BOOK REVIEWS: National Humane Education Association Student Resource Guides

HSUS Student Action Guide: Starting an Earth/Animal-Protection Club

HSUS Student Action Guide: Starting an Earth/Animal-Protection Club

 This guide offers advice for students wishing to start their own school club with their peers. Although the focus is on animal welfare and environmental clubs, much of the guidance could apply to any type of community service group.

Its late-90s copyright does make some aspects of the book outdated. For example, the Internet is not mentioned. Today, of course, sites like Meetup and Facebook have revolutionized—and empowered—grassroots organizations. Still, the down-to-earth ideas offered will be a boon to students who care and wish to make a difference.

My only quibble with the NAHEE high school student series is their poor production values. Despite the fact that the books contain valuable information that belongs in every high school library, they are printed on flimsy, newspaper-like paper that isn’t likely to survive more than a couple circulation cycles. NAHEE could have made the books much more appealing (and useful) by binding them with sturdier material, or, even better, consolidating all of the volumes into one hardback book. Instead, the material likely won’t be seen by those who could find it most helpful. I purchased this book for my library.

Farms as Factories: Issues in Animal Welfare, Environmental Protection, and Public Health: A Resource Book for High-School Students and their Teachers

Farms as Factories: Issues in Animal Welfare, Environmental Protection, and Public Health: A Resource Book for High-School Students and their Teachers

Students are given insight into the standard industrial-style methods of producing meat and animal products in Farms as Factories.

The most common factory farmed animals are profiled along with the industrial-style methods in which they are farmed. This information will already be familiar to seasoned animal welfare advocates. While the idea of factory farming can be overwhelming, it is also the issue with which consumers have the most sway. Readers are given ideas on how they can improve the lot of industrially-farmed animals. Students are encouraged to use their critical thinking skills and are presented with interesting dilemmas.

Chapters included are The HSUS Position, Farms & Farm Animals in the US, Factory Farming’s Affect on Animals, Are there Laws Protecting Farm Animals, Factory Farming’s Affect on the Environment, Becoming a Humane Consumer, and Resources.

Pets for Life: A Look at the Relationship Between People and Their Companion Animals: A Study and Activity Guide for High-School Students and their Teachers

Pets for Life: A Look at the Relationship Between People and Their Companion Animals: A Study and Activity Guide for High-School Students and their Teachers

Companion animals and their bonds with humans are celebrated in this humane education guide. With a special emphasis on dogs, cats, and horses, the history and role of pets in society are discussed along with ideas for students wishing to help advance the welfare of these animals.

With its many “fast facts” and discussion topics, Pets for Life would be an excellent starting point for an essay, research paper, or class debate on this very popular subject. While animal mistreatment is not as dominant a focus as in other entries in this series, several humane issues affecting companion animals are discussed. As pets are the class of animal with which people tend have the most direct interaction, humane educators will be pleased with the critical thinking exercises throughout Pets for Life.

Readers will want to be aware that this book reflects some out-of-date ideas abut feral cats. A photo depicting a supposed “feral cat” is a battered and pathetic creature; in actuality, true feral cats are usually healthy-looking. In addition, feral cats are rather simplistically accused of creating community problems such as preying upon wildlife and spreading diseases. Trap-neuter-return, the only policy that appears to work for helping ferals, is discussed in passing but is not elaborated upon. A visit to the website of feral cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies is suggested, however.

Thankfully, other issues affecting companion animals are more responsibly presented, such as puppy mills, spay/neuter, and shelter adoption.

Chapters included are Our Animal Friends, Celebrating Dogs and Cats, Noble Companions [horses], The Best of the Rest [birds and small mammals], Animal Shelters: A Haven in Need, Companion Animals and the Law, Be a Best Friend, and Resources.

Science and Conscience: The Animal Experimentation Controversy - A Study and Activity Guide for High-School Students and their Teachers

Science and Conscience: The Animal Experimentation Controversy – A Study and Activity Guide for High-School Students and their Teachers

Animal experimentation: it is no doubt among the most emotional and hotly debated humane issues. Students in particular are interested in the subject; every year, vivisection is the subject of countless classroom debates and speech assignments.

Unfortunately, the resources students are most likely to have at their disposal–namely, science textbooks, although the Internet is now also an option–tend not to give students the in-depth information they need for a reasoned discussion. In my experience, most textbooks tend to frame the issue as one of “ill people vs. laboratory animals—who is more important?” When the issue is presented in such a simplistic way, the deck is already stacked against students with anti-vivisection views—and I daresay that’s just the author’s intention.

This moderate guide will be of use to students on both sides of the debate, as well as those with no knowledge of animal testing at all; it gives time to differing opinions and offers open-ended questions with far more grace and authority than most texts of this nature. I wish I would have had access to this resource when writing about, and discussing, animal experimentation when I was a teenager.

