Humane Education Tip of the Month

We can all live a more humane life. Here are some tips for getting started.

  • September 2018

    Humane Communication: There’s an art to promoting thoughtful dialogue. This is especially true when having conversations about challenging issues. Kim Korona, senior program director at HEART (Humane Education Advocates Reaching Teachers), recently created a short video highlighting various ways we can work to cultivate humane communication. Here are a few tips:

    • Reserve judgment – Good communicators avoid talking about individuals as “evil” people. It’s okay to believe that certain actions or behaviors are wrong, but saying that a person is “bad” will not foster compassion or understanding. To teach about empathy and compassion, we need to demonstrate empathy and compassion.
    • Build bridges – When possible, validate people for making good points to help build a positive rapport with them. If we agree with something they say, they are more likely to listen and stay open to new ideas. If we immediately dismiss them as wrong, they may shut down, not listen to anything else we say or become nervous to offer a thought/opinion in the future.
    • Be sensitive – The person you’re talking with may be struggling with an internal conflict between previously held beliefs and new thoughts. He or she may express guilt about their past actions and opinions or want to change certain behaviors but not know how to do so. Take time to validate their compassion. Encourage them. Also, remind them that they can take one step at a time and that change doesn’t have to happen overnight.
    • Don’t make assumptions – When someone says something that seems confusing, surprising or uncaring, don’t jump to conclusions about that person’s point of view. Instead, ask for clarification so that you can better understand what she or he is trying to say. Show that you are listening and that you genuinely want to understand their point of view. This can help foster dialogue instead of shutting it down.

    To watch Kim’s video and learn more, visit the Humane Education Coalition’s website at www.hecoalition.org/videos.html.

  • August 2018

    What goes up must come down! Did you know that the Detroit Zoological Society does not allow balloons on Zoo grounds? Releasing balloons results in littering and can cause numerous threats to animals. While some balloons burst into small pieces, others gradually deflate and fall back to Earth. Both can have inhumane consequences for wildlife. Animals of all kinds can ingest balloon remnants or become entangled in a deflated balloon and/or its ribbon. Sky lanterns also return to Earth as litter and can have negative impacts on wildlife. They are made with treated paper, wires and/or a bamboo ring. They can travel for miles and have even been known to start fires. There are many environmentally-friendly and animal-friendly alternatives to balloon and sky lantern releases. If the occasion calls for a remembrance, you could plant a memory garden or tree. Other alternatives include:

    • Blowing bubbles made from environmentally friendly soap. Be sure to collect all empty containers and wands.
    • Lighting eco-friendly candles. Use safety precautions and collect all spent candles.

    What other ideas do you have?  Adapted from www.worldanimalfoundation.org.

  • July 2018

    The Humane Science Lab, a specially outfitted interpretive studio in the Ford Education Center, provides students, teachers and visitors with opportunities to learn about humane methods of studying biological systems. This includes Alternative Dissection Learning Labs, which utilize models and virtual simulations. We recently facilitated a program for middle school students utilizing iPads and the brand new dissection app, Froggipedia.

    This offered students an effective and compassionate way to learn about the anatomy of frogs through augmented reality. Did you know that teachers can now bring alternative dissection materials into their classrooms for free? Organizations, such as Animalearn, have lending libraries that loan out software, models, videos and more. For information about Animalearn’s Science Bank, visit www.thesciencebank.org.

  • June 2018

    Every day we make consumer choices. We decide what to wear, what to eat and which products to use. These actions can collectively benefit the Earth and its inhabitants when we pause for a moment to reflect on their potential impacts. A number of years ago, I read the book “Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things” as part of my graduate studies at the Institute for Humane Education.

    It was a huge eye-opener for me. The book details the life cycle of common products, such as coffee and a T-shirt. As I read about the various facets of creating these products, it was the first time I truly began to recognize the greater impact my purchases have on people, other species and the planet. As consumers, we’re often presented with different possibilities regarding which products we might purchase.

    Take coffee, for example. Upon examination, we may discover that conventional coffee is grown in areas of the rainforest that have been “clear cut,” meaning that the trees have all been removed, negatively impacting ecosystems and inhabitants. Alternatively, we might have the choice of purchasing shade-grown coffee, which is grown under the canopy layer of trees. Not only does this preserve native trees, this method also conserves the habitat for many animals. When I first began doing this research 10 or so years ago, I had a challenging time finding shade-grown coffee and actually had to order it online. I find it exciting to note that you can now find it in many local grocery stores! We can consider the impact of our consumer choices by exploring two questions:

    • What are the effects of this item or activity, both positive and negative, on animals and the environment?
    • Are there any alternatives that may be less harmful or even provide some benefit?

    Another example is that we might discover the cosmetics, toothpaste or cookies that we buy are made with palm oil. Conventional palm oil is grown in areas where the land has been cleared for oil palm plantations, which has had devastating impacts on animals such as orangutans and pygmy elephants.

    Alternatively, there are companies who work to produce sustainably harvested palm oil. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil works to certify those who responsibly produce palm oil. There are a number of organizations working to gather this helpful information for consumers.

    There are even a number of apps available these days that help support ethical consumerism. For example, if you want to purchase a cruelty-free product, you could check out The Leaping Bunny Program. If you’re interested in minimizing your impact on animals and the planet, you might check out The Better World Shopper, “a site dedicated to empower people to make the best choice as consumers and to help build the world we want to live in.”

    In addition, for those who want to research further, the Institute for Humane Education has put together an entire Pinterest board dedicated to ethical consumerism. Our choices really do add up! When we take a moment to examine the products we’re purchasing, it empowers us to make the best choice possible for people, animals and the planet. This enables us to make knowledgeable decisions on how to walk softly and treat the Earth’s creatures gently.

