Commissioned Research Article Title: Attitudes towards Animals Author: Chris Holmes Produced by citizED (supported by the Training and Development Agency for Schools) AUTUMN 2006 More information about the series of Commissioned Research Articles can be found at www.citized.info Attitudes towards animals Ms Chris Holmes National Education Manager, RSPCA Background Animal welfare is a popular topic with children and young people and can be used as a focus or context for exploring a number of citizenship concepts. Many animal welfare issues have implications for individuals, the communities within which they live and society as a whole. Exploring animal welfare issues can be very emotive and it is perhaps for this reason why some teachers may feel more comfortable exploring these with key stages 3 and 4. However it is possible to introduce more controversial issues at key stage 2, particularly if the methodology employed allows the children to explore the issues in stages and provides them with supporting information. Responsible pet ownership is often introduced at key stage 1 and developed at key stage 2 as a means of delivering key aspects of the life and living process aspects of the science curriculum. This can be further extended as an introduction to the citizenship concepts of rights, responsibilities, right and wrong and fairness. One of the most difficult moral dilemmas a responsible pet owner faces is when, or if, to euthanase a pet. Euthanasia is a particularly sensitive subject for any age group to discuss, however it can be introduced with Year 6 with careful preparation and the use of appropriate techniques. Obviously if one of the pupils has just experienced the recent death of a pet, relative or friend, this may not be an appropriate focus. One of the phrases that is often used in a discussion about euthanasia, is “quality of life”, however what do we mean by this? The basis of “quality of life” is the meeting of an animal’s needs. The RSPCA believes the welfare of any animal should take into account five needs or freedoms: Freedom Freedom Freedom Freedom Freedom from hunger and thirst from pain, injury and disease from discomfort from fear and distress to express natural behaviour These provide an easy checklist for teachers when encouraging children to identify the needs of all animals. The advantages of re-visiting the needs of animals before embarking on a discussion about euthanasia is that it provides the pupils with a set of criteria that can be employed to assist in the exploration of the issues. A discussion of the term “responsible pet ownership” can also be useful. Many people use this term, however do we all agree what this means in reality? Again gaining the children’s agreement on what they understand by this term will enable a more thorough examination of the issues. A discussion of when or if a person should euthanase an animal can be facilitated through the use of a critical incident. This allows the information and the issues to be introduced and explored in appropriate stages. At the end of each stage the children are invited to respond to a serious of questions or tasks. The design of these questions/tasks should encourage the children to consider different viewpoints, alternative scenarios, rights and responsibilities, before finally at the end of the story making a decision. The fact that our society permits the euthanasia of animals, but not of humans is a reflection of its attitude towards non-human animals. However within our society individuals, groups and organisations will have different views on the sanctity of a non-human animal’s life. A pro-animal stance will still cover a broad spectrum of views, but put simplistically, there are two broad schools of thought: animal rights and animal welfare: Animal rights: All animals, including humans, have an intrinsic value. Humans are not more important than other animals. Humans should not “use” animals for example by farming them, perhaps by keeping them as pets or using them for scientific purposes. All animals have the right to be free. Animal welfare: Animals, like humans, are sentient. Animals have the capacity to feel and suffer. Animals can be used for human ends, like farming, pets and experiments, provided they are as well looked after as the circumstances allow and not subject to unnecessary suffering. Humans have a responsibility to treat animals with respect. The RSPCA is an animal welfare organisation. Young people can learn more about the range of views that exist within society by inviting representatives of different groups and organisations to visit school to explain these in more detail or through internet research (with the usual “vetting” procedures in place). Young people should be encouraged to consider the role different views and opinions play in shaping a society and also how a society’s treatment of animals can reflect its fundamental values. Even those people who consider themselves pro-animal may well have different attitudes and therefore behaviour towards different species. The popular topic of Minibeasts (worms, bees, wasps, spiders, ladybirds, butterflies etc) provides plenty of scope for illustrating this. An examination of the attitudes and behaviour within the school towards this group of animals will