For the first time ever, millions of Chinese high school students will have the opportunity to learn about animal welfare as part of a new biology curriculum unveiled by China’s Ministry of Education this month.
The optional module, to be taught beginning September 2018, aims to cultivate students’ respect for life by teaching them about the ethical treatment of animals, animal welfare legislation and the welfare of companion animals such as cats and dogs as well as wild animals, farm animals, and captive animals.
In its guidance, the Ministry of Education recommended that teachers educate students on the harm done to animals who are kept and killed for human consumption in an abusive, cruel way. It also advised teachers to combine academic learning with field visits to stray animal rescue centers or farms with the objective of conveying the necessity of animal welfare legislation in China.
Responding to the news, Animals Asia’s Welfare Director Dave Neale said, “China has taken a hugely significant step, one we hope will inspire other countries. I am not aware of any other national curriculum that has developed a module on animal welfare specifically.
“We believe this points to a growing commitment by the Chinese authorities to reduce the suffering of animals by raising awareness, through education, of the value and importance of animals’ well-being. We look forward to supporting this pioneering initiative in any way we can.”
Although China does not have animal welfare legislation in place, the animal welfare movement has begun to blossom in the vast country, helped in part by the growing popularity of companion animals among the middle class. In 2015 alone, up to 100 million animals – mainly cats and dogs – were registered as companion animals in China.
Thirty years ago, there was only one animal welfare charity in China. Today there are more than 200 organizations with a presence in almost every province of the country. Over 100 of these charities are funded and advised by global animal welfare charity Animals Asia.
In a nation deeply rooted in tradition, creating change must start with educating the youth, the future leaders, and showing them that there is a better way.