largely on its occurrence with other forms of family violence. The second is the need for a cultivation of empathy for nonhuman animals (henceforth, animals). Empathy for animals is not only beneficial in its own right (i.e., for animals' well-being) but also because an informed interaction with animals can aid healthy character development in children.
Much of the contemporary literature on animal advocacy draws its inspiration from the writings of a small group of moral philosophers. The erstwhile goal of these philosophers has been the deconstruction of practices that promote the satisfaction of human interests at the expense of those of animals. Largely through the vehicles of utilitarianism (Singer, 1975) and liberal rights theory (Regan, 1983), they have attempted to create a discourse that might better describe and more justly govern human relationships with animals. These two basic philosophical frameworks can be distinguished from each other by their respective answers to a number of difficult questions about animal welfare and animal rights, about the nature of the "good" society, and about the role of a responsible citizenry within it. How do animals differ from humans? Are the interests of animals in avoiding pain of the same sort as those of humans? Are the grounds for not abusing animals the same as those for not abusing humans?
To the founding statements of utilitarianism and liberal rights theory must now be added the pioneering contributions of feminist philosophers and philosophers of science (Adams & Donovan, 1995; Donovan & Adams, 1996; Haraway, 1989; Noske, 1997). Indeed, feminist theorists such as Adams and Donovan (1995) have argued passionately that utilitarianism and liberal rights theory are fundamentally flawed in their reverence for science. Scientific rationalism leads not to a politics of humaneness but to a masculinist one of exclusion. The feminist perspective(s) on animals and animal advocacy is especially helpful. Whereas utilitarianism has stressed the importance of a rational calculus of pain and pleasure, feminist scholars stress the importance of commonalities with animals. These commonalities include common sources of oppression and the need for humans to have an emotional bonding with animals. Whereas liberal rights theory argues in abstract terms for abstract rights and equality, feminism instead stresses the cardinal importance of developing an ethic of compassion and care.
The proponents of moral philosophy and feminism have led to a mass of theoretical and empirical studies of human-animal interaction in such diverse fields as biology, psychology, feminism, cultural history, and the history of science. Our interest now lies in the findings of a small but growing research literature that has emerged on the study of animal abuse.
ANIMAL ABUSE AND "INTERHUMAN" CONFLICT
Most educators, like most members of the general public, probably have learned of a possible link between animal abuse and interhuman conflict from several well-publicized accounts of the childhood misbehaviors of serial murderers. Serial killer Thomas Lee Dillon, for example, was reported to be known by his neighbors and coworkers in Ohio for having "stabbed, stomped and shot 1,000 cats and dogs" (Beirne, 1995, p. 22); Alberto DeSalvo (the "Boston Strangler") is reported to have shot arrows at trapped dogs and cats; as a youth, Jeffrey Dahmer (the "Milwaukee cannibal") is said to have impaled the head of a dog on a stick and to have impaled or staked frogs and cats to trees; and Ted Bundy, executed in 1989 for 1 of as many as 50 murders, reportedly spent much of his childhood living with his grandfather and torturing animals (Beirne, 1995, p. 22).
