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Teaching Kindness: The Promise of Humane Education

In: Society & Animals
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Taylor, School of Sociology, Flinders University

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Arbour, Department of Behavioural & Social Sciences, Central Queensland University;, Email: t.signal@cqu.edu.au

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Signal, Department of Behavioural & Social Sciences, Central Queensland University

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Abstract

Although the popularity of Humane Education Programs (HEP) as a method of teaching compassion and caring for all living beings is increasing, there is a need for rigorous, methodologically sound research evaluating the efficacy of HEP. Recent calls for the inclusion of HEP within broader humanistic, environmental, and social justice frameworks underline the importance of HEP beyond a simple “treatment of animals” model. Lack of methodological rigor in the majority of published HEP studies (e.g., absence of a control group) and dispersal across disparate fields (with differing indices of efficacy), however, means that there is a potential for the popular use of HEP to outstrip our understanding of the variables that impact efficacy. The current study discusses some of these issues and presents a pilot study of a literature-only HEP intervention. Comparisons with an age-matched control group indicated that the four-week HEP resulted in an increase in measures of empathy and treatment of animals, although only the increase in empathy levels was significant. This paper discusses the implications of the current results and areas in need of future consideration.

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