The Study of Human-Animal Interactions The CAIRC Scholarship Program Summary of the Past Researches
Summary of the Past Scholarship Research
From "Letter from CAIRC" July 2000
Research Theme:"The Significance and Role of Companion Animals in the Education of Kindergarten Children - Thoughts on the Welfare of Both Humans and Companion Animals"

By Yuki Koba and Hajime Tanida
The researcher presenting this project, Yuki Koba, is doctoral student at Hiroshima University Graduate School, where she is studying domestic animal behavior. The purpose of this project is to study the current situation of animal-rearing and the use of animals in education. Right now, many kinds of animals are being raised at kindergartens. However, the realities of how they are actually managed are not widely known. This research is thus quite meaningful both from the perspective of animal welfare and from that of preschool education.

This project consisted of research on kindergarten children and animals they are rearing. A questionnaire concerning the raising of animals was mailed to all 342 kindergartens in Hiroshima Prefecture, of which 196 kindergartens, or 57.3 percent, responded. As many as 169 kindergartens, or 86.2 percent, said they were keeping animals. The questionnaire attempts to investigate the situation of animal rearing at kindergartens and to analyze how these kindergartens think of the significance and role of animals in education.

In response to a question on whether the current attitudes of kindergarten children toward animals has changed compared with the past, 17.8 percent of respondents said either 'It has changed a little' or 'It has changed greatly.' Typically, these respondents' comments included remarks such as 'The children have abundant knowledge, but they cannot touch insects,' and 'The way they hold animals is rough,' or 'While some children show extraordinary interest in animals, an increasing number of children show no interest,' and also 'The children do not recognize the preciousness of life.'

In addition, 71.6 percent of kindergartens say they encourage kindergarten children to make contact with animals they are raising. Reasons given for this include: 'It can help develop the children's sense of responsibility,' and 'It can teach the preciousness of life by having the children understand the lifespan of animals,' as well as 'It can help nurture compassion among children.

According to a study by one kindergarten, the percentage of kindergarten children who do not have pets at home is as much as 70 percent. In such a situation, many kindergartens seem to have a desire to create for the children opportunities for close contact with animals, and to convey the importance of compassion for others, as well as an appreciation of the preciousness of life. However, as many as 70 species and breeds of animal are being raised for these purposes, and this entails more than a few problems, Ms Kiba noted.

She said, "We would like to make two basic points. One involves the issue of sanitary supervision. There are many cases in which animals are being raised without the caretakers' understanding of the role of sanitation. The result is a degradation of animal welfare. The second point is on the issue of breeding management. There are cases in which small birds and rabbits are breeding too rapidly, with inbreeding resulting in an increasing number of deformed and stillborn offspring. There was one kindergarten at which the school had to give up raising animals inside classrooms because some children were allergic to animal hairs. Almost all kindergartens recognize the significance and role of raising animals, but none has prepared concrete educational programs, so we find ourselves in a situation in which caretakers are unable to make proper contact with animals. Due to these factors, the welfare of animals is often hindered. I felt it necessary to create an appropriate environment by methods such as producing manuals on how to raise animals. I believe that the significance and role of animal-raising in kindergarten education is first to provide an environment agreeable to animals and then to teach children how to make contact with animals, taking animal behavior into account."