  • May 2018

    The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) frequently receives calls from people who have purchased an exotic animal such as an iguana or a parrot and have discovered that they are unable or unwilling to provide the specialized – and often expensive – care the animal needs. We hear comments such as, “I didn’t know that a parrot could live to be almost 100 years old” or “I had no idea that an iguana could grow to be more than 5 feet long.”

    Unfortunately, the ever-growing exotic pet trade creates situations that significantly compromise animals’ welfare and result in people turning to the DZS for help. Although we wish we could provide sanctuary for all animals in need, we are unable to accept them in nearly all cases. Making a good pet choice is important, both for you and for the animal you will potentially be bringing into your home.

    Here are a few questions to get you started before adopting an animal:

    • Am I able to meet the animal’s physical and psychological needs for his or her entire life?
    • Do I have the time and the money needed to properly take care of this animal? • Do local ordinances or laws prohibit owning this kind of animal?
    • Will my veterinarian be able to provide his or her medical care?
    • How much am I able to spend on veterinary costs?
    • What will I do if there is a problem?
    • Is it safe to bring this animal into my home?
    • Will this animal get along with animals that already live with me?

    Remember that dogs and cats have changed over several thousand years of living with humans and are the best nonhuman companions for us. Humane societies and rescue organizations are great resources to find a dog or cat for your family. If you’re ready to adopt, join us on May 18 and 19 at Meet Your Best Friend at the Zoo, one of the nation’s largest off-site companion animal adoption events, where hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens will be available for immediate adoption to loving homes.

    You can also visit http://www.petfinder.com to find rescue organizations located nearby. They’ll be able to support you in finding the perfect companion animal for your family.

  • April 2018

    Fostering Empathy for Animals: Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s or animal’s experiences from their perspective. It’s being able to place yourself in some else’s shoes/paws and mirror what they are feeling which, in turn, is known to increase prosocial behaviors. While it can be more innate for some of us, empathy is actually a learned behavior.

    One way to help nurture empathy in children is through stories, which can help them process thoughts and information. Stories allow us to try on different hats, try out new experiences, think through future actions and help us develop our moral compass – all of which can be done from the comfort of our own home.

    At the Detroit Zoological Society, we incorporate stories into a number of our programs. We often seek out stories that highlight people helping animals and books that help us explore the world around us from an animal’s perspective. After reading a story, you can continue to build empathy by taking action.

    For example, you can pair Stranger in the Woods, a beautiful picture book about local wildlife, with making a wildlife-friendly snowperson. After reading How to Heal a Broken Wing, a book about helping an injured bird who flew into a window, you can make window decals to help prevent bird collisions. You can learn how to humanely deter ants from your home after reading Hey Little Ant, a book that sheds light on an ant’s perspective. Fostering empathy in children can start at a young age. Together, we can help instill values of walking softly and treating the Earth’s creatures gently.

  • March 2018

    In a San Francisco neighborhood a newspaper delivery man’s papers started going missing. He was getting calls from upset clients that their paper wasn’t being delivered, but he knew for certain that he delivered them to their doorsteps. Shortly after the calls began, he discovered a coyote in the neighborhood playing with newspapers on a grassy hillside. He videoed her tossing the paper up in the air, sliding down the hillside and running around with papers flapping from her mouth.

    Rather than get mad, the delivery man began to throw out a paper just for her each morning, launching it onto the grassy hillside she frequented before she had a chance to nip on from a front porch.

    For this newspaper man, coexistence comes in the form of a simple solution-sharing an extra copy of the daily. In what ways do you peacefully coexist with animals that share your neighborhood?

    Story adapted from an article published on www.mnn.com on February 1, 2018.

  • February 2018

    The Jane Goodall Institute created the #IEatMeatLess pledge in late 2017 to benefit people, animals and the environment.

    “Dr. Jane Goodall is encouraging every individual to think more critically and act more consciously regarding the consumption of meat and animal products for the sake of our planet and the other animals to whom we are inexorably connected. As Jane often says, ‘You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.’”

    Not only does reducing our meat consumption positively impact animals, it helps the planet too. According to the Food and Animal Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal agriculture is actually responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the combined exhaust from all forms of transportation.

    Consider avoiding meat one day a week! Our food choices can add up to make a big difference.

    To learn more and to take the #IEatMeatLess pledge, visit news.janegoodall.org.

  • January 2018

    Instagram is teeming with seemingly cute photos of exotic animals. A picture of someone hugging a sloth or showing off a tiger cub is just a click away on the popular photo-sharing platform, which has 800 million users. But starting in December of 2017, searches for a wide range of wildlife hashtags will trigger a notification informing people of potential animal abuse found behind-the-scenes.

    Instagram will now deliver a pop-up message whenever someone searches or clicks on a hashtag like “#slothselfie.” The message reads, “You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment.” People can then click through to a page Instagram set up in its Help Center to provide more information on wildlife exploitation.

    Instagram will use the same process for activity such as #exoticanimalforsale and other hashtags users post to advertise the sale of live animals or animal parts. “We care about our community, including the animals and the wildlife that are an important part of the platform,” says Instagram spokeswoman Emily Cain. “I think it’s important for the community right now to be more aware. We’re trying to do our part to educate them.” Cassandra Koenen, head of wildlife campaigns at World Animal Protection, who worked on the list with Instagram, hopes the warnings will make people pause and reflect. “If someone’s behavior is interrupted, hopefully they’ll think, maybe there’s something more here or maybe I shouldn’t just automatically like something or forward something or repost something if Instagram is saying to me there’s a problem with this photo.”

    Adapted from posted on news.nationalgeographic.com.