China adds animal welfare module to its science curriculum


For the first time, China’s science students can study animal welfare, following a long-term project spearheaded by our international team.

The country’s Ministry of Education has published a new biology curriculum for secondary school 16-18 year-olds, which includes the first-ever module on animal welfare. This groundbreaking initiative is the result of our international department’s work, to encourage and support the development of an animal welfare component in science studies across China.

Our head of international, Paul Littlefair, said:

Incorporating animal welfare into China’s school curriculum represents a change in the country’s attitudes to animals.

By introducing this new module, China’s Ministry of Education is acknowledging the widespread shift in the public’s views about how animals should be treated, and is clearly signalling that animals deserve legal protection.

The teachers’ guidance suggests that students should ‘come to learn the necessity of animal welfare legislation’. This development has huge implications for China’s ambitions to implement its first-ever animal protection law. We’ve been working very closely with the authorities there to help draft the country’s first anti-cruelty bill, and this latest educational initiative reflects that exciting new momentum.

It’s clear our twenty-year programme to help China build animal welfare concepts into policy and instil animal welfare values in the hearts and minds of the people is bearing fruit. This truly heralds a new dawn for animals in China.

Changing attitudes to animals

Chinese students in a classroom © RSPCA

Ten years in the making, this initiative began when we, in partnership with education consultancy Humanebeing, were asked by leading Chinese academics to look at the existing biology curriculum standards and identify areas which were not animal welfare-friendly. 

Following a survey we funded of Chinese secondary school science students into attitudes towards animals, we supported the design and trialling in schools of an animal welfare module for senior high schools, and that's now gone live as an option for 16-18 year olds.

As part of the module students will learn about the relationship between humans and other animals, basic concepts such as sentience, assessing animal welfare, ethics and the welfare needs of pets as well as farm, laboratory and wild animals.

China's first animal welfare legislation

The inclusion of this radically new course content comes on the heels of an announcement made last year by China’s agriculture vice-minister Yu Kangzhen, that China ‘will accelerate the process of animal welfare legislation’. His promise was made during the ‘World Conference on Farm Animal Welfare’ in Hangzhou, co-hosted by us in October 2017.

Paul added: 

One of our stated objectives in England and Wales is for animal welfare to be explicitly included in our own national curricula. Now China has beaten us to it, we hope that our education authorities will follow their lead so future generations continue to develop empathy for animals.

Learn more about our international work and help support our work abroad.

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