ABA Humane Education Program

The Animal Law and Law in Public Service committees of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice (TIPS) section of the ABA is taking a bite out of crime– crime against animals, that is.

The committes are teaming up with Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers (HEART), a humane education organization, to work with children in school settings to sensitize them to animals’ needs and encourage them to think critically about their treatment of animals.

Humane education is not a new idea, and is widespread in the United States, by way of numerous animal shelters with side programs, as well as organizations devoted solely to this cause. Entire teaching manuals are now available for teachers and school systems to consult. Many resources are available online.

But the combination of law and lawyers with humane education seems a more recent concept, although I personally know of, and have volunteered with, one such program already in existence in New York.

I find this interesting because it taps into the chicken-vs-the-egg debate I often have with people regarding legal protection for animals:  does it begin with sensitizing people to the needs of animals, so as to predispose them to new laws which will later be passed, thereby easing enforcement because you then have a population of people who are likely to happily follow the new laws?  Or, conversely, does it begin with laws being passed which initially force unwilling people’s actions, but over time sensitize them to the reasons for the laws, thereby altering their perceptions of animals’ needs, and eliminating the need to force them at all?

I tend to believe that we need to work from both ends of the spectrum simultaneously. Joint law-humane education programs are interesting because they do just that. I suppose it is too early just yet to observe the results.

For those interested in learning more about this ABA program, here is a description cut and pasted from an email being circulated:

“TIPS solicits lawyer and law student volunteers from the ABA
membership, and from the membership of state or local bar
associations, to work on implementing humane education programs in
their local schools. This public service project has been developed
for elementary school children in 4th and 5th grades. In its pilot
phase in the spring of 2009, the project will be implemented in New
York City and the District of Columbia where interested volunteers
will be trained by HEART’s instructional staff to offer a four-lesson
humane education program. We plan to expand the geographical reach of
this public service program over time.

Humane education examines many of the challenges facing our world, and
the specific lessons we are offering focus on people’s relationships
to animals and the environment. With studies that show there is a
direct link between one’s treatment of animals and one’s treatment of
people, along with the growing concern for the state of our planet,
these lessons are imperative for creating a more peaceful and
sustainable world. During the program students will consider the
choices they make in their own lives and consider how they can do the
most good in the world and cause the least amount of suffering to
themselves, other people, animals, and the earth. The program invites
students to become problem-solvers, engaged young citizens, and
conscious choice-makers so that their lives become part of the
solution to persistent challenges.

The vision of humane education is to instill in students positive
character traits like compassion, responsibility, tolerance, and
integrity and to deepen their awareness of the power of their daily
choices. We are offering our four-lesson program at no cost to
schools. This program has been embraced enthusiastically by students,
teachers, school administrators, parents, government officials,
foundations, and private individuals alike.

If you are interested in participating in this public service project
in NYC or in DC, please contact the following people:

NYC (free training workshop on March 14, 2009): Meena Alagappan, Chair
of the ABA-TIPS Animal Law Committee, at alagappan.meena@gmail.com

DC (free training workshop on March 8, 2009): Joan Schaffner, Chair
Elect of the ABA-TIPS Animal Law Committee, at jschaf@law.gwu.edu”

-Suzanne McMillan

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