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On 18 September 2023 the world changed…

The United Nations elevated the welfare of animals into the Human Rights domain for the first time in history. In terms of UN GC26, authoritative guidance and clarity was given to 196 member countries to change their policies, practices and laws in order to comply with the 'legally binding' addition to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This Convention states that ‘Children must be protected from all forms of physical and psychological violence and from exposure to violence, such as domestic violence or violence inflicted on animals'.

February 2024

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Western Cape Children’s Commissioner supports GC26 – the right of the child to be protected from violence, including violence inflicted on animals

February 2024

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School cancels lion hunt!

Animal Voice and Nature-based Education thank the Futurum Akademie school for its co-operation, and we thank our supporters for helping to alert the school about the Right of the Child not to be exposed to violence against an animal.

January 2024

As a UK NGO, European Link Coalition has provided NGO Thematic Reports to the United Nations, resiliently evidencing effects on the psychopathology of children exposed to ‘violence inflicted on animals’.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued recommendations in Concluding Observations to State Parties where authorities manage homeless animals with violent practices. The UN Committee has called for an ‘elimination of societal violence against the animals’ because of ‘Harmful Effects' which can be caused to children. Such effects have been resiliently shown to include ‘empathy erosion’ and ‘violence normalisation’.

On September 18 General Comment 26 was issued by the UN Committee providing authoritative clarity and guidance to nations ‘strict obligation' to change policies, practices and laws to maintain compliance with the ‘legally binding’ UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. General Comment 26 includes the words ‘Children must be protected from all forms of physical and psychological violence and from exposure to violence, such as domestic violence or violence inflicted on animals’.

Effectively and specifically, this elevates Animal Rights into the Human Rights domain for the first time in history!

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been ratified by 196 nations and is the basis of all of UNICEF’s work. It is the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced and is the most widely-ratified international human rights treaty in history.

We are informed that the Kingdom of Morocco is failing to comply with this UN Human Rights Charter and a comprehensive report is being prepared to inform the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights. The management of homeless animal populations with violent practices is now non-compliant with the UN Human Rights Charter of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

We would invite a response which we would include in the final report for submission to OHCHR in Geneva. 


Malcolm Plant 

BSc, BA (Hons), MSc, Dip Psych. MBPsS

CEO European Link Coalition
Associate of Teesside University

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September 2023

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At the invitation of Dr Sharyn Spicer, senior lecturer in the Department of Sociology, University of the Western Cape, South Africa, Louise van der Merwe, Managing Trustee of The Humane Education Trust, delivered a presentation on this momentous stride forward by the UN, to UWC students on 20th September 2023. 

20th September 2023

Presentation at the University of the Western Cape



Managing Trustee | The Humane Education Trust 

Director | Nature-Based Education  Cape Town, South Africa

SA Representative | Compassion in World Farming, South Africa

Editor | Animal Voice

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The United Nations brings violence inflicted on animals into the Human Rights domain: in terms of the Rights of the Child, children may no longer be exposed to violence, be it domestic or inflicted on animals.

Almost unnoticed, the lives of children across the world changed for the better on Monday 18th September. On this day, the United Nations launched additional guidance in regard to the Rights of the Child.

For the first time in history, as part of environmental health and well-being, children are to be protected from any form of violence – be it domestic or inflicted on animals.

The UN Committee GC26 which headed this development, explains that all 196 member countries are now under ‘strict obligation’ to change policies, practices and laws in order to comply with this ‘legally binding’ addition to the Rights of the Child.

The GC26 Committee states:  “Children must be protected from all forms of physical and psychological violence whether in their home or in society, and from exposure to violence, such as domestic violence or violence inflicted on animals.”

This brings the right of animals not to be abused by humans, directly into the domain of the Charter on Human Rights and for the first time references animal abuse as a violation of the Rights of the Child. 

At the highest level, the link between animal abuse and domestic violence is now acknowledged and endorsed.

So where to from here:  We are accustomed to treating animals as objects to be neglected, discarded, or utilised for our benefit and satisfaction, irrespective of their suffering. On a daily basis we brutalise animals as a mostly unspoken part of our culture, often without a second thought. Now it is acknowledged at the highest international level that our children are psychologically harmed by violence in whatever form - including animal mistreatment.

The challenge that lies ahead to implement this understanding is exciting. Laws and regulations must now be developed to protect children from experiencing any violence inflicted on an animal, whether in their home or in society. Without exception.

We need to give deep thought to just what this means and how far-reaching it is.

It means, for instance, that the example set by too many adults in the world today that using and abusing animals for our benefit is normal, has to change.  Phrases like “it’s just a dog” must lose their place in our mentality and vocabulary.

Scientists tell us that compassion and empathy for other living beings is innate. It is something we are born with, but which, in the vast majority of the population, is eroded as we grow older.

