One life - International Day of Education

This month I'm passing over my Blog to our Animal Welfare Director, Dave Neale.  

Dave promotes the UN International Day of Education by discussing the important concept of a new path of equality and moral consideration for both human and non-human species, in our ongoing attempt to rescue and protect this suffocating planet. To support this effort, Dave encourages us to urgently change the way we teach our children about animals and the natural world. 


In a world that is becoming increasingly fragile, it is easy to feel lost in what to do next to protect our environment, our children and the animals and plants that share our planet.

The global pandemic has many of us thinking about what the future now holds for us and our children in terms of public health and wellbeing, and at the same time we continue to see the mass destruction of the world’s rainforests, the melting of the ice caps, the pollution of our oceans and the air we breathe and the industrial-scale removal of wild animals from their homes to be traded for food and entertainment.

Coupled with growing species exploitation, environmental and public health issues, animals are faced with ever-increasing individual problems due to our insatiable desire to eat them, wear their skins, test our products and medicines on them, or to use and all too often abuse them for our personal entertainment.

dry arid landscapeAmazon deforestation.

In the words of UNESCO - 

‘... the world stands at a turning point. Gaping inequalities, a damaged planet, growing polarization and the devastating impact of the global pandemic puts us before a generational choice: Continue on an unsustainable path or radically change course.’

The need for this ‘new’ path is self-evident, a path of equality and moral consideration for all humans and non-humans, and greater respect for the natural environment and the part it plays in ensuring that we can all live a more fulfilled life free from the current inequalities and destructive forces.

The building blocks of this new path are in the way we educate our children. To develop and move along this path requires a fundamental change in our educational approach, addressing the inequalities in our own societies to encourage respect and compassion for people from all walks of life, and bringing all animals both human and non-human into our ‘circle of moral concern’. Without these step changes we can not achieve the sustainable, inclusive and peaceful future that the majority of us desire.

group of children sitting in a circleThe way we educate our children is vital in broadening our circle of moral concern.

The animals we use for our own purposes are sentient animals, aware of sensations and emotions, with the ability to suffer physically and mentally, and the ability to experience a state of well-being and happiness. Many have cognitive, social and emotional capacities once thought to belong solely to humans and can experience anxiety, depression, grief, happiness and optimism in a similar way to us.

In many cases the way in which we use and all too often abuse animals and the natural world has become socially, legally and politically acceptable and through our use we encourage our children to follow the same path, making children less likely to even question the morality of our choices.

These destructive systems of animal and natural resource use that we have created can not continue indefinitely, or we risk losing the very animals, lands, water and air that we are so very dependent upon for our own survival.

cattle in group, blue sky, pastureCreating pasture for cattle through deforestation has a devastating affect on our environment.

Efforts are underway in all corners of the globe to change these systems, to make them less destructive, less abusive - or to abolish them altogether, and these efforts must be further resourced and supported. But to support these grassroots efforts and to fundamentally overhaul these systems, we must change the very way in which we teach our children about animals and the natural world.

When a child is born, they have no ingrained preconceptions of our relationship with animals and the environment. As they grow, the society around them influences their attitudes and subsequently their personal behaviours, and all too often this influence is in support of the very systems that are leading to our own destruction.

girl with small pig on grassSociety influences our children's attitudes to animals and the environment  - the message must change.

Society both consciously and subconsciously fills our children’s minds with negative messages about our relationship with animals and the environment. In a single day we may teach children to be respectful to animals and the environments they rely upon, only to then encourage them to eat animals without questioning the life that the animal has suffered to get onto the dinner plate, or the environmental damage this has caused, and thus encouraging our children to be a part of perpetuating the systems which are causing so much suffering and damage.

Whilst we deliver such confusing and conflicting messages, how can we expect our children to support new less destructive systems which respect all humans, animals and the natural world?

Respect for life is a fundamental part of school curriculums but in most cases the adopted approaches encourage the development of differing levels of concern for different animal species, therefore perpetuating the acceptability of us using certain animals for our own purposes.

girl feeding chickenWe must deliver programmes that encourage respect for all animals, despite how society views their individual worth. 

We as individuals, our schools and the educators within them are all in a very special position, we have the opportunity to shape the minds of young people, to influence their behaviours, and to encourage them to make lifelong compassionate choices based on ethical frameworks which respect the lives of all animals and environments.

To really change people’s attitudes and subsequently their behaviour, we must connect people to these feelings and motives of the animals themselves, and we must do this using positive messaging.

To achieve this we need to develop and deliver programmes free from the societal norms which promote animal use for our benefit and replace them with programmes encompassing all animal life forms regardless of current society views and attitudes as to their individual worth. This should result in a true and effective non-speciesist approach to our educational messages which provide children with details of the true nature of all living beings and how they personally experience the world around them, thus providing children with a thorough understanding of the natural behaviours, cognitive abilities, emotional capacities, and the physical and psychological worlds of all animals, however big or small.

Only through this approach can we guide children into making future choices that truly respect the lives of all people, animals and the environment and minimise the devastating impact that our current behaviours are having.

girl on platform engaging with calf

On this International Day of Education please stand side by side with all of our fellow humans and animals that we share our Earth with, and support the necessary changes in our educational approach which will develop the truly compassionate generations that people, animals and the environment need in the future.

Dave Neale, Animal Welfare Director, Animals Asia Foundation
Updated 19 January 2024