Such reports suggest that adult serial murderers and adult mass murderers are more likely than law-abiding citizens to have engaged in animal abuse. Yet, whether or not a prior history of animal abuse is disproportionately present in the personal biographies of violent adults actually remains unknown. Most examples are anecdotal, and investigations are usually carried out with a complete disregard for proper interviewing techniques and other methodological protocols. Moreover, some studies have provided powerful counterfactual cases (e.g., Miller & Knutson, 1997). With the use of self-report questionnaires given to 314 inmates in the Iowa Department of Corrections and to 308 university undergraduate students, Miller and Knutson found either a modest association or none at all among abusive childhood environments, exposure to animal cruelty, and subsequent violent behavior. However controversial, existing evidence about a link between adult offenders and animal abuse has succeeded in drawing attention to the way in which animal abuse is a signifier of various forms of family violence. Because different forms of family violence tend to coexist, it is not altogether surprising to find that companion animals, which are typically regarded as family members, are more likely to be abused in situations in which one human member of a household is abusing another human there. Specifically, animal abuse has been found to be disproportionately present in the following situations:
* Heterosexual partner abuse (Ascione, 1998; Ascione, Weber, & Wood, 1997; Flynn, 2000)
* Lesbian partner abuse (Renzetti, 1992, p. 21)
* Child physical abuse (Deviney, Dickert, & Lockwood, 1983)
* Child sexual abuse at home (Boat, 1995; Friedrich, Urquiza, & Beilke, 1986) and in day care centers (Finkelhor & Williams, 1988) Sibling abuse (Wiehe, 1990, pp. 44-45)
In the context of family violence, it is certain that in one-on-one cases of physical animal abuse the great majority of offenders are men. Indeed, men use animal abuse as a battering strategy to control women for numerous reasons. According to Adams (1995) and Agnew (1998), a man might abuse a companion animal to (a) demonstrate his power, (b) teach submission, (c) isolate his partner from her support networks, (d) undermine self-determined action by women and children, (e) perpetuate the context of terror, (f) preempt her from leaving him, (g) punish and terrorize her for leaving him, (h) force her to be involved in the animal's abuse, and (i) confirm his power.
In addition to the predominance of men in the commission of animal abuse by adults, indications in the literature are that among children and adolescents, it is also boys who commit animal abuse far more frequently than do girls and that, when boys and male adolescents do commit abuse, it is often considerably more egregious (Beirne, 1999, pp. 121-125). For example, in a survey of 267 undergraduate students at a southeastern university, it was found that men were nearly 4 times more likely than women to have abused an animal (Beirne, 1997; Flynn, 1999). More than one third of the young men in this study admitted to harming or killing an animal; their numerous methods of abuse included killing a stray animal (13.1%), hurting or torturing an animal (6.7%), and killing a pet (2.6%; Flynn, 1999).
Moreover, some reports have linked animal abuse committed by male adolescents and subsequent interhuman mass murders. For example, in a report of the mass murder in May 1998 of two classmates and of both his parents in Springfield, Oregon, it was revealed that 15-year-old Kip Kinkel had earlier enjoyed shooting squirrels, setting off firecrackers in cats' mouths, or stuffing them down gopher holes (Beirne, 1995). It was reported that prior to the Satanic cult killing of two schoolgirls and the wounding of seven others by an armed teenager in a Mississippi school in October 1997, Luke Woodham had engaged with a friend in the gruesome torture of his own dog. According to police, the two teenagers "repeatedly beat the dog with a club, wrapped it in garbage bags, torched it with a lighter and flammable fluid, listened to it whimper and tossed it in a pond" (Beirne, 1999). Describing the event, Woodham admitted,
On Saturday of last week, I made my first kill. The victim was a loved one, my dear dog Sparkle. I will never forget the howl she made. It sounded almost human. I'll never forget the sound of her breaking under my might. I hit her so hard I knocked the fur off her neck ... [i]t was true beauty. (Beirne, 1999, p. 123)
ANIMAL ABUSE, CHILDREN, AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT
One of the most important questions to ask about the children and adolescents who commit animal abuse is Why do they do it? In psychology and psychiatry, especially, research has sought to examine whether the act of animal abuse is a sign of some psychological defect in the character of the youthful perpetrator (Ascione, 1993; Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989). Lack of proper modeling, peer reinforcement, posttraumatic play, hostility displacement, and suicidal tendencies have all been described as the personality characteristics of children who abuse animals (Boat, 1995). Indeed, "assaultive children" are sometimes described as having multiple personality and dissociative disorder--the American Psychiatric Association now lists cruelty to animals as a form of conduct disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 99). Children's (mis)behavior has been linked to other antisocial tendencies such as nonproductive fire setting and even enuresis (Wooden & Berkey, 1984). Other studies have focused on the developmental relationship between the abuse of animals by children and adolescents and their eventual maturation into adults with antisocial, aggressive, or violent tendencies (Ascione, 1993; Felthous & Kellert, 1987). There is also evidence that children exposed to wartime violence are prone to animal cruelty (Randal & Boustany, 1990).
