The Trojan horse of animal protectionism:  The battle over curriculum

By: Staff  Date: 05/9/1996 Category: | Animal Legislation | Animals in Education & Entertainment |

Our future will be determined by the children

Virtually every medical advance has used animals in some stage of research or testing. Thus, whether medical progress continues at the same pace in the next century depends upon an informed public supporting the continued use of animals in responsible research and testing. Let us hope that the children of today make their decisions tomorrow using a moral value system that distinguishes between humans and animals and between animal welfare and animal rights.




Some groups have taken a direct approach and clearly label their curriculum as animal rights. They mislead students about issues of animal abuse. Adrian Morrison, the director of animal issues for the National Institutes of Mental Health, summed up their approach best when he said: “Everyone has the right to believe a rat is due the same moral consideration as a child. What is wrong, though, is the promotion of beliefs among the untutored by dishonest presentations of the ways animals are used by humans. Such tactics have, in fact, been used to discredit biomedical research using animals – tactics that were a necessary prelude to the current campaign against biology education: Convince people that animals are badly used in one sphere and reap carry-over benefits from this ‘softening up’ process when you focus on another arena.”1



Other animal rights groups have elected a devious approach – a secret battle. They disguise their goals and methods by disavowing the methods of the militant animal rights movement. Instead of ‘animal rights,’ they call their curriculum ‘humane and environmental education.’ They avoid the term ‘animal rights’ but teach the same value system. Most educators are unaware of this deception. Teachers welcome humane education as a means to prevent violent behavior in some students and environmental curriculum as a means to develop a sensitivity to the environment. More than 20,000 teachers nationwide have bought into this program.

Have their school efforts been successful? Several different student polls have shown steady gains for the acceptance of the animal rights philosophy. The most alarming of these was a 1993 national Gallop poll which demonstrated that 60 percent of American teenagers “support animal rights,” including bans on all laboratory and medical tests that use animals. How have they been able to produce such a striking change in attitude?



The Humane Society of the US with its 1.5 million members calls itself the nation’s largest animal protection organization. Few people know that the HSUS animal protection philosophy is not animal welfare but an animal rights philosophy that says it is morally wrong for humans to use or kill animals and that they have been guided by that philosophy since 1980.2

Furthermore, HSUS has set as its goal the abolition of animals in laboratory research and education.3,4,5 In recent years, HSUS elected to call themselves ‘animal protectionists’ to disassociate their group from the bad press that the Animal Liberation Front and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have brought to the animal rights movement. HSUS shares the same animal rights philosophy and goal of abolishing the use of animals in laboratory research as militant animal rights groups, but they differ in tactics and timetable for reaching that goal. Their tactic is to slowly but progressively wean society away from using animals.

In order to avoid the extremist label HSUS has deliberately sought to project a ‘moderate’ image and hide the animal rights message under animal protectionism and the guise of humane and environmental education. Many of the HSUS projects are laudable and could be described as animal welfare. They work very hard to keep that image. Corporate donations and the respect of the education community are dependant on that image. However, their hidden agenda is to get people to give animals the same respect they give humans. What better method to accomplish a change in societal values than by incorporating it into a nationwide elementary school curriculum on humane and environmental education?



Is HSUS a Trojan Horse being covertly carried into the citadel of elementary education?6

HSUS has endeavored to establish itself as The Authority in humane and environmental education. Indeed, the organization has won several awards for KIND News; has had the Adopt-a-Teacher program placed in the 1992 Environmental Success Index; and had a field representatives appointed to the prestigious National Environmental Education Advisory Council of the Environmental Protection Agency.

To help establish this reputation, HSUS created the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education, a separate youth education division. NAHEE had a 1992 budget of $940,000 and 14 full-time staff , an increase of 31 percent over the 1991 budget. The goals for NAHEE were articulated in the 1992 HSUS annual report: “ ... NAHEE strives to ensure that humane attitudes become a viable part of mainstream education and environmental perspectives. ... NAHEE continues to monitor and evaluate new children’s books, children’s magazines, and newspapers as well as all major elementary and secondary teaching magazines and newspapers to encourage the promotion of humane values in publications other than our own.”7

Indeed, NAHEE has been successful in influencing other publications as evidenced by a series of three grossly misleading articles biased against using animals in medical research which appeared in the nine-million circulation Weekly Reader and its companion for middle schools Current Science.6 NAHEE’s influence even extends beyond the USA as they have sent their educational materials to 13 foreign countries.