provide an excellent opportunity to consider right and wrong and responsibility, and the contradictions in our attitude to killing animals. It is worth considering the message we give as educators when we verbally promote responsibility and respect, then promptly kill the wasp that flies in through our classroom window. Knowledge By the end of key stage 2 pupils are expected to show understanding of citizenship concepts such as rights, responsibilities, right and wrong and fairness. An exploration of the attitudes of humans to the deliberate killing of animals can be used as an introduction to these concepts or as a means of consolidation. Some of the key questions to extend the children’s knowledge and understanding of this issue include: Are some animals more important than others? If they are more important do they have more rights? Should human animals have a responsibility to ensure the welfare (care and well-being) of all non-human animals, regardless of their importance? Is it wrong to kill an animal? Are there circumstances when it might be right or fair to kill an animal? Why does society allow euthanasia of non-human animals, but not human animals? Skills As this topic is discussion-based it will offer an opportunity for the children to talk about their own opinions, ask questions and listen to the views of others. Teacher resources RSPCA education website All RSPCA education resources are free Main focus: Curriculum focus: “What is cruelty?” lesson resource for a downloadable copy of “ Max’s story” (search: citizenship, key stage 3, “how the law protects animals”) Whole-school focus: “Attitudes to minibeasts” (search: citizenship, key stage 1, minibeasts), minibeasts photo pack Preparation work: One or more lesson resources in the scheme of work “Animals and us” (search: citizenship, key stage 1 and 2, “Animals and us”). These cover animals’ needs, the work of the RSPCA, what needs to be considered before becoming a pet owner and taking responsibility Pets photo pack “Animals and us” interactive resource (available January 2007) RSPCA website www.rspca.org.uk for further information on the work of a charity and downloadable pet care sheets Curriculum focus Citizenship key stage 2 Goals Developing confidence and responsibility and making the most of their abilities: a. to talk and write about their opinions, and explain their views, on issues that affect themselves and society Preparing to play an active role as citizens 2e. to reflect on spiritual, moral, social, and cultural issues, using imagination to understand other people's experiences 2f. to resolve differences by looking at alternatives, making decisions and explaining choices 1. In preparation for this lesson the children will need to have produced a class list of what all pets need, a class definition of the term “responsible pet owner” and had an introduction to pet euthanasia (what this involves, when it happens etc). In addition, re-visiting the ground rules for discussion would be an advantage. 2. The focus of this lesson is a critical incident (Max’s story) about the decisions that a dog owner, Mr Brown, has to make about the future of his dog, Max. To provide a visual stimulus for this story a photograph of Max can be provided, however it is suggested that a picture or photo of Mr Brown is avoided. Be aware that comments such as “he looks like a kind person/cruel person”, may be made by some children if a photo of the owner is used and this will necessitate an exploration of stereotypes and generalisations. To a certain extent the latter may happen with the photo of the dog. The children will need to work in groups and be prepared for the fact that the story will be introduced in sections and they will be asked to consider the questions at the end of each of these. 3. Max’s story Section 1: Max is a much-loved pet dog. One hot summer night his owner, Mr Brown, left Max outside to sleep in the cool garden. Mr Brown hadn’t fixed a hole in the garden fence so he tethered Max on a long rope to stop him wandering onto the streets and getting lost. Questions: Explain why Mr Brown might think leaving Max outside was a responsible idea Explain why some people might think this was an irresponsible idea What do you think? Section 2: Whilst Mr Brown was sleeping, two animals came from a neighbour’s garden, through the broken fence and attacked Max. He was unable to get away. The dogs hurt Max so much that he could no longer use his hind legs. Questions: What difference will this make to Max’s life? How do you think Max will feel if he can’t use his hind legs? Section 3: Mr Brown was woken up by the noise of the dogs fighting. When he found Max injured, he took him to the vet for emergency treatment. The vet advised that Max be put to sleep on the grounds that little could be done for him, he would suffer pain and have no quality of life. Tasks: Make a list of points to support the vet’s advice Make a list of points that disagree with the vet’s advice Section 4: Mr Brown was very upset and would not agree to have Max put to sleep. He had read in a magazine how some dogs were using purpose-built trolleys for cases of hind-leg paralysis, so he decided to find out more and see if he could get one for Max. Questions: Why might Mr Brown prefer this option? What