However, an honest answer to the question Why do children abuse animals? is that the etiology of children's animal abuse is still not that well understood. It is probable that children who witness animal abuse in their households are more likely to commit it than those who do not. Other questions to consider are How are children who commit animal abuse variably influenced to do so if the abuse that they witness is committed, respectively, by parents, by guardians, or by siblings? In turn, how are these variables influenced by patterns of socioeconomic class, gender, race, and religious affiliation?
TOWARD A CURRICULUM FOR HUMANE EDUCATION
Humane education has traditionally been defined as being about responsibilities regarding pets. For decades, humane societies have been sending their educators into schools to teach young children about spaying and neutering. As a result, about half the states in the United States have passed laws mandating humane education in elementary schools (Weil, 1998). However, most laws fail either to define humane education or to require that teachers and counselors be taught how to be humane educators. In the states that have enacted mandatory humane education, humane educators are often supported by state and local agencies that have neither the financial support nor the organizational power required to make a strong, systematic, and sustained impact in schools.
Recently, however, the very definition of humane education has been expanded by a handful of educators in the United States and Canada who consider that the subject should be more comprehensive than the narrower one circumscribed by a focus on companion animals (Center for Compassionate Living, 1999; Weil, 1998). Humane education has come to encompass all animal issues as well as environmental, consumer, and human rights issues. Humane education is concerned with teaching social responsibility and informed choice. Many of the social injustices provide thought-provoking problems for students and teachers, from exploitation of other species and the planet itself, to poverty, war, prejudice, and greed. Humane education aims to provide information about what happens behind the scenes to produce society's food, entertainment, clothing, and other products. Such education offers alternative choices and positive role models. It is, in essence, an optimistic antidote to the cultural norms of exploitation, consumerism, and global destruction (Center for Compassionate Living, 1999).
Animals have helped children heal from emotional injuries and various traumatic events. It has been known for some time that interaction with dogs has encouraged pride, compassion, and responsibility in prisoners (Moneymaker & Strimple, 1991). Such interventions reach angry children and teach them responsibility and compassion (Nebbe, 1991; Netting, Wilson, & New, 1987; Triveda & Perl, 1995). Many young people hurt and kill because they have never learned empathy. Humane education fosters the development of these important virtues by teaching kindness and respect for animals as a first step in character development. Enlightened humane educators teach children that animals, like people, have emotional lives and that they experience pain, suffering, and deprivation. An understanding of humane education is essential for counselors working in institutions such as schools, where it is widely believed that rates of violence have recently been rapidly increasing. Among the virtues we believe worthy of development are love, kindness, compassion, mercy, justice, integrity, courage, honesty, and wisdom. Being a humane educator means fostering these virtues and helping to instill compassionate values in the next generation. In this way, humane education is intended to uncover and prevent the ills embedded in various cultural habits and beliefs by creating awareness of suffering and offering new choices.
Although it may be developmentally appropriate for children in the lowest grades to be taught kindness to animals and to be informed about spaying and neutering, there is very little being done during the middle school and high school years to encourage humane development. Teenagers want to know that they can make a difference in their world. They are ripe for activism. From the first author's experience as a practicing school counselor, questions frequently asked by teenagers concern the appropriateness of looking at animal abuse only in terms of animal companions. She has found most teenagers to be extremely interested in learning about socially sanctioned practices in the meatpacking and dairy industries. Teenagers are asking the following questions: Why are we not learning about corporate cruelties prevalent in the meatpacking and dairy industries? Why are we not taught about the ethical dilemmas associated with vivisection? These questions stimulate challenging and critical discussion of ethics and values. Humane education should be included in lesson plans for a great variety of subjects, including history, social science, political science, biology, and even mathematics. About the latter, for example, Dickstein (2000) wrote,
Within mathematics, children can learn how to graph using data on the pets who share their homes. As the age and sophistication of students increase, so can the sophistication of this type of exercise. Word problems can present a variety of humane educational topics while still giving children the opportunity to practice this mode of problem solving. Students can learn about ordinal scales by ranking the sizes of different animals or their ability to learn about the world by using their sense of smell, hearing or vision. (p. 61)
Moreover, humane education needs to be an everyday occurrence, not a once-a-semester classroom guidance activity. Dickstein (2000) has excellent suggestions on how to do this. The best way is for teachers and counselors to include humane education in their own lesson plans.
