"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
Animals are part of the natural world, yet throughout history, people have often treated animals more like things than feeling beings. Thanks in part to naturalists such as Dr Jane Goodall, we now recognise that animals are far more complex than we once realised and that they are capable of experiencing anxiety, suffering and joy.
For today's young people, developing empathy for animals can be a key step towards developing empathy for – and rejecting violence against – all beings, including humans. It is important, therefore, that students learn that the animals with whom we share this planet are, in many ways, not so different from us.
After extensive research, educational consultants and teachers have determined that the optimal time to introduce humane education to students is when they are between 8 and 12 years old. Children at these ages are old enough to understand why cruelty is morally wrong.
Compassionate Citizen is People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India's version of PETA US' internationally recognised humane-education programme, Share the World, which is designed to help students better understand and appreciate animals. Compassionate Citizen is appropriate for young students and can be used in language arts, science, social studies and humane-education curricula.
Compassionate Citizen is provided to schools and teachers free of charge and has already been used by 1.4 million children in more 7,000 private and government schools throughout India, including the Doon School in Dehradun; the Delhi Public School, Springdales School, Mother's International School and Sanskriti School in New Delhi; and Jamnabai Narsee, Lilavatibai Podar and Ryan Global schools in Mumbai. The programme is also used and promoted by many of our partner non-governmental organisations. Compassionate Citizen is currently available in English and Hindi but can be made available in other languages should there be a great enough need.
In the activities that form the core of the programme, students use their reasoning and writing skills to examine the meaningful and complex lives of animals, explore how our relationship with them has changed over time, discover alternatives to their use and learn how to respond when animals are in trouble. After completing the programme, students will have gained a richer understanding of animals and developed a sense of how to treat them as fellow beings who deserve compassion and respect.
The programme consists of a 28-minute video featuring suggested topics of discussion, video footage of animals, cartoons and a text pack. The pack includes a guide for teachers as well as reproducible worksheets. Although designed to be included in the monthly curriculum, the programme can also be used for a shorter period of time, including a one-day workshop. Please click here to order a Compassionate Citizen pack.
Teachers are encouraged to send feedback to PETA by writing to Info@petaindia.org in order to help us gauge the success of the programme.
"There is no better approach to teaching children the value of human life than instilling in them an appreciation for all life. If you can teach a child to respect and protect the smallest and most maligned among us – as PETA's humane-education programme does – you create a better citizen." — Anupam Kher
"Compassion is what I learned from my mother and, for me, all children should imbibe this virtue of caring and feeling for all living souls. Compassionate Citizen, I feel, is the perfect programme to help children develop respect for animals." — Jackie Shroff
"Including Compassionate Citizen in school curricula will go a long way in building a new generation of socially aware children who have a better understanding [of] and respect for animals and the environment they live in." — Lara Dutta
"My children have always been surrounded by rescued animals at home and that has inculcated love, compassion and respect in them. An educational programme like Compassionate Citizen will help develop empathy and appreciation for animals, the environment they live in and people." — Raveena Tandon Thadani