Kids and Animals: Hunting, Zoos, Climate Change, and Hope
An Animal Rights Article from


Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., Psychology Today - Animal Emotions
October 2017

Youngsters have sophisticated, wide-ranging views on human-animal interactions. It's essential to teach the children well. Not only are they going to inherit the world we leave for them, but they also are ambassadors for the future and will be making decisions that affect their own lives, our lives, and those of future generations.

I've had, and continue to have, the great fortune and pleasure of interacting with youngsters of all ages, especially in classrooms and other gatherings in which we discuss their views on the lives of nonhuman animals (animals). It doesn't take much to get them to express their feelings about who smart and emotional other animals are, and if there's a rare dull moment, all I have to do is ask them to talk about the companion animals with whom they share their homes. Over the years I've heard wonderful stories about dogs, cats, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, birds, fishes, lizards and a whole host of other animals.

One thing I've noticed on a number of occasions is how conflicted some youngsters are about how we should interact with animals. On girl was told by her trophy hunting father that it was okay to kill individuals and hand their heads on the wall because it was good for the conservation of the species. She was really confused when her dad told her he really loved the animals he killed and when she asked me about this, I gently said that it's not at all clear that killing trophy animals helps other members of their species and that she should consider talking with her father about it (for more on this topic please see "How Come People Say They Love Animals and Kill Them?"). Another kid was told that when her father killed a deer it was a spiritual experience for him and that it connected him with nature. Once again I suggested that she talk with her father about this. Clearly, both of these youngsters were concerned about hunting and were having trouble reconciling what their fathers told them.

Along these lines, I also get messages that show that kids are rather confused about the different and very contradictory ways in which companions animals and other animals are treated. They wonder, for example, why we love dogs and cats and protect them from harm, but then allow activities such as hunting and fishing, invasive research, and raising animals for food in incredibly inhumane ways. And more and more youngsters have written to me about not wanting to partake in dissection and vivisection in biology classes and are very concerned about keeping animals in zoos, aquariums, and pet stores.

Even kids who are taught to harm other animals as part of school sponsored events, such as those that have been happening in New Zealand, seem to have a special place in their heart for their household companions.

Another wonderful class with kids filled with inspiration and hope

I recently had the pleasure of doing a kids event with 4th and 5th graders and their teachers Tiffany Boyd and Beth James at Louisville Elementary School (Colorado) during one of their Roots & Shoots meetings. Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed the discussions we had about the lives of other animals and many other topics.

We also talked about what they're thankful for and what they dream about. I've done this many times before and responses from youngsters around the world can be seen in this free online book called Kids and Animals (for discussion and some representative responses please see "World Animal Day: A Global Celebration For Hopeful Futures"). We were thrilled to publish this unique book, a project that could not have happened without the international cooperation, collaboration, and unbridled enthusiasm of young people, teachers, parents, and everyone who organizes and runs Jane Goodall’s global Roots & Shoots programs. This book truly reflects the spirit of Roots & Shoots, namely that every individual can make a positive difference in the world and that we all need to work together to foster respect, appreciation, empathy, and compassion for animals, people, and the environments we all share. It is perfect for classes, discussions, and activities focusing on humane education and conservation education.

The kids in the group also sent Jane Goodall a thank you note for all of her work on behalf of other animals. Many showed what they're thinking about in what they wrote, including Dr. Goodall's persistence, her grit, and what a great inspiration she is for countless other people.

Clearly, as has been the case in previous groups in which considered what kids are thank for and dream about, the responses are very wide-ranging. The well-being of humans and nonhumans are important to them. Their dreams center on being safe, taking care of homeless humans, caring for other animals, slowing down climate change and achieving a balanced climate, eliminating war, and working hard so that animals and plants can thrive. They were thankful for family, friends, pets, bikes so they can ride to school and get exercise and cut down on pollution, nature, open space, and clean water.

It's essential to teach the children well and to celebrate our magnificent world and how we can make the world a better place for all beings

I get a lot of hope and inspiration from the interactions I have with youngsters, and I encourage others to talk with them and learn about what they're thinking and feeling about the state of the planet and also to learn about what they're thankful for and dream about.

The final section of Kids and Animal called "Celebration" reminds us to notice the wonders of the living world, to play, and to appreciate our opportunities to make the world a better place for all beings, animals and humans alike. Clearly, people working to help animals and humans are not alone; there is a large international community aspiring to these goals. And every individual can make a positive difference by doing simple things. We can look to children and youth for ideas about how we can expand our compassion footprint.

It's essential to teach the children well. Not only are they going to inherit the world we leave for them, but they also are ambassadors for the future and will be making decisions that affect their own lives, our lives, and those of future generations.

It'll be a win-win for every being, nonhuman and human alike, to allow youngsters to express themselves openly and to use what they say to motivate us all to do all we can to save our fragile and tired planet and to be sure that future generations of humans and other animals will be able to thrive.

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