Teaching Children Compassion

One of the most effective preventive actions that can be taken to stop and reverse the tide of violence and destruction in the world today, is to ensure somehow that conditions that can give rise to animal exploitation, do not exist for the future generation. It is therefore very important that children are carefully nurtured into habits and pastimes that cause no harm.

Studies in psychology, sociology and criminology, have for decades shown that violence against humanity begins with violence against animals.

Collections and hobbies are acquired over the years as interests grow and change. They range from philately (stamp collection) and numismatics (coin collections) to acquiring items like shells. It is this thoughtless transition from collecting harmless inanimate objects to collecting the remains of live creatures just for the purpose of fulfilling an idle curiosity and as a means of passing one’s time away that could lead to future adornments like animal-head trophies and skins. Leather puppets and bone china figurines are other examples of collection items to whose origin little thought is given and only their artistic and monetary values are considered.

Hurting leads to Hunting

Parents must strictly ensure that their children are not exposed to the evils of pastimes such as using sling-shots to hit birds or small animals. This particular activity is one of the most dangerous in terms of desensitising the child’s immature mind to the suffering of other creatures. It is nothing less than a juvenile form of hunting and must be completely and unconditionally prevented, never to be condoned.

We should never gift a toy pistol, gun or a war game to a child. Conversely, we should not allow such gifts to be given to our children. It is far better to risk the temporary impropriety of turning down a gift offered to us for our children than the lasting damage that the gift might do to the mental attitude of the child. The persons offering such gifts can be politely explained the reason behind the refusal to accept them and if they are mature individuals, they would certainly understand. The receiver can offer to accept a substitute gift of suitable nature if that would avert any hurt caused to the giver of the gift.

Toys and games that are based upon the ‘harmless’ simulation of dangerous activities like shooting and warfare should also to be strongly discouraged since the harm they create may not be immediate but in the future. Video and computer games that portray killing and maiming are modern-day evils. The majority of them involve shooting or killing the opponent. They have very realistic animation showing beheadings, splattering of blood after the man or animal is shot or wounded that play havoc with children’s tender minds as they introduce such concepts in the framework of play and pleasure, thus desensitising them to death and destruction later. We need to explain to children why they should not be playing such games.

According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry India (ASSOCHAM) under its Social Development Foundation across major cities like Pune, Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Cochin, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Indore, Patna, Chandigarh and Dehradun, over 75% of metropolitan kids between the age group of 5 to 17 years were found to be exposed to violent video games leading to psychological and personal issues later on in life.

The games played showed blatant killing of people and animals, drug and alcohol abuse, criminal behaviour, disrespect for law and authority, violence towards women, racial, sexual and gender stereotype, obscenities and foul language.

The survey revealed that 65% of the kids had a computer in their bedroom which gave easy access to playing these games without the need of parental permission. Furthermore that 62% kids played games daily, 56% for long periods, and 68% for excitement. Also, that 52% got restless and irritable if they couldn’t play, 68% sacrificed social activities and sports to play, 42% played games instead of doing homework, and 48% tried to cut down their playing but were unable to do so.

ASSOCHAM issued a statement saying “Exposed to violence, children lose their emotional impact and are much easier to engage in violence.” And added that this would lead to compulsive behaviour, loss of interest in other activities and association mainly with other addicts because “young children have difficulty in distinguishing reality from fantasy, which makes them more vulnerable to the effects of media violence – they may become more aggressive and fearful if they are exposed to high levels of violence in video games”.

There is no doubt whatsoever that these violent computer games make a deep impression on kids and adversely and severely affect them.

In fact, a number of studies have shown that there are several ways that TV can also be harmful to the mental and physical health of children. Most of the things on TV are not educational. For example, movies like ‘Anaconda’, ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Godzilla’ make the animal a monster which has to be hunted down and killed. In contrast there are movies like ‘Free Willy’, ‘Homeward Bound – The Incredible Journey’, ‘Hachiko’, ‘Marley and Me’ that show unconditional love and attachment between animals and humans. They make children feel compassionate towards animals – and humans. It makes children want to keep dogs and cats which become a part of the family. The bond between them is unimaginably beneficial and rewarding to the child.

