Dimensions of Humane Communities: Intersections of Global Health & Social Justice 2
With intensified animal agriculture’s alarming imprints in both the cause and effects of global pandemics, climate change, and animal suffering increasingly visible, we see more public discourse questioning the future of animal-based consumption and the need to transition to plant-based diets. As animal scholars have shown in Western societies, logical rationales and scientific studies must compete with deep-seated cultural and religious teachings and entrenched adult identities to persuade people to change their animal-centered diets. Even for those who successfully make a transition, dominant cultural norms and codes make a switch to plant-based diets difficult to sustain. In diet, as with so many areas, the law is a limited tool to effect social change where it goes against prevailing social norms. After outlining the above, this lecture argues that the challenges in achieving behavioural change in adults in such circumstances indicates the need for systemic childhood education before behaviors and ideologies become entrenched. I argue that education that combats the anthropocentric but also gendered and colonial cultural messaging human children receive should be a foundational pillar of any advocacy or policy agenda directed at transitioning to plant-based societies. I discuss how this cultural messaging can be delivered through a critical iteration of humane education or what I call “alterity education”. Disrupting the Othering/dominating messages children receive and internalize about animals, the earth’s “resources”, and human Others, and cultivating instead their empathy toward nonhuman beings and alternative subjectivities, is the essence of “alterity education”. Legal reform to support this type of interspecies education in schools, libraries, and early childhood education is required as part of a multi-pronged approach to create plant-based and more compassionate societies.
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