We must be fair and just at all times, even to animals. Because animals do not have the power of speech and cannot complain when they are mistreated, we must treat them with even more consideration than people.
Prayers/readings for study
“Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.” ’Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks
- The Lion and the Mouse. Aesop’s fable. “Even the weak and small may be of help to those much mightier than themselves.”
- God’s Creatures. From Ruhi Book 3.
- Have the children act out the story of the Lion and the Mouse. Since the story involves only two characters, the children can take turns. Have two children begin the story, then at an appropriate point, stop the action by clapping or saying “Freeze!”, and have two new children take their place, assuming their exact poses. Continue in this way until all the children have had a chance to play a role.
- Divide the children into teams of two. Have each team improvise one of the following scenarios involving an animal and a human, making sure to portray kindness and gentleness:
- A stray dog or cat approaches while the human is eating.
- A mouse is caught in the human’s house, and becomes scared.
- A farmer wants to shear one of his sheep, but the sheep wants to eat.
- A dog sees a human walking near its home, and begins barking loudly.
- The human comes across a bird that has an injured wing and is unable to fly.
- A honey bee becomes lost in the human’s house while he or she is busy studying.
One child plays the role of the animal, and the other, the role of the human. When they are done, have them reverse the roles. A variation could involve the children acting out a scenario in which the human acts unkindly (though not too roughly) towards the animal, which should be followed by a “re-do” in which they portray a kind response instead.
- Forest Photo Expedition, a board game for 2-6 players that takes players on an eco-tourism adventure.
- Have the children draw one of the scenarios depicted in the drama activities.
- Have the children draw one scene each from the “Lion and the Mouse” story, and then bring the drawings all together in order to retell the story in pictures.
- Origami animals. Different animals can be made with origami. Requires a fair bit of preparation and patience to teach all the children how to make the animals. Depending on their age, it might be best for each child to focus on making one animal rather than multiple ones. Provide examples in the form of pre-made animals to show the children, or make the animals in front of them in the class. Cranes are among the most common origami animals, but it’s fairly easy to make other animals, such as butterflies, angelfish, frogs, and the like.
- Written exercise: Animals (PDF, French).
- Maze: Wild Animals (PDF, French).
- Message In A Bottle (PDF, English). A word puzzle based on a message from worried polar bears in the Arctic. From Brilliant Star Magazine.
- One way to allow the children to practice kindness towards animals is to bring an animal, such as a pet, to the class. Before bringing the animal into the class, the teacher should be sure to emphasize to the children that they must respect the animal’s space and show it extreme gentleness, to avoid scaring or hurting it. If the animal is a pet for one of the children, that child can be asked to speak about the pet: its given name, what it eats, how it behaves, where it sleeps, and any distinguishing characteristics. The child can then talk about what he or she needs to do to take care of the pet: for instance, it may need to be walked, played with or exercised; it may need to be bathed or groomed; its cage or enclosure may need to be cleaned; and so on.
“. . . ye do worse to harm an animal, for man hath a language, he can lodge a complaint, he can cry out and moan; if injured he can have recourse to the authorities and these will protect him from his aggressor. But the hapless beast is mute, able neither to express its hurt nor take its case to the authorities. If a man inflict a thousand ills upon a beast, it can neither ward him off with speech nor hale him into court. Therefore is it essential that ye show forth the utmost consideration to the animal, and that ye be even kinder to him than to your fellow man.” (Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 159)
“The world of existence is an emanation of the merciful attribute of God. God has shone forth upon the phenomena of being through His effulgence of mercy and He is clement and kind to all His creation. […] Consequently man must learn the lesson of kindness and beneficence from God Himself. Just as God is kind to all humanity, man also must be kind to his fellow creatures. If his attitude is just and loving toward his fellow men, toward all creation, then indeed is he worthy of being pronounced the image and likeness of God.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p.79)
Then, O ye friends of God! Ye must not only have kind and merciful feelings for mankind, but ye should also exercise the utmost kindness towards every living creature. The physical sensibilities and instincts are common to animal and man. Man is, however, negligent of this reality and imagines that sensibility is peculiar to mankind, therefore he practices cruelty to the animal. In reality what difference is there in physical sensations! Sensibility is the same whether you harm man or animal: there is no difference. Nay, rather, cruelty to the animal is more painful because man has a tongue and he sighs, complains and groans when he receives an injury and complains to the government and the government protects him from cruelty; but the poor animal cannot speak, it can neither show its suffering nor is it able to appeal to the government. If it is harmed a thousand times by man it is not able to defend itself in words nor can it seek justice or retaliate. Therefore one must be very considerate towards animals and show greater kindness to them than to man. Educate the children in their infancy in such a way that they may become exceedingly kind and merciful to the animals. If an animal is sick they should endeavor to cure it; if it is hungry, they should feed it; if it is thirsty, they should satisfy its thirst; if it is tired, they should give it rest.
Man is generally sinful and the animal is innocent; unquestionably one must be more kind and merciful to the innocent. […] This sympathy and kindness is one of the fundamental principles of the divine kingdom. Ye should pay great attention to this question. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p.374)