Just the opposite can also happen. Some thing outrageous occurred in 2013: Meat Products of India Ltd obtained sanction from the Kerala government and sold 100 lambs @ Rs 1000/- to students of the St Thomas High School, promising to re-purchase the adult goats for slaughter. A couple of months later, a similar diabolical scheme was started for schools in Palakkad under which 5 chickens were distributed free of cost to 100 students. The government is teaching children to be butchers by encouraging schemes that make them rear animals and birds as companions and then sell them for slaughter. It is a great wrong because these students will grow up having no respect for life – not even for their own parents and family members. BWC wrote along these lines to the Chief Minister, Kerala, twice but received no response and the schemes have not been abandoned.

Although we do not expect vegetarian children to be encouraged to hunt, shoot, fish or play games involving cruelty to animals or to utilise products produced through killing of animals (e.g. leather cricket balls and feather shuttlecocks) for their entertainment, there are certain games and activities which do cause harm. They do not directly concern animals but it is an established fact that hundreds, if not thousands of animals and birds, are harmed and suffer needlessly due to them.

Kite Flying

Makar Sankranti on 14th January heralds India’s kite festival, particularly in Gujarat, Bihar, and Jharkhand and some parts of West Bengal and Rajasthan. The skies of cities like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Jaipur, Dhanbad, and Hyderabad are full of kites/patangs through-out the day. People begin flying kites in winter and they are also flown on holidays like Republic Day, Independence Day, Raksha Bandhan and Janmashtami. In fact, kite flying is common during the six month period of Uttarayan which lasts till mid-July, but in Kolkata people fly kites throughout the year.

The string/cord/line used for fighter-kites is called manja/manjha which is usually made of cotton but an abrasive coat of crushed glass is gummed on to it making it razor sharp – each person tries to make his line the sharpest. Using this manja, colourful paper-cum-bamboo kites are flown from rooftops with the aim of cutting other kite-strings, either by letting the line loose at high speed or by repeatedly yanking it.

On being cut, rival kites are seen drifting away with the wind… but innocent birds like kites and pigeons smoothly gliding in the sky are also seen falling limp to the ground. In fact, there are reports of pedestrians and people commuting on two wheelers also being injured and even killed with this deadly manja of the ‘cut’ kites slashing their necks and causing loss of blood. And then, there are the children who in their enthusiasm to catch the ‘cut’ kites also hurt themselves.

The fact is that however carefully a kite/patang is flown, the manja can unwittingly severely wounds birds that are flying in the air. They some how get entangled with the manja, struggle in panic and then fall to the ground. The manja cuts their wings, bodies or feet so deep it results in profuse bleeding, often gruesome death if beheaded.

Also when thrown away, this very manja easily entangle in birds’ legs and bodies resulting in painful amputation and finally death. It can even hurt other animals that forage in the garbage. (In fact, ordinary string and thread too is harmful because it can easily entangle in a bird’s feet and hamper its flying capacity which affects its survival.) The famous Jain Charity Bird Hospital in Delhi treats thousands of birds like pigeons, kites and even some wild specie of birds, injured by sharp, glass-coated kite/patang manja (catapults and air guns also) throughout the year.

For years Beauty Without Cruelty studied the problem by witnessing hundreds of injured birds being brought for first aid to Mumbai’s Kabutarkhana (pigeon shelter) on Makar Sankranti and came to the conclusion that although not intentional, flying kites/patangs does harm birds. The two solutions widely circulated in the city by BWC requested people not to use manja, and not to fly kites in crowded areas or near bird colonies. It was also suggested that Government should not declare Makar Sankranti a holiday so less people would fly kites on the day.

The happy outcome of this BWC public awareness campaign was that beginning Makar Sankranti 2005 a lesser number of injury cases have arisen and been brought for treatment as kites/patangs in Mumbai are now being flown, presumably without manja on open grounds and away from tall buildings.

Unfortunately, this is not so in other cities where kite-fights occur especially with the increasing use of the new deadlier Chinese manja, so BWC continues to inform people what they can do to save innocent birds from unintentional injuries during kite flying.