problems can you identify for Mr Brown if he chooses this option? What would be the advantages of this option for Max? What would be the disadvantages of this option for Max? Section 5: Mr Brown waited for a few days to see how Max recovered. He decided that he would get a second opinion about Max. A different vet said that although the first vet’s opinion was logical, there was a new operation being trialled at a local veterinary hospital. The cost could be thousands of pounds and there was only a small chance of success. Question: Which of the three options would your group recommend Mr Brown chooses: Put Max to sleep Fit Max with a purpose-built trolley Have the new operation? Explain your reasons 4. Each group will need to present their decision and their justification of this. Asking the children to reflect on their approach to the discussion and how their thinking changed/developed during the task will provide assessment opportunities. 5. Differentiation could be facilitated through the organisation of the groups and by simplifying the questions/tasks for each section of the story. 6. Discussion from this point can move onto a more general exploration of the ethics of both animal and human euthanasia. Whole-school focus: Citizenship key stage 2 Goals Developing confidence and responsibility and making the most of their abilities: b. to talk and write about their opinions, and explain their views, on issues that affect themselves and society Preparing to play an active role as citizens 2e. to reflect on spiritual, moral, social, and cultural issues, using imagination to understand other people's experiences 2f. to resolve differences by looking at alternatives, making decisions and explaining choices 1. Using the fact that Society does permit the euthanasia of animals, but not humans, as a starting point, the pupils can be encouraged to explore in more detail our attitudes to animals. Minibeasts (worms, bees, ants, butterflies, spiders) are a group of animals that people tend to have very strong views about. Ask them to carry out a whole school survey to find out what is the most popular minibeast and which is the least popular. 2. Once these have been collated, the pupils can begin to explore why some of the minibeasts are liked and others are disliked. Some of the negative perceptions may include: They are too small and difficult to see. They are not as interesting as other animals. They are sometimes seen as dirty and dangerous. Some people are afraid of them. Encourage the pupils to consider the validity of these statements/reasons. Ask them to research why each minibeast is important (eg its role in food chains). 3. Ask the pupils to consider whether our attitudes to animals can affect our behaviour towards them. For example what might they do if a wasp or spider was in the classroom: Option 1: kill it Option 2: ignore it Option 3: capture it carefully and then release it outside immediately Encourage them to explore the advantage and disadvantages of each option both for the class and for the wasp. If it was a butterfly in the classroom, would they choose a different option? Re-visit the arguments they presented for the three options available to Max, are they employing different criteria to justify their reasons? 4. Ask the pupils to consider how minibeasts are treated in their school. Areas to consider may include the school grounds and the classroom. Who, if anyone, should care about this issue: the pupils the staff the governors the parents/carers? 5. If it is accepted that this is something they believe is a whole school issue they can then begin to explore how they can improve the welfare of minibeasts within their school eg the development of codes of conduct, raising people’s awareness of the issues. Community focus: Citizenship key stage 2 Goals Developing confidence and responsibility and making the most of their abilities: c. to talk and write about their opinions, and explain their views, on issues that affect themselves and society Preparing to play an active role as citizens 2e. to reflect on spiritual, moral, social, and cultural issues, using imagination to understand other people's experiences 2f. to resolve differences by looking at alternatives, making decisions and explaining choices 1. Representatives from a range of groups and organisations within the local community will have different views on both attitudes to animals and the euthanasia of animals. By inviting them into schools to explain their position, pupils will have the opportunity to develop their own ideas and views by asking questions. 2. In preparation for these visits the class can decide what they want to achieve from the experience. Do they want to hear the representatives’ general views on animals or do they want to present them with different scenarios and ask them to explain their positions on each eg the options presented for Max and/or the wasp in the classroom. Do they want to challenge the representative’s views or have a more passive approach? 3. Once the visits have taken place, encourage the pupils to explore the role different views and attitudes have in society. How important is it that people are able to have different views and are allowed to express these?
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