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What is Humane Education and Why Should We Care?

Young girl and her dog reading a book
Young girl and her dog reading a book

Simply put, humane education focuses on nurturing compassion and respect for animals and all living things, including the earth. It helps one understand the interconnectedness of the living world and to recognize how their beliefs, decisions and actions impact the lives of others, near and far.

The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society believes this type of education is very important for children. This is why we developed AnimalSmart, a free online humane education program. Learn more about this program at the end of the article!

Humane education treats children as changemakers and leaders. To prepare them for these roles humane education seeks to build capacity in three distinct areas: fostering empathy; developing critical thinking skills; and taking meaningful action.

Fostering Empathy

Empathy is all about understanding and caring about how another person or animal feels, from their point of view. Empathy can be considered as the bridge between our feelings and the feelings of others.

Cultivating Compassion

Humane education takes it a step further by encouraging children to consider not only the well-being of the people and animals close to them, and of their local environment, but also to extend that caring beyond their immediate circle of compassion to the health of all people and animals, and the Earth as a whole.

Developing Critical Thinking Skills

In a world facing complex issues related to social injustice, animal and environmental ethics, children must be provided with the skills to think critically and creatively about these matters. Humane education teaches children to consider the priorities of, and impacts to, all involved, to examine and question their assumptions and biases, and to research and expand their knowledge about the living beings with whom they share this world.

Taking Meaningful Action

As children take on positions of leadership and responsibility, we want them to approach challenges with a sense of connection to the world and feel prepared and empowered to take action that considers the priorities of all living things. Click here to watch our video about responsibility and how kids can take action in their day-to-day lives.


The Ontario SPCA has developed a free online humane education program called, AnimalSmart. This educational resource consists of a series of lesson plans, developed in partnership with educators, as well as videos and activities designed to foster empathy, promote a sense of responsibility, and inspire connection with animals and the environment. The program also promotes mutual respect among learners and encourages collaboration with their classmates and family, and participation in their local and global community.

Thank you for being a friend to animals, to each and to the earth. Through engaging in humane education, we can learn how to apply both the heart and mind to arrive at thoughtful and creative solutions to create a better world for all.

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