As manja used for kite flying cuts and profusely bleeds birds as well as humans, many NGOs have taken up the issue. In 2009 and 2010 it was banned in cities like Chennai and Mumbai. The Economic Times reported “Manja ban takes the wind out of Makar Sankranti” and with people losing interest in kite-flying, many kite-makers abandoned their profession. But Gujarat’s 2010 Uttarayan went ahead with kites battling in the sky. Five humans and hundreds of birds also battled for their lives – and died. At least 250 persons and countless birds were seriously injured because of the banned Chinese dori (manja) was sold under the counter. The state government had also issued an appeal not to fly kites between 6 to 8 am and 5 to 7 pm when more birds fly.

Only three countries use manja for kite flying. They are India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, flying kites was banned in Pakistan because of lethal kite-fights which led to many injuries and deaths due to the use of strings coated not only with glass but also with shards of metal.

Bursting Fire Crackers

On Diwali or other auspicious occasions like weddings or when India wins a cricket match, the loud noise of fire crackers being burst causes fear and panic in dogs, cats, birds, etc. Their ears are highly sensitive to bursting fire crackers as well as loud music.

Each year hundreds of dogs are injured on the spot of such activity or lost, never to be found. An animal or bird need not be absolutely nearby to suffer thus; deafening loud noises cause panic to each and every creature within the vicinity.

People have sadistically lit crackers under a buffalo, oblivious to its agony to provoke it into activity at an annual community festival held in Pune on the occasion of Gudi Padwa. We should make sure that festive gaiety never manifests itself at the expense of innocent animals made to needlessly suffer with a string of fire crackers being tied to the tails of animals such as dogs and donkeys and then lit. Deriving pleasure in watching animals suffer thus is a sign of sadism which in time positively extends to humans.

Animals such as elephants, horses and camels traditionally feature in religious functions and wedding processions. Processions involving such animals require Police permission. Crackers are burst along the route which quite often scares the animals and they go berserk thus injuring people. For example, in Pune during a temple procession, a 5-year old girl was kicked by a horse on her head following crackers being burst. Such tragic incidents clearly indicate that crackers should never be burst in the vicinity of animals as it adversely affects both humans and animals.

The good news is that environmental concerns have resulted in many school children taking pledges not to burst crackers and their numbers are growing.


The activity of boxing is one that should put us to shame. A (human) society that shows disrespect to other animals is bad enough, but as long as it subscribes to the ethic of non-harm towards members of its own species, it is guilty only of selfishness. However, when it is seen to indulge in activities that involve the infliction of blatant, physical hurt upon its own members, it is indeed a sad commentary upon the state of its moral evolution.

The ‘sport’, if it can be called that, of boxing is one such activity which requires the raining of blows upon the opponent’s body, resulting always in the spillage of blood and sometimes even in the fracture of bones, all the while cheered on by supporters and spectators is nothing more than a modern-day gladiatorial spectacle that needs to be abolished without condition and without any further consideration or delay.

It can be said to the credit of other ‘fighting sports’ like Karate, Judo, and Taek-Won-Do that they are mainly defensive in nature, and the objective is never to hurt the opponent. However, the sole aim of boxing as a competitive sport is to hurt the opponent to the maximum extent possible – the ultimate expression of cruelty and barbarism, that man takes pleasure in hurting even his own kind. Interestingly, research has shown that boxers end up with life threatening diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s or they meet violent deaths.

Target Shooting

Unfortunately shooting associations and air rifle clubs are known to lure young boys making them feel target shooting is a manly sport. The noise of guns and rifles when shooting upsets animals and birds in close proximity just as when crackers are burst. Moreover, it is unwise for parents who believe in reverence for all life to give their child a weapon which can take a life.

On the Right Path

Former President of India, Dr A P J Abdul Kalam has said: “A righteous heart leads to a beautiful character. That leads to harmony at home which in turn brings order in the nation. And when there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world. Thus, instilling this one quality of righteousness in children by their parents in a spiritual environment and by their teachers can lead to a peaceful world.”

It should never be forgotten that righteousness and reverence for life go hand in hand. These basic values need to be instilled in young impressionable minds. At every opportunity it is essential to explain the ahinsak way of life to children so that they do not blindly follow our views, but they themselves believe in and want to lead a life of harmlessness which respects all life forms.

Last but not least, a 2011 Reader’s Digest survey Around the World with One Question – What Should Your Kids Learn First? – found that while parents from all countries agreed that respect is what they need, China, Germany and Russia placed kindness first.

The Best Friends can be viewed on You Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3MUsQAEA5lE

Page last updated on 13/10/22