Fall 2013 Humane Education Study Analysis
Humane education presentations are an increasingly popular way for animal advocates to introduce young people to issues related to animals. Studies are being conducted into the efficacy of humane education presentations aimed at different age groups and within various contexts. This research looked at nearly 170 U.S. students exposed to a humane education presentation at their school, and explored the effects that the presentation might have had on their consumption of animal products. The study found that humane education programs aimed at students cannot affect change on their own, and that this age group, which still lives at home with their families, are likely to be strongly influenced by their living constraints.
As humane education presentations become increasingly common in schools around North America, more advocacy groups are turning their efforts towards creating presentations that will make a lasting impact for animals. In this context, advocacy groups are also trying to evaluate the efficacy of these programs to better understand how, why, and when humane education works, and how to maximize their performance. In this study, carried out by Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE), the goal was “to determine whether students who attend humane education presentations are more likely to have become vegetarian or vegan in the months prior to taking the survey than students in the control group. Depending on survey design, the analysis may also consider whether students who have seen the humane education presentation reduce consumption of animal products overall as compared to their peers who have not seen the presentation.” The study gathered findings from about 170 students.
The study’s results are initially discouraging. The results highlight the nature of one-off presentations and the struggle to find traction. “The differences in percentage change are small and in most cases are in the opposite of the direction we would have predicted if humane education has an effect. In fact, none of the differences are statistically significant.” However, the authors were able to find some positive aspects to the data. They noted that “even though it does not appear that attending humane education lectures has a dramatic effect on a student’s likelihood of stopping eating particular animal products, it might have other strong effects. One possibility is that it makes students more likely to try to reduce their consumption of animal products.” According to their data, it seems that the humane education presentations were more likely to change students’ attitudes rather than their actions, which might make them more likely to change their behavior in the future.
“Humane education programs do not appear to lead to substantial changes in diet that would lead to their being exceptionally cost-effective on that basis alone,” say the author. Though they do add that “it is possible that humane education does have a small effect on participants’ diets or a larger effect on a small percentage of participants’ diets.” For advocates, these results are likely not surprising. It is hard to imagine a scenario where just one presentation would create a permanent or wide-ranging change for any population, let alone younger students who still have to “negotiate their food choices with family members.” All in all, this study is a step in the right direction towards evaluating humane education programs, and accessing what kind of frequency and message they need to be effective.
“The primary goal of the analysis will be to determine whether students who attend humane education presentations are more likely to have become vegetarian or vegan in the months prior to taking the survey than students in the control group. Depending on survey design, the analysis may also consider whether students who have seen the humane education presentation reduce consumption of animal products overall as compared to their peers who have not seen the presentation. If the sample size is large enough, the analysis will also consider these questions for smaller segments of the population studied, such as for high school students specifically.”