RSPCA Cymru has launched its “most important campaign in a generation”, which aims to transform modern-day society’s treatment of animals for generations to come.
Generation Kind is the RSPCA’s ambitious new programme, teaching children empathy and respect for animals, with the aim of preventing cruelty and neglect in the future.
The scheme’s launch comes amid the changing way children are being exposed to images of animal abuse through social media. RSPCA Cymru has revealed that more than 300 instances* of animal cruelty and neglect on social media in Wales are reported to it each year.
Instances looks set to rise this year, as 229 reports from sites including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have already been received in the first six months.
The RSPCA has brought together a series of initiatives – including those in the classroom, support for teachers, programmes to support vulnerable looked-after and disadvantaged young people, and those targeted at youth offenders, with the ambition of creating a generation of individuals who are kind, compassionate and caring towards animals.
Via these programmes, the RSPCA hopes to reach two million children across Wales and England by 2030 and has now launched a petition calling for animal welfare to be taught in schools.
Rebecca Dunning, RSPCA education, training and development adviser, said: “The launch of Generation Kind is our most important campaign in a generation. We aim to roll-out a number of initiatives which could have a seismic impact in the way children and young people engage with animals, and feel empathy.
“The step change that could have in creating a compassionate, caring Wales will be hugely significant for society.
“We know we need to reach the next generation in a number of ways. Already, in Wales, we have had huge success with our Great Debate programme – heading into its fifth year. These events give schools the chance to debate animal welfare, while learning key lessons in citizenship at the heart of democracy here in Wales – the National Assembly.
“RSPCA Cymru also aims to increase take-up of ‘Compassionate Class’ in Wales – hopefully 30 percent of Wales’ primary schools by 2022; and to ensure more teachers in Wales’ schools are accessing our resources to bring animal welfare to life within the classroom. We’re also renewing our calls to see animal welfare taught in schools.
“Much of our work is targeted too – and schemes like ‘Paws 4 Change’ and ‘Wild Things’ target disadvantaged children, or those from deprived areas, to boost the esteem of young people, and offer unique opportunities to engage directly with animals.
“This all comes amid a worrying backdrop in Wales of rising RSPCA prosecutions – which are always a last resort for us. Instead, we always want to educate and work with people to nurture greater understanding and appreciation of animals, and their welfare. These ambitious projects aim to deliver a new generation that is kind and understanding to animals, and everyone.”
‘The Great Debate’
Central to the scheme is the hosting of ‘Great Debate’ events across England and Wales. Launched in Wales in 2015, the events bring together schools to discuss and debate the topic of: ‘who is responsible for animal welfare?’.
Schools from across Wales have debated the number of agencies involved in animal welfare in Wales, at the National Assembly for Wales’ old debating chamber – an historic venue in Wales’ democracy. The event has subsequently been launched in England, giving schoolchildren the chance to debate amid the iconic surroundings of Westminster.
Great Debate events not only increase children’s knowledge of how society approaches animal welfare, but also given them access to political institutions central in setting animal welfare policy in England and Wales, helping them to become well-rounded citizens, with an understanding of how they can affect change on a national level.
Compassionate class is an education project for children aged 7 to 11. The scheme has been run as a pilot in Manchester, and plans are now afoot from the RSPCA to ensure the project is running in 30 percent of Wales’ primary schools by 2022.
Using web resources within the classroom setting, children learn about the welfare needs of animals, look at situations from the perspective of animals, and reflect on their knowledge in a competition-setting, to become the RSPCA’s ‘Most Compassionate Class of the Year’.
The RSPCA provides teachers with resources, enabling them to teach animal welfare within the primary school setting. The RSPCA’s ‘Initial Teacher Training’ project works with trainee teachers throughout England and Wales, running sessions to help them shape the young minds of their pupils.
RSPCA’s ITT project already reaches more than 3,000 student teachers across England and Wales, with the potential to influence more than 90,000 children. The RSPCA now wants to encourage more teachers to access these resources – so more children can learn vital lessons about animals, the RSPCA, and compassion.
Support for young people who have faced challenges
RSPCA schemes are also aimed specifically at supporting young people who have faced challenges. ‘Paws 4 Change’ brings together young people and animals to overcome the difficulties they’ve both faced. People who have had to overcome challenges in their lives are matched with dogs who have had a traumatic start in life. The young people, many of whom suffer from low self-esteem or problems with impulse control, are tasked with training and looking after rescue dogs.
‘Paws 4 Change’ has previously been run in four RSPCA animal centres – and the charity hopes a new fundraising drive will ensure the scheme is available in all centres, including, in Wales – at Newport and Upper Colwyn Bay.
Meanwhile, the RSPCA’s ‘Wild Things’ could also soon expand into Wales. The initiative supports primary school children, young people aged 11 to 25 and families from deprived areas.
The project at RSPCA Mallydams Wood in Hastings, East Sussex, has so far reached 20,000 children, young people and parents, as well as influential people like teachers and social workers. Participants are challenged to think about their relationship with wildlife and animals in the habitats around them, for example, making hedgehog homes and litter-picking to protect wildlife. The RSPCA now aims to roll this project out into Wales, after four successful years in East Sussex.
To sign the petition calling for animal welfare to be taught in schools, visit the RSPCA’s website, while more information about Generation Kind is also available online.
* denotes – incidents viewed on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube which were reported to the RSPCA