“Animal protection safeguards the moral status of humans and the degeneration of human values.”

Those are the words of Constitutional Court Judge Sisi Khampepe, on behalf of a full bench of Constitutional Court judges, in a judgment handed down in December 2016. The judgement gave the NSPCA the power to privately prosecute those guilty of cruelty to animals, after the NPA refused to investigate a case involving the religious slaughter of camels in 2010.

There is no doubt, and research shows, that having empathy for animals is linked to higher emotional intelligence. The fact is our humanity depends on how we treat those who are at our mercy, the way we treat animals is who we are.

Teaching children from an early age to have compassion for animals is thus vitally important.

Enter Caring Classrooms, a brand new platform aimed at giving teachers the tools and resources to help kids understand the importance of having empathy for the voiceless.

The Managing Trustee for The Humane Education Trust, Louise van der Merwe, initiated Caring Classrooms and her passion for the subject is very evident. She spoke to Smile 90.4 FM’s late night talk show The Honest Truth where she appealed to teachers to join the movement.

Their learning programmes are based on the Five Freedoms for Animals, a set of minimum animal welfare standards which are endorsed by the World Organisation for Animal Health, the United Nations and many governments around the world, including the South African Department of Agriculture.

The Five Freedoms for Animals are:

• Freedom from Hunger and Thirst

• Freedom from Discomfort

• Freedom from Pain, Injury and Disease

• Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour (i.e. not to be caged)

• Freedom from Fear and Distress

A four-hour workshop for educators also equips them with the reasons for animal welfare education as well as with curriculum-aligned resources to take back into their classrooms to fulfil relevant topics in the curriculum for the rest of the year. Resources include, books, games, posters, puppets, teaching guides and more.

The good news for teachers is that the South African Council of Educators has accredited the online course, which means teachers can earn points and further their careers. Van der Merwe has also encouraged business to get on board and sponsor teachers and schools for just R46 per month.

After all, extending our feelings and judgments to animal behavior is part of what makes us human.

Visit caringclassrooms.co.za for more information.

Liesl (1)

Liesl Smit – Senior Reporter and Anchor, Smile 90.4FM News