About the event
World Animal Day was first held in 1925 and coincides with the feast day of Saint Francis, the patron saint of ecology. For many hundred of years therefore this has been a day to revear animals. In modern times, this day is used to raise awareness about animal welfare, and to show that animals deserve liveable habitats and good treatment the same as we do. Events of many kinds are held all over the world such as shelter open days, educational events, fundraising events and animal-focused religious services.
How to approach it
This day is an opportunity to develop students' capacity to understand and empathise with the animal world. Too often animals are treated as instruments for the needs of humans or lesser beings that must make way for the ever expanding footprint of humanity. However, if we are to build sustainable societies, we must act and organise compassionately for all people and all animals. It’s important therefore to reinforce an understanding of animals as thinking, feeling beings in their own right - beings that have their own fears, desires, needs and rights. This understanding then reinforces the desire to make the world better for animals, both domesticated and wild, from ending factory farming and animal testing to supporting rich ecosystems and polinators.
To go about reinforcing the mindset above, start close to home. Ask students: What animals do you have a special relationship with? This could be a pet, birds and bugs outside or even animals seen at a distance, at a zoo or on the TV for example. Next, ask in what ways does the animal communicate with you? Does it ask for things? Show you when it is happy or sad? From this, begin a discussion about how we can clearly communicate with animals and that all animals have wants, needs and desires. Now, extend the discussion outwards to animals such as farm animals and wild animals. Ask: in what ways can we try to understand what all animals want? What do they do/look like when they are happy? If you were an animal what would you want? Finally, engage your students in a discussion about what the world would look like if we took all of these feelings, desires and fears into account. What would we stop doing and what would we do instead?
Animals can be categorised into 6 main types: amphibians, birds, fish, invertebrates, mammals, and reptiles. You may not see each of these types of animals every day but they are all important parts of the habitats we live in and the food chains we are part of. Can you find some examples of food chains in the ecosystem you live in? How are humans affecting the animals in your ecosystem?