A large amount of space is devoted to discussion of the alternative tests that have been developed to reduce the number of animals killed in experiments, once again, another important scientific aspect of the vivisection debate that is usually completely ignored. (Here’s hoping some science-minded students will be inspired to go onto careers working with, or developing, nonanimal alternatives.) I was also pleased to see discussion of some of the motives and behaviors of the organizations involved in public advocacy. How many people are aware that the National Association for Biomedical Research, a major lobbying group on behalf of vivisection, has consistently fought initiatives to implement and strengthen the Animal Welfare Act—despite their claimed support for following animal welfare regulations?

Chapters included are What are the Issues?, Biomedical Research, Product Testing, Animals in Education, Pain and Distress, The Debate: Arguments For and Against the Use of Animals, Alternatives, Laws, and Resources.

Understanding Animal Cruelty: A Study and Activity Guide for High-School Students and their Teachers

Possibly the best short-form introduction to the issue of animal cruelty. Educators may be squeamish about some of the content, as it does contain some brief descriptions of real abuse cases. However, it should be noted that incidence of animal cruelty seems to reach its peak around high school age, especially among young males. Students need the knowledge and the tools to address violence to animals among their peers.

The link between animal cruelty and violent tendencies toward humans is discussed. Animal cruelty can be a warning sign that the perpetrator is also engaging in domestic abuse or other violent crimes. Students are encouraged to report animal abuse, and are given tips on doing so.

NAHEE does an excellent job of categorizing the different types of situations that incidents of animal suffering may arise from: cruelty, abuse, neglect, and use; with examples of each. Students are informed about the wide patchwork of laws that address animal abuse in the United States; some states address it far more seriously than others, and most exempt entire practices and industries from any cruelty regulation. Students are invited to ponder the different societal values we place upon various types of cruelty and whether or not they agree with these distinctions. For example, Ohio’s cruelty code, we are informed, reads as such: No person shall…keep animals other than cattle, poultry or fowl, swine, sheep, or goats in an enclosure without wholesome exercise and change of air.
Animals in Entertainment: A Study and Activity Guide for High-School Students and their Teachers

This student guide discusses the major ways in which animals are used in entertainment in America, from illegal sport fighting to multimillion dollar industries like horse racing. Readers are given the history of various spectacles, the arguments advanced by industry and animal advocates, and are encouraged to use their critical thinking skills to ponder whether these activities have a place in a humane society.

In the ever-changing world of humane advocacy, humane educators and students should be aware that a few parts of the book are outdated. When the guide was published, a handful of states still allowed cockfighting, and fewer states had felony-level penalties against animal fighting.
The animal fighting chapter reflects an out-of-date policy position on the adoption of pit bulls seized from fighting rings. In the past, animal shelters and the HSUS considered these animals unpredictably dangerous and recommended that they be euthanized rather than offered for adoption. Today, the HSUS and the shelter community advocate temperament testing these dogs with the goal of saving the lives of as many as possible. The rescue of the Michael Vick dogs helped usher in this about-face in policy.  Further, a modern discussion of captive dolphin facilities would probably discuss the brutal “drive fisheries” of Japan, which were widely exposed in the movie The Cove.

Chapters included are Domestic Animals in Entertainment, Wildlife in Entertainment, Animals in Media, and Resources.

Into the Wild : A Look at the Relationship Between People and Wildlife: A study and activity guide for high-school students and their teachers

While it should be obvious on which side of the sport hunting debate this book falls on, it manages to do a better job of presenting both sides than many student materials produced by wildlife agencies and the hunting industry. Acknowledging that hunting is an intensely argued subject, students are encouraged to use their critical thinking skills while researching the opinions of national organizations—as well as those of their classmates.

NAHEE advances the argument that hunters and animal advocates share some of the same values, and there exist animal issues they can work together on for similar goals. While I do agree that the hunting community tends to support the conservation of wild lands, the presentation of canned hunting and factory farming as something both communities agree upon had me rather incredulous. What I’ve seen of the reaction to canned hunting (also called “high-fence hunting”) among rank-and-file hunters is a sort of lazy opposition. They themselves wouldn’t shoot tame, captive animals, but they also don’t care enough about the issue to purge it from their community. And the hunting industry behemoth, the National Rifle Association, supports it outright.
I’ve seen even less dialogue on factory farming from hunters. I don’t think I’m overstepping boundaries to say that the hunting community tends to have an overall dominion-based view of the animal world; that animals can and should be used for human ends across the board.

Students are provided with website urls from a wide variety of groups, as well as numerous reading recommendations. The chapter is summed up with quotes from speakers representing different angles of the hunting debate.

Besides hunting, other sections of the book highlight the commercial trade in wildlife, habitat loss, and co-existing with suburban wildlife.

(reviews originally appeared at

2 Comments (+add yours?)

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