Children and teenagers are naturally drawn to animals and how human beings relate to and bond with them. It is a much-repeated truism that sometimes it is animals that make us human in the very best sense of the word. The science and social studies curricula can address such things as cultural differences in human-animal relationships and interdependence between environmental issues and the treatment/use of animals. Reading and language arts can include books that foster compassion for animals. History, economics, and political science can look at legal and policy issues concerning the use and abuse of animals. Students can study the philosophy of animal advocacy and the prevalence and causes of animal abuse and how animals are used in laboratories. They can wrestle with the pros and cons of animals being displayed in zoos and aquariums, and students can be introduced to the thorny problems associated with animals being used in sports and entertainment. Existing practices in hunting, fishing, and trapping, for example, can profitably be explored to open up a wide array of interesting and important questions. How can these activities be practiced humanely? Are they always necessary? How do the cultural meanings of these practices differ if their practitioners inhabit technologically undeveloped and technologically developed societies?
A crucial component of a humane curriculum should be discussion of and perhaps involvement with Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). In 1996, the Delta Society adopted a Standards of Practice for Animal-Assisted Activities and Animal-Assisted Therapy (available at www.deltasociety.org). The Delta Society defines AAT as "the using of animals by a health or human service provider within the scope of his/her profession ... to promote improvement in human physical, social, emotional, and cognitive functioning" (Clough, 2000, p. 2).
There are many programs that have proved to be therapeutic for human animals. Pets-on-Wheels (Fine, 1999), for example, uses dogs to visit nursing homes, residential facilities, and hospitals. The dogs may just provide company as visiting animals, or they may actually become part of physical or occupational therapy. Pets-by-Prescription (Clough, 2000; Fine, 1999) is a physician-initiated program in which doctors prescribe the companionship of animals for lonely, depressed, elderly, or chronically ill persons. This program has allowed tenants to keep pets legally, even in places that do not allow pets, without fear of eviction. There are programs for prisoners that include training dogs from animal shelters for adoption and gentling mustangs to save them from slaughter (Fine, 1999; Nebbe, 1991; Netting et al., 1987).
Nebbe (1991) has reported that the use of animals in classrooms reduces student stress and encourages the student to think about issues of animals and society. Indeed, it has been found that in some important respects, AAT provides for both sexes greater stimuli for caring social interaction than does non-animal therapy (Bernstein, Friedmann, & Malaspina, 2000; Fick, 1993). AAT is gaining popularity with guidance counselors (Triveda & Peri, 1995). Students are more apt to visit the guidance counselor if animals are allowed in the office and if the counselor has done class presentations explaining how animals will be made available to students. AAT supports the expansion of using animals such as hamsters and fish as a way of introducing the use of more interactive animals, such as dogs and cats, in classrooms. This interaction can increase empathy for animals and has effects that endure throughout the life span (Nebbe, 1991).
At a time when educators are calling for a return to ethics, civility, and kindness in schools, relationships between animals and children merit the attention of school counselors and other school personnel. Counselors owe it to themselves and also to their profession to familiarize themselves with humane education and to understand the important role that it can play not only in the early identification and prevention of animal abuse but also for the remedial and therapeutic effects of positive human-animal interaction. Moreover, we suggest that if those in counselor education could begin to make humane education a regular part of school counselor training, then this might help to make humane education more integral and transformative in school settings.
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Sydney Carroll Thomas, College of Education and Human Development, University of Maine; Piers Beirne, Department of Criminology, University of Southern Maine. The authors thank Melissa Savage for her help with preparing the manuscript for publication. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Sydney Carroll Thomas, 5766 Shibles Hall, College of Education and Human Development, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469-5766 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).…