Frightening RSPCA statistics have revealed that more than a fifth of school children aged 10 to 18 in Yorkshire and the Humber* have witnessed animal cruelty and neglect on social media. Sobering figures from Beautiful Insights for the RSPCA showing the breakdown of animal cruelty incidents on social media, reveal that South Yorkshire is second only to West Yorkshire with 85 incidents compared to 123 incidents.
Young children are being exposed to horrific incidents of animal suffering online in ways previous generations have simply not experienced. The animal welfare charity reports that it sees nearly 5000 incidents of cruelty and neglect on social media reported to it each year, more than 500 of which are in Yorkshire and the Humber.
In response, the RSPCA is launching Generation Kind - its biggest ever education and prevention programme aimed at children - and has launched a petition calling for animal welfare to be taught in all schools.
A new poll by the charity revealed 82 percent of people in Yorkshire and the Humber** say that animal welfare should be taught in schools.
Chief executive, Chris Sherwood, said: “The number of children seeing animal abuse online is shocking - the current generation of children are witnessing horrifying animal cruelty and neglect through channels which simply didn’t exist for previous generations.
“The risk for children growing up in the 21st century is that frequent and casual exposure to animal abuse will desensitise them and may even make it seem acceptable. Animals need us now more than ever and we want to grow a new generation of young people who care, who are informed and who want to do their best for animals.
“This is why we are launching Generation Kind - an ambitious education programme targeting school children, children in care, young offenders or those at risk of offending and other disadvantaged young people. Central to this is a new campaign to get animal welfare taught in all schools.”
Teaching animal welfare would ensure children develop key life skills, including compassion and empathy, as well as respect for animals and a basic understanding of how to care for them.
The RSPCA also believes animal welfare could make a significant contribution to young people’s spiritual, moral, social and cultural development, which all schools must promote.
Generation Kind comprises nine projects:
Paws4Change: This pairs up disadvantaged young people and traumatised dogs for a training course which educates young people about animal welfare, encourages empathy for animals and humans and teaches key skills. In return, it helps dogs recover from trauma through their care, attention and training.
Wild Things: Aimed at school children in deprived areas, young people who have been excluded from school, those out of employment or training, or from troubled families, Wild Things gives them an opportunity to engage with and understand animals and develop compassion and empathy for them.
Animal Care apprenticeships: This aims to capitalise on the enthusiasm for animals shown by many disadvantaged children who take part in our projects by offering them a chance to pursue this passion through an apprenticeship with us.
Compassionate Class: This is an education project aimed at 7-11 year olds, featuring online videos and interactive content, to inspire compassion for animals through learning about their needs.
Looked After Children: Our animal action days are aimed at children in care, to help them develop positive relationships with animals. The project teaches compassion and empathy.
Great Debates: This project encourages 11-14 year olds to actively engage in animal welfare and think critically about issues concerning animals.
Teacher training: We run sessions for trainee teachers to help them shape young minds, so young people leave school knowing about the importance of kindness to animals and revolutionise attitudes and behaviour to protect the lives of countless animals in the future.
Breaking the chain: We train members of Youth Offending Teams to help them rehabilitate young people who have harmed animals. The projects teaches about the consequences of cruelty and promotes greater empathy for animals.
Volunteer Speakers: Our volunteer and inspectorate speakers go into schools, youth groups and clubs to teach children about the five welfare needs of animals and promote a better understanding of animals. We want to expand this to 150 speakers across the country.
Through the expansion of these projects, the RSPCA hopes to reach two million children by 2030.
Chris continued: “This is the most important campaign we have ever undertaken. We are fighting animal abuse and neglect every day but we can only do so much. If we can foster empathy and responsibility towards animals in the consumers, politicians and decision makers of tomorrow, we can create a society which is truly kinder to animals.”
Polling carried out by Beautiful Insights for the charity revealed 20.9 percent of 10-18 year olds in Yorkshire and the Humber (compared to 23 percent nationally) had seen animal cruelty on social media sites.
To find out more about Generation Kind visit www.rspca.org.uk/generationkind and to sign our petition to get animal welfare taught in school visit www.rspca.org.uk/educationpetition website.