Humane education materials from South Africa

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2004:

Animals In Religion: Our relationship with animals in a Multi-Faith Society
Shopping with CARE: A Classroom Guide to Ethical Consumerism
New Words for a New World * We Care About Cats * We Care About Dogs
Goosie’s Story * Heroes & Lionhearts — all from The Humane
Education Trust:
P.O. Box 825, Somerset West, 7129, South Africa;
27-21-852-8160; <>; <>.

Long before South African education minister Kader Asmal
endorsed the addition of humane education to the national curriculum,
beginning this year, Louise Van Der Merwe formed the Humane
Education Trust and began developing materials in hope of such an
The South African introduction of humane education is much too young
yet to begin to assess outcomes, or even which materials will gain
the most classroom favor. The All-Africa Humane Education Summit
hosted by Van Der Merwe in Cape Town in September 2003 was only the
beginning of the in-service training that will be necessary to
inspire and enable South African teachers to fulfill the new mandate.

To be remembered as a lost opportunity and a precaution is
that similar mandates for humane education were introduced in 20 of
the then 48 U.S. states by 1922, and largely came to nothing. The
mandates, as adopted, were forthright in equating humane education
as moral education and in expecting the curriculums to challenge
students to think–but by 1930 the onset of the Great Depression and
shrinking budgets both for education and for humane work brought the
collapse of the youth groups and visiting teacher corps who had been
entrusted with doing humane education, and the whole notion vanished
from most U.S. schools for decades.
The major animal use industries organized defense cadres in
the interim. By the time animal advocates rediscovered the old
humane education mandates and began trying to re-implement them,
animal use industry opposition was able to reduce the lessons to no
more than basic discussion of dog and cat care, often without even a
mention of pet overpopulation and the need to sterilize pets. Even
today, despite the weight of many court verdicts in favor of
classroom debate and dissent, teachers who try to host forthright
debates over meat-eating, fur-wearing, and vivisection are often
putting their jobs at risk.
The U.S. disappointment could recur in South Africa, but not
if Van Der Merwe can help it. Developed on a budget of next to
nothing, her materials have none of the gloss of humane education
materials distributed in the U.S., yet some go well beyond U.S.
norms in addressing many of the most genuinely difficult issues
involving humans and animals.
Just the title of the Humane Education Trust workbook Animals
In Religion: Our relationship with animals in a Multi-Faith Society
could scare many U.S. teachers away from it. Included are
discussions of the attitudes toward animals embodied in traditional
African religions, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam, with
special attention to the works of pro-animal Mozambiquan author Credo
Mutwa and Mohandas Gandhi, who spent much of his early life in South
We Care About Cats and We Care About Dogs are Africanized
versions of the typical U.S. humane education curriculum, while New
Words for a New World and Shopping with CARE: A Classroom Guide to
Ethical Consumerism repeat the tendency of humane education materials
prepared by U.S. animal rights groups to be such obvious propaganda
that they would seem to have little chance of winning favor, just on
that account. Goosie’s Story, “about a battery hen who is given a
chance to lead a normal life,” likewise leans toward the preachy and
Yet Heroes & Lionhearts, originally issued by Gecko Books in
1966, is a story collection that will be read to tatters,
recounting the deeds of many of the winners of the National Council
of SPCAs’ “Animal of the Year” and “Bravery in the Service of
Animals” awards. The collection is written at the level of fourth
through sixth graders, but will also be enjoyed by the many adults
who devour the stories accompanying the presentations of the Lewyt
Award for Heroic & Compassionate Animals inside the back cover of
many editions of ANIMAL PEOPLE.
The Heroes & Lionhearts workbook, developed by C. Stanley &
R. Visser of Vista Publications, should slip easily into classroom
use almost anywhere.
The Heroes & Lionhearts materials echo in theme the most
successful humane education materials ever used in the U.S.,
developed around the 1905 Jack London novel White Fang. London in
White Fang addressed pet theft, dogfighting, sled dog racing and
pulling, and the animal/human bond, among other still current
topics. White Fang brought London to the notice of Massachusetts SPCA
and American Humane Education Society founder George Angell and his
successor, Frances Rowley. Angell had started the Bands of Mercy for
grade schoolers, which by 1912 claimed 265,000 graduates. Rowley
and London started the Jack London Clubs for older youth. As
proto-animal rights groups, the Jack London Clubs drove dogfighting
out of the sports pages of respectable newspapers, and before their
dissolution, after London’s death, began fighting abuse of circus
animals. Eastern European counterparts, called the White Fang
Societies, were almost the only humane institutions to survive
I felt the White Fang influence as late as 1964 when I was
issued a tattered copy that had been donated to my junior high school
by a defunct humane education society decades before, along with the
1941 novel My Friend Flicka, by Mary O’Hara, about a young man’s
efforts to tame a wild horse. My teacher, Miss Laurens, who
appeared to be in her seventies, was the last to teach these
remnants of the onetime California state humane curriculum. She
retired two years later and her venerable textbooks were incinerated.
Ten years later, in Kharkov, the Ukraine, future Center
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals/Leo Tolstoy Chapter founder Igor
Parfenov had a comparably inspiring encounter with a Russian
translation of White Fang.
For each of us, an unforgettable dog story was part of our
introduction to a calling. For each, I suspect, the story itself
was what taught whatever we learned. Neither of us was a great
student. We may not have even done whatever worksheets went with
White Fang.
Memorable humane education needs to be story-centered. While
White Fang would be incomprehensible to children who have never seen
snow. the works of Credo Mutwa and the Heroes & Lionhearts stories
fill the requirement appropriately for South Africa. So long as the
South African curriculum incorporates these items, it will
incorporate the most essential elements for success.
On March 24, 2004 meanwhile, longtime Wet Nose Animal
Rescue Centre spokesperson Beatrice Wiltshire founded the first of a
projected national string of Ubuntu Clubs at the Bainsvlei Combined
School, Bainsvlei district, Bloemfontein. “Ubuntu” is a word
meaning “compassion and kindness,” and is also the name given to the
calf featured in the 15-minute humane education video Saving Baby
Ubuntu, produced by the Humane Education Trust in 2003 and
distributed by Compassion in World Farming.
The Ubuntu Clubs too are in the spirit of George Angell.

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