THE FATE OF CHILDREN IN AN INHUMANE SOCIETY
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
In the recently published article The Development of Speciesism: Age-Related Differences in the Moral View of Animals by British reaearchers Luke McGuire, Sally Palmer and and Nadira S. Faber in Social Psychological and Personality Science, April 11th 2022 (https://doi.org/10.1177/19485506221086182) the authors summarized their findings as follows: “Humans care for the well-being of some animals (e.g., dogs) yet tacitly endorse the maltreatment of others (e.g., pigs). What treatment is deemed morally appropriate for an animal can depend on whether the animal is characterized as “food.” When such categorization of animals emerges and when a moral hierarchy of beings depending on their species membership (speciesism) develops is poorly understood. We investigate this development across samples of children (9–11 years old), young adults (18–21 years old), and adults (29–59 years old; total N = 479). Compared with young adults and adults, children (a) show less speciesism, (b) are less likely to categorize farm animals as food than pets, © think farm animals ought to be treated better, and (d) deem eating meat and animal products to be less morally acceptable. These findings imply that there are key age-related differences in our moral view of an animal worth that point to socially constructed development over the lifespan.”
Evidently the missing link between the fully human and other animals has been discovered. It is the most carnivorous, invasive, cruel and murderous of all the primate species.. It is us. The chimeric, bipolar nature of this modern protohuman psyche, from rescuer to rapist, healer to harmer and artist to autocrat is a product of familial and cultural epigenetics, for better and for worse.
The best of human nature can be nurtured and inspired by humane education and example, striving to live in accord with the Golden Rule and the virtues extended to embrace respect for all life. Planting the seeds of compassion and empathy in childhood, facilitated by living with an animal companion like a loyal and loving dog, can do much to help us evolve into a more civilized species. Cruelty toward animals in childhood has been linked to sociopathic and psychopathic violence in adulthood.
Children need help in growing up in a culture of violence toward Nature and other species and learning how they can make a difference and not become desensitized and accepting of cultural “norms” of inhumanity, speciesism and racism. Several universities are now offering courses in humane education, with one – Antioch University in partnership with the Institute for Humane Education – offering online M.Ed., M.A., Ed.D., and Graduate Certificate programs specializing in humane education. The creator of these programs, Zoe Weil, is also author of the #1 Amazon Best Seller The World Becomes What We Teach. For details visit: https://www.antioch.edu/academics/education/humane-education-ma/.
To realize that we are all part of the cosmic miracle of life and consciousness puts the significance of our individual existence in the broader dimension of awakening our sense of kinship with all life necessary to transcend self-centeredness and anthropocentrism. Empathic sensitivity and ethical sensibility may then arise spontaneously, reducing the need for moral instruction and law enforcement.