Gujarat to roll out animal care lessons in schools: Who'll teach state governments that kill dogs?

There’s supposedly an epidemic of stray dog bites in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. And they seem to be reproducing like guinea pigs. Therefore, the humane and intelligent governments of the two states, instead of cleaning up the piles of garbage left out in the open that is attracting these dogs, and sterilising them so that they don’t keep reproducing, are shooting them dead or poisoning them with potassium cyanide. These wonderfully non-violent and practical ways of dealing with stray dog bites, are being undertaken under the aegis of the Chief Minister of Kerala and resident votebank lover, Oomen Chandy.

Just so we know how deep the rot lies, on 1 September, it was reported that “carcasses of three dogs, with their necks slit” were found hanging on an electric post near Ukkas Motta in East Kathiroor – yet again, in Kerala. 1 September was the first death anniversary of RSS leader Kathiroor Manoj, and the dogs were hanged at the spot where he had died. The RSS accused the CPM of being behind the incident. It’s like a down south version of Lord Of The Flies. Whoever was behind it, the stray dogs were collateral damage.

 Gujarat to roll out animal care lessons in schools: Wholl teach state governments that kill dogs?

Representational image. AFP

But cruelty to animals and the perception that they’re easily disposable is not a South Of The Vindhyas prerogative. It’s a national phenomenon. I’ve written before about how people in the gated colony I live in don’t think twice about shooting off mails to each other about how they would be more than happy to go out and shoot the colony strays with their pistols. Every day, we read posts about pedigreed dogs who’ve been abandoned unceremoniously by their owners. There are fight clubs in Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Haryana.

However all hope may not be lost. Last week, it was reported that the Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training has instructed all government schools to use People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India's 'Compassionate Citizen' education programme. Compassionate Citizen is a course for students between 8 to 12 years of age, which will teach them compassion to animals.
For once, something to be lauded.

But how does one teach compassion? According to PETA’s CEO, Poorva Joshipura, “The Compassionate Citizen kit consists of a teacher's guide, reproducible activity sheets, a reading unit with true animal stories and a 28-minute video”. Asked if students would be graded on the course, Joshipura said, “PETA has left it entirely up to the school systems to decide how they wish to use the program”. Which means it could well go to the dogs.

According to the Compassionate Citizens website although the programme is designed to be included in the monthly curriculum, it can also be used for a shorter period of time, including a one-day workshop.

Also before Gujaratis start cartwheeling at the news that, as usual, their state will show the rest of India the way, it’s worth noting the programme has already been used by “1.4 million children in more 7,000 private and government schools throughout India, including the Doon School in Dehradun; the Delhi Public School, Springdales School, Mother's International School and Sanskriti School in New Delhi; and Jamnabai Narsee, Lilavatibai Podar and Ryan Global schools in Mumbai”. So if government schools are also following suit, good for them. And good for the Animal Welfare Board Of India and the Central Board Of Secondary Education who decided to endorse the programme. It’s still not clear how the programme will be implemented or monitored, because just handing out the course kit to schools is hardly a guarantee that it will be taught effectively. Also, shouldn’t there be a programme where teachers are taught compassion to animals before they teach students to do so? But at least it’s a step in the right direction.

While teaching compassion to students is very welcome, what do you expect children to learn if they see the political administration of their state endorsing and helming behaviour which is totally antithetical to what they’re being taught in school. Imagine, you’re sitting in a government school in Kerala writing an essay on My Dog Is My Best Friend. Then you step out and see a man running after the stray dogs in your colony shooting them dead. Why? Because they’re dogs and could bite someone in the near future. Or you walk round the corner from your school and see a pile of bodies of poisoned dogs just lying there. Your non-graded Compassionate Citizens class might not have enough activity sheets to counter that kind of visible in-your-face state-sanctioned cruelty in action. It’s not that different from telling students that they’ll be punished if they lie, and then seeing ministers fudging their college degrees – and usually not getting detention or even looking repentant for doing so. There’s far greater chance of children emulating what they see in the real world, than what they read in a classroom.

It is indeed great to teach our future generations not to repeat our mistakes, but maybe PETA and the NCERT should ensure that our government representatives also undergo sensitisation classes. After all, a circular introducing the programme in schools was sent out in Kerala way back in July. Someone forward it and the free Compassionate Citizen kit to Chandy, will you.

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Updated Date: Sep 07, 2015 15:57:53 IST