YEAR OF THE HUMANE CHILD
It is scary to imagine intra-cranial implantation of a computer chip model into our brains, enabling data to be downloaded from a computer, making us "more intelligent" people. Neuroscientist Theodore Berger is working real hard to become the first person to implant microchips between our ears.
And very soon most of us will own videophones, just like the Jetsons. We will be able to see just who it is we are talking to, which, frankly, I am not certain is a good thing. I remember watching the futuristic sci-fies in the 50’s. Much of what then was only colorful imagery is now all too quickly becoming reality.
Amidst this vast sea of technological data, I find myself wondering how man has progressed so quickly in some areas and has become stymied in others. For instance, the more than obvious signs that simple compassion is becoming less evident in many children and adults.
Let us consider for one moment a special program called "2000: Year of the Humane Child" (YHC), devised by the Summit for the Animals, a coalition of national animal protection groups that convenes annually to promote cooperative programs. These organizations have developed educational materials based on their chosen areas of interest; companion animals, wildlife etc. Each theme will reinforce the idea that those teaching children to respect and care for animals benefits everyone by creating a more humane society and aims not only to reinforce positive attitudes and behaviors towards animals, but also urges the discouragement of negative ones.
I find it is disturbing that there is a need for a program to teach basic emotions, such as kindness, feelings that should not only be inherent but learned naturally from birth through family and friends. How and why has our society advanced so quickly technologically, and yet failed to instill in our children such basic emotions as empathy, kindness, respect and awareness?
It is the aim of YHC to educate children how to take another being’s perspective, the first step of understanding empathy. Barbara Boat, Ph.D., Executive Director of The Childhood Trust in Cincinnati, feels that although the concept of empathy doesn’t develop until a child is about five years old, even very young children can benefit from positive examples, large and small. Children who witness animals being treated without compassion are more likely to harm them. I’m sure you have read the headlines... "Child Sets Kitten on Fire" or "Children Beat Dog to Death." I know I have wondered what could be going on in such a child’s mind. Boat notes that some children who abuse animals have themselves been abused. In many cities, when there are reports of animal abuse, not only does a humane agent investigate on behalf of the animal, but also social service follows up with a visit to screen the family. Taking animal cruelty seriously offers an opportunity to intervene in households with violent individuals.
The Doris Day Animal Foundation’s "Violence Connection" campaign is part of the Year of the Humane Child efforts to make the public, as well as judges and prosecutors, more aware of the incidence of animal abuse as a predictor of childhood violence towards people. Statistics have shown that violence perpetuated on animals is a symptom of violence that will escalate in time to violence against humans.
Just as many of our country’s most notorious serial killers were known to have abused animals early on, several of the boys involved in numerous school shootings in recent years also had histories of cruelty toward animals. Keep in mind that the way children treat animals is a reflection of how those children feel about themselves.
Most children are naturally concerned about animals and the environment. Animals can produce a healing effect and many times are used in sessions with abused children. Professionals who deal with children are witnessing how knowing animals positively affects young people’s lives.
In order to become whole, we need to realize that although our advancements with new technology are astonishing, we can not and must not overlook basic, human ethics, including awareness, compassion and respect.
Society for the Protection of Animals, Inc. urges you to contact your local prosecutors and insist that they become proactive in the prosecution of animal abuse cases within your city and county. Don’t be afraid to report all suspected animal abuse cases to authorities.