Animal Rights Education
- Kai HorsthemkeKai HorsthemkeUniversity of the Witwatersrand
The subject of other-than-human animals, their conscious, conative and cognitive life and also their moral status and their treatment at our (human) hands, is a surprisingly novel topic within philosophy of education, apart from the odd reference to humane education. By contrast, environmental education has received wide coverage, not only by philosophers but also by social scientists, natural scientists and politicians. The present article attempts to fill this gap, at least in part. The psychophysical continuity between humans and other animals has profound moral and pedagogical implications and suggests the desirability of animal-centered (as opposed to human-centered) education. Does antiracist and antisexist education logically entail antispeciesist education? Similarly, is there a logical link between human rights education and animal rights education? Various approaches have been suggested toward including the moral status and ethical treatment of animals as an urgent concern within pedagogy, and teaching and learning generally:
• Environmental and sustainability education, ecophilia, and biophilia.
• Humane education and theriophilia.
• Philosophical posthumanism, critical pedagogy, and ecopedagogy.
• Critical animal studies and animal standpoint theory.
• Vegan education.
Each of these has undeniable strengths and considerable weaknesses. A viable alternative to these approaches is animal rights education. The possibility of animal rights education is clearly contingent on the possibility of animals having (moral) rights – or in principle being ascribable such rights. The promise of animal rights education, in turn, depends on the possibility of animal rights education. If animals were not among the sorts of beings who could meaningfully be said to possess rights, and if animal rights education were logically impossible (other than in a considerably more diluted or trivial sense), then it would make little sense to speak of the ‘promise’ of animal rights education. On the other hand, if animal rights education is philosophically and pedagogically meaningful, then this arguably also involves considerations of desirability, benefits and interests. The account animal rights education presented here involves education in matters of both social justice and “moral feeling,” cultivation of (appropriate) moral sentiments. Given most children’s natural interest in and feeling for animals, this should be easier than is commonly assumed. However, it does require effort, commitment, and consistency on the part of caregivers and educators, parents and teachers alike.