Thanks to the nature of humanity, our children are brought up around very strict ways of thought regarding wildlife, and if they are not taught properly we may be shaping their outlook on nature for the rest of their lives. With zoos and circuses still operating, we’re showing a future where humanity has dominance over the creatures of the wild, and this may be a harmful thought for those growing up.
In studies, it has been shown that there is a direct correlation between animal abuse and a criminal record, showing that those who harm animals as a child are much more likely to become criminals as they grow older. There have been a number of offenders in the past that have admitted to animal cruelty as children, a sure confirmation that this is something that should be investigated and prevented.
Interactions with animals as a child can help the terminally shy to make new friends and learn how to socialise, it helps children understand ownership, boundaries, relations and responsibility, as well as helping those with disabilities, such as autism or lost limbs. Working and guide dogs are a recognised and respected part of our society, and are given more leeway than other pets. But what kind of influence can children get from elsewhere?
Studies show that children who visit zoos often may not understand the nature of the animals held there, and might not understand the nature of wildlife loss. A monkey loses the human links and cognitive abilities like forethought, planning or emotion and becomes ‘just’ another monkey, sitting in a zoo to be looked and laughed at. Wild animals stop being concerned about, because you can always ‘just visit the zoo’ to see them. It causes a detached view on the animal world that may explain the correlation between cruelty to animals and violence towards humans.
Children need to be socialised correctly towards animals and taught the boundaries; that it is not okay to pull on the cat’s tail, or to sit on the dog’s head. They should be read stories that do not paint animals in a negative light, or use certain animal stereotypes as the ‘bad’ guys; fear is bred through the unknown and the experience, and by making an animal seem ‘evil’ or ‘malicious’ in stories we are reinforcing those stereotypes for reality.
Children that visit zoos should be informed of the plight of wild animals and use the trip to be taught what they can do to help animals around the world, and maybe even be given the opportunity to volunteer. You don’t have to turn your children into eco-warriors, just help them understand that not everything is perfect in the animal kingdom, and that humans have the capability to help where they can. This can be used to help them understand recycling as well, and even show them the effect of humans on the animal world.
We aren’t saying that every child will be a bad person if they don’t understand or socialise with animals, but we do believe that making the most of the animal kingdom can help your child grow maturely and with a greater understanding of the wilder world. Children may hurt animals for a number of different reasons, and should be thoroughly investigated with a professional if your child begins exhibiting these behaviours.