How animal welfare clubs in India are changing children’s attitudes
‘Before attending SPANA’s education programme, I did not know about the important role animals play in our society,’ says Suman Das, 15, from Patrapur, Odisha. ‘But thanks to the education programme, my attitude towards animals has changed a lot.’
‘Oxen are my favourite animals. They work hard in the fields – during winter or summer, in heavy rain – and they help us produce food, so they are my favourite.’
SPANA’s education programmes try to break the cycle of people seeing animals as just economic tools to be exploited. We do so by teaching children about the importance of animals and how to care for them.
By educating the next generation of working animal owners, SPANA hopes that future generations of working animals won’t have to suffer from overwork, poor treatment or easily preventable conditions.
‘I now know that animals should not be overworked, and that they need a balanced diet, clean drinking water and treatment when they are ill. I learned that animals are sensitive and that they can feel pain, fear and stress.’
After the education programme, Suman was selected to be the school’s animal welfare ambassador. He undertook training as part of this role and now leads the animal welfare club at his school in Patrapur.
Together with the club’s members, he has been maintaining the drinking water pots for animals and birds, planting and looking after trees on the school campus, feeding stray animals, and looking out for signs of illness in animals in his village and nearby areas.
He also tries to spread his knowledge to other children and people in his community, explaining the five freedoms of animal welfare. ‘Animals provide many things for us. They help people and our society in many ways, so it is our ethical responsibility to look after them. They cannot speak or let anyone know their pain, so it is also my job to speak for them and educate other people about animal welfare.’
For his outstanding efforts, Suman was awarded the Best Animal Welfare Ambassador medal from Dr Stephen Albone, Director of Education Programmes at SPANA, and Veterinary Programme Advisor Dr Sophie Parratt.
Children like Suman and his friends are the future of their community. If we can reach more young people with their energy and enthusiasm, we can build a world where all working animals are treated with dignity and respect.