It is clear that HSUS has been acknowledged as The Authority and is being warmly welcomed through the educational gates of Troy by unsuspecting teachers and administrators who thought they weregetting ‘humane and environmental education’ but ended up with those elements mixed with a subtle animal rights message that says it is wrong for humans to kill, capture, or use animals for any reason. It is a message that elevates respect for animals to the same plane as respect for humans. This is a brilliant tactic as respect and consideration for animals is a hallmark of animal welfare. HSUS has reduced the difference between animal rights and animal welfare to the degree of respect and consideration given animals, thus blurring the difference between the two.


KIND News, KIND Teacher

NAHEE’s primary effort is directed at publishing and distributing a classroom newspaper covering laudable humane and environmental themes laced with a heavy dose of respect for animals, endangered species, and an emphasis on not harming animals.

Kids In Nature’s Defense (KIND News) is published at three reading levels for children in grades one through six and is read by more than 600,000 children in 20,000 classrooms nationwide. KIND News does not cover controversial animal rights issues. However, the accompanying teachers’ guide (KIND Teacher) brings up animal rights issues without identifying them as such. KIND Teacher indoctrinates children by having the teacher lead discussions on the use of animals in dissection, the use of wild animals in laboratory research, the use of animals in product safety testing, the keeping of wild animals in zoos and circuses, the capture and sale of wild birds, hunting, trapping, and rodeos.8 KIND Teacher also promotes the students to form KIND Clubs and engage in club projects. The nature of the project and the agenda is determined by the club and club president. Given the HSUS emotional and strongly–held position on these issues, can we expect a balanced presentation?


HSUS Student Action Guide

The HSUS Student Action Guide, NAHEE’s newspaper for middle and secondary students, is more direct as it openly seeks to promote activism by forming Earth-Animal Protection Clubs. These clubs target a number of animal rights issues, including laboratory animal research, product safety testing, dissection, animals in science fairs, zoos, animals in entertainment, hunting, trapping, and dolphin-safe tuna. The students are referred to HSUS to obtain specific misleading materials on these issues as well as animal research and so-called alternatives to animal research.


California’s environmental education

Given this background, I was concerned when I learned through the 1992 HSUS annual report that “Materials published by NAHEE such as ‘Sharing Sam’ and lessons from KIND Teacher had been incorporated into A Child’s Place in the Environment, California’s new environmental education curriculum guide. The guide promises to have a substantial impact since one out of nine children in the US attends schools in California. In addition, the guide will inevitably serve as a model nationwide.”


NAHEE and animal rights in California’s school curriculum

In 1993, I obtained a late stage draft of the first grade edition of the guide Respecting Living Things from the California Board of Education. Fortunately, the guide had not been finalized and was still in draft form. I was surprised to find that three out of the nine guide reviewers were affiliated with NAHEE and one NAHEE field representative was on the guide committee.

The guide had a pronounced animal rights bias as half the recommended resources at the end of several units were animal rights books such as The Animal Rights Handbook: 67 Ways to Save the Animals by Anna Sequoia and Animal Rights International, The Animals’ Agenda, and Going Green, A Kid’s Handbook to Saving the Planet. These resources contained grossly misleading and dishonest presentations of how animals are used by humans and in some cases gory pictures of animals that are totally inappropriate for first graders. Furthermore, more than half the resources listed as “organizations concerned with humane treatment of animals” turned out to be animal rights organizations such as HSUS, NAHEE, the Fund for Animals, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and the Animal Protection Institute of America. The guide also suggested additional names of humane organizations listed in the book 67 Ways to Save the Animals. There were 77 organizations listed in the book and all 77 were identified by the author as ‘animal rights organizations.’


Respect = sacred reverence for animals

A common theme that ran through the unit on Respecting Living Things was that animals were anthropomorphized and respected to the point that they were elevated to the same plane as humans. Animals were held in such reverence that they were equal to humans. Another theme that was repeated many times was that out of respect for animals, they should not be captured and taken into the classroom for study. The theme “Look, Learn, and Leave Alone” was inviolate. It was even stressed in the teacher preparation section not to capture animals (including insects) for classroom study.

The source of these themes is hard to determine. Were they placed there by the guide’s author? How much influence did NAHEE have on the author or this curriculum? It is interesting to note that Are You A Good Kind Lion, the one poem that NAHEE contributed, contained a line that is the heart of the animal rights message: “Don’t hurt the animals for any reason.” Would that message tell first graders that it is morally wrong to eat animals?



