NZ Curriculum

Skills and Knowledge

The multidisciplinary nature of animal studies means that it has applications in many of the subject areas important to New Zealand secondary students.

Some of the most significant areas of investigation associated with animal studies and humane education are:


Identifying the ways in which, from the earliest manifestations of human culture to the present day, humans have seen other animals as a mirror to themselves.

Exploring how and why some of the most important writers of the past and present focus their work on human-animal relations.

Examining how, by means of symbolism, imagery, allegory and satire, writers have used animals to address what it is to be human, while at the same time drawing attention to the values and emotions that pervade our interactions with the nonhuman world.

Showing how literature and film often use a focus on animals as a kind of defamiliarisation, that is, a way of confronting everyday practices and challenging taken-for-granted assumptions.

Analysing a range of media – including television, advertising, and the Internet – to explore how animal-themed imagery and rhetoric are used in our contemporary, information-rich world.


Exploring developments in evolutionary biology in regard to the relationship between humans and animals, the understanding of animal behaviour and learning, and the roles played by genetic and social factors.

Challenging traditional methods and ethics of scientific treatment and analysis of animals.

Exploring the changing relationships between humans, animals and the environment, and the ethical issues that arise from these.


Tracing the development of the modern idea of what it means to be human in relation to changing ideas of the animal.

Focussing on human interactions with animals – for example companion-animal keeping, agriculture, science, sport and entertainment – in order to produce new insights into changing social structures and cultural ideas.

Exploring connections between the treatment of animals and other groups in society, including women, non-Europeans and the working classes.

Social Studies

Charting shifts in attitudes towards non-human animals as an index of significant changes in values and social behaviour.

Examining the link between ill-treatment of animals and violent crime against human property or life; and conversely, the link between an early or remedial development of compassionate feelings for animals and increased concern for the life and property of other humans.

Providing insight into the development of significant social protest movements: animal rights and welfare, environmentalist, anti-GE and anti-consumerist groups and networks.

“Humane educators inspire people to live examined, intentional lives so that what they do today helps the planet, animals and all people tomorrow.”