See GC26 for the newly-launched guidelines by the UN to the Rights of the Child 

In his book The Science of Evil, multi-award winning professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, Professor Simon Baron-Cohen notes that “empathy is the most valuable social resource in our world, and the erosion of empathy is a critical global issue of our time.”  Empathy erosion, he says, is a condition that arises when we objectify others. This has the effect of devaluing them. “When empathy is dimmed, it causes us to think only of our own interests. When we are solely in the ‘I’ mode, our empathy is switched off.”

It is the erosion of empathy that allows the scourge of bullying to cripple young lives in our schools and universities. Erosion of empathy is at the root of domestic violence.

Likewise, our treatment of animals is rooted in our objectification of them. With objectification, comes devaluation. With devaluation comes human entitlement, abuse and violence.

Our tragic treatment of planet Earth is rooted in the same mentality...

In his book ‘Earth Emotions’ Australian geoscientist and eco-philosopher Glenn Albrecht invites us all to step our of the current Anthropocene Era (where human self-interest dominates and destroys) and become part of the burgeoning Symbiocene era in which all human activity supports all life, acknowledging the mutual interdependence of the great community of life.

Of interest is that the United Nations has endorsed Albrecht’s new word ‘Symbiocene’.

Click here to see Education Rewired July 2019 pages 6 & 7.

Albrecht concludes: “To repair and restore this Earth is now the highest good that I can think of. There is nothing else that comes even close.” 

Click here to see Animal Voice October 2019 pages 15 & 16.

On Monday 18th September, with the incorporation of General Comment 26 into the Rights of the Child, the United Nations acknowledged that the emotions of empathy, care and compassion are to be treasured and preserved, protected and nurtured. 


This journey into a Symbiocene world begins with those who are at our mercy – the animals. It starts with those we can objectify as being different from ourselves, shaped differently, lesser beings, unworthy of real consideration.

As you will see from the current issue of Animal Voice, the world’s best legal minds agree.

See a synopsis of the UWC presentation 

by Louise van der Merwe

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Following the United Nations announcement of GC26, Louise requested comment from world-renowned expert of The Link between animal abuse and domestic violence, Phil Arkow, President & Secretary of the National Link Coalition.


He said: “The new UN statement is groundbreaking and represents what may be the most forward-thinking recognition to date of The Link on a global scale. Now, for the first time in history, similar to the “One Welfare” concept that coordinates human, animal and environmental well-being, the Link between animal abuse and domestic violence is acknowledged and endorsed by the United Nations.

“This explicit Link reference signifies an important step toward ensuring not only that cruelty to animals is unacceptable but also recognises the adverse impact of animal cruelty on children.”

The Humane Education Trust wishes to thank the European Link Coalition, whose advocacy over several years propelled forward this break-through for children and animals. 

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The European Link Coalition’s Malcolm Plant expressed his satisfaction with this achievement, stating that NGOs around the world are now empowered with the UN’s authoritative remit “to demand governments achieve compliance by introducing policies which address traditions and practices where children are exposed to violence against animals.”


He added, “This should mean that no child can be taken trophy hunting, attend bullfighting or animal sacrifice festivals. It should also mean creating laws to protect children from violence against animals within their homes.”

Teaching Kindness & Compassion: Humane Education as an antidote to violence

The Humane Education Trust has worked for more than 30 years to convince South Africans at every level of society that our abusive treatment of animals impacts negatively on all of us.

We have had wonderful responses from the children in the schools into which we have been invited. For example:

Elton in Grade 10 said: “For me humane education is a great and joyful programme. It’s made me into a better person.”

Brendan in Grade 10 said: “Humane education gave me a new pair of eyes. Everything I look at now, I see differently.”

Aphiwe in Grade 8 said: “It’s a shame to see someone throwing a stone at a dog. Some people pour boiling water on animals. I think what people need is a little understanding.” 

Most recently, we have been privileged to teach in Forest Heights Primary School in Eerste River and, at the moment, we teach in R R Franks Primary School in Eerste River.


We start off our programme with the Five Freedoms for Animals, a set of basic principles endorsed by the UN and the World Organisation for Animal Health.  

To see the learners in action, please click here

(Parent permission was granted to show their faces) .


Let us throw our weight behind the new conceptualisation of the Rights of the Child.  


Let us all actively and consciously embark on the journey of healing the world, and all who travel on the journey of life alongside us – including those who are born nonHuman.


Please make a contribution to our efforts to raise human consciousness so that the animals in our care can lead healthy lives in accordance with the Five Freedoms for Animals 

Your donation is tax deductible!

For every donation, The Humane Education Trust will issue a Section 18A Tax Certificate for you to hand in to SARS.

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