Working with the California Biomedical Research Association, we took our concerns to the California State Board of Education. We were successful in deleting all the animal rights organizations and books as resources prior to the guide’s publication in 1994. We were also successful in deleting the NAHEE poem “Are You A Good Kind Lion.” Furthermore, the prohibition against capturing animals for classroom examination was replaced with a discussion on the proper methods of capturing and caring for animals.

Although our partial success was heartening, this episode graphically illustrates how close animal rights activists came to having their philosophy accepted as part of the nation’s largest and most influential humane and environmental education curricula. The educational community needs to be alerted to the hidden agenda of “animal protection” organizations. Local humane societies, APHE, and animal rights in schools.

Another source of concern is the local humane societies that have been hijacked and taken over by animal rights activists. They have also developed educational curricula with animal rights propaganda and have been taking it into the schools for many years.

The Association of Professional Humane Educators (formerly known as the Western Humane and Environmental Educators’ Association), a group that is often affiliated with HSUS and NAHEE, is comprised of education officials from at least 21 western humane societies and SPCAs, most of them located in California.

APHE provides a framework for these educators to network and share classroom material on animal rights along with humane and environmental themes. For example, on March 15-16, 1994, APHE (then known as WHEEA) held its annual meeting in San Diego, California. The keynote speaker was Kim Sturla of the Fund for Animals, a national animal rights organization. Two HSUS representatives were in attendance to promote KIND News and Adopt-a-Teacher programs.

The Packrat, the APHE Newsletter, is a bulletin board for animal rights educational material from a large number of animal rights groups such as the American Anti-Vivisection Society, Animals’ Agenda, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Rights Information Service, Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, Fund for Animals, HSUS, Last Chance for Animals, NAHEE, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PeTA Teachers Network, Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the United Coalition of Iditarod Animal Rights Volunteers.

Most humane societies have one or more education officers who go to schools and teach children about proper pet care, humane treatment of animals, endangered species, and environmentalism. Because most teachers perceive the local humane society to be an animal welfare organization, they are welcomed by the schools. APHE members take advantage of this relationship to introduce an animal rights message along with their regular presentations. For example, the Peninsula Humane Society of San Mateo, California, publishes an informative unit on endangered species. However, at the end of the unit, they urge students to read animal rights books, join animal rights organizations, write politicians about animal rights issues, sign petitions about animal rights issues, boycott specific companies that do product safety testing on animals, and boycott products made from animal skins, fur, or other parts. They also provide grossly misleading information on animal research.



Animal rights and New Age religion

If the Catholic Church had set out to indoctrinate public school children with a new moral system imbedded in a humane and environmental curriculum, there would have been a huge outcry and controversy. A religious cult is indoctrinating public school children, but there is little outcry or controversy because the religious overtones and the value system have been masked. The religion is called New Age; the value system is animal rights.

Thomas Berry, an ‘ecotheologian’ and the ‘spiritual guide’ for the HSUS Center for Respect of Life and the Environment, was one of several of the speakers at the HSUS 1992 annual meeting who focused on New Age themes of total reverence and respect for animals and the environment because the spirit of God was in the whole universe equally.

Although totally open about the spiritual and religious aspects of their movement in the annual meeting, HSUS is careful not to present its KIND News as part of a religious movement. In his book What Are They Trying to Do to Us? The Truth about the Animal Rights Movement and the New Age, Bernard Palmer illustrated that the animal rights movement takes on the fundamental tenets of the New Age religion. Furthermore, Rod and Patti Strand make a similar observation about the religious nature of animal rights in their book The Hijacking of the Humane Movement. Both books make the case that the energy that propels the movement is the faithful volunteers spreading the gospel of respect and sacred reverence for animals.


What can you do? Get involved!

  • Give a copy of this article to your friends.
  • See if your school subscribes to KIND News and check your school’s curriculum on humane and environmental education.
  • Find out if local humane societies are invited to give presentations and if these presentations contain animal rights propaganda.
  • Ask to see the material and teachers guides.
  • Alert your child’s teachers, administrators, and school board about animal rights messages hidden in humane and environmental curriculum.
  • Volunteer at your local school.
  • If animals rights is discussed, make sure that a balanced discussion of the issue is presented.
  • Check the school library for books presenting both viewpoints.
  • Encourage your professional society, institution, or employer to support education programs that present the use of animals by society in a balanced manner. (The Massachusetts Society for Medical Research has produced such a program entitled People and Animals: United for Health Teaching Curriculum. Contact MSMR at www.msmr.org, msmr@att.net, or (978) 251-1556 (phone) or (978) 251-7683 (fax).

About The Author

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All Authors Of This Article: | Patrick H. Cleveland, PhD |
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