The word ‘humane’ is used often to describe teaching that promotes animal welfare and compassion.
But in the UK, the term has been used to describe a range of methods of teaching.
In the UK alone, the Department for Education’s (DfE) Cruelty to Animals and Cruelty and Ethical Treatment of Animals Regulations states that:” ‘Humane education’ may include, but is not limited to, any of the following:• teaching that leads to the teaching of animal welfare principles that are based on the most recent scientific evidence of how animals behave;• teaching to teach that is based on principles derived from ethical and scientific research;• training to teach ethical standards that are derived from animal welfare science or veterinary ethics;• offering animals the opportunity to become self-confident, self-directed, selfless and responsible citizens;• introducing animal welfare teaching methods into the classroom;• promoting the teaching and learning of animal behaviour and welfare through animal education;• encouraging animals to adopt ethical and social behaviours and behaviour modification methods;• educating animals to become responsible citizens through animal welfare training;• providing animals with a safe and humane environment through animal behaviour education; and• providing training and support for animal welfare professionals.”
This guidance is about the way in which ‘humane educational methods’ can be used and, in particular, whether there are any legal or ethical differences between the use of ‘humane methods’ and the use that may be used for training.
“However, when it comes to ‘humane’, the DfE’s definition of the term differs from those in other parts of the world.
The DfEs definition defines ‘humane treatment’ as:”the intentional or systematic application of an appropriate form of cruelty, or the deliberate deprivation of a person of liberty, or of property, or both, to achieve a specific goal.
This definition does not, however, include ‘humane teaching’ and includes the following methods of animal training:• the teaching, provision or use of a method of training, education or training in which the animal is subjected to severe pain, suffering, deprivation of food, water, shelter, exercise, clothing, medical treatment, veterinary care, veterinary supervision, or other means of physical or mental abuse or exploitation.
“It is worth pointing out that the DFEs definition does include some of the practices that are illegal in other countries, including “cruelty to animals” and “cruelties to humans”, and that the government’s own guidance in the field of animal education states:”Cruelty against animals is defined as cruel acts that result in serious harm to an animal.
“The DfEd guidelines are not limited by the specific definition of ‘human’ that is used in the US.
In the US, ‘humane educators’ are defined as those who are “not trained or certified in animal welfare, but are trained and certified in the use and effectiveness of humane education techniques”.
These include the following, according to the guidelines:• “Teaching humane education” (a term used to refer to methods of learning based on ethical principles, ethical research, veterinary ethics, or animal welfare research);• “Training humane educators in the humane education of animals;”• “Enrolling humane educators for courses of study and teaching courses on animal welfare”;• “Encouraging humane educators to engage in humane education”.
As you can see, there are a range to which the DFI’s definition covers.
The DFI has previously stated that the guidance is based entirely on the findings of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (DEFRA) own review into the practice of ‘cruel training’ and that it is based “on the evidence available to us”.
However, the guidance states that the “evidence we have received has not always supported our definition of humane educators.”
It states:The guidance also states that, because the DFS Act 2006 allows “humane education” to be “referred to as ‘humane training'”, this definition does “not apply in the case of animals who are not trained or have not been certified in this area”.
This is a further attempt to justify the term “humane” in the DFA’s guidelines by claiming that it does not have to be used to cover the use or lack of “humane teaching” in animal education.
This claim is false.
The UK is the only country that has a statutory definition of what constitutes ‘humane behaviour’.
The definition is not restricted by the UK’s Cruelty Act 2006, and it is widely recognised that teaching to “educate” animals to behave or behave in ways that are “humane”, such as “humane animal welfare” or “humane training” is an acceptable way of teaching animals to act in ways they are not capable of performing.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS) guidance, for example, says that teaching “humane behaviours” is