How to take the emotions related to animal welfare into consideration?


Emotions have an ambiguous status in the pedagogy of socially acute questions. Expression of emotions can unsettle both the class and the teacher and the image the latter has of their status. It can be scary. It can also affect the learning of the learner who expresses emotions, especially when it is too strong. But this is also the driving force behind the desire to mobilize and promote learning.
Animal welfare evokes emotions of different kinds: it can be anger towards a society that makes the farmer feel guilty; disgust with regards to animal suffering; joy in the relationship that is formed with the animal… If these emotions cannot be expressed, they lead to the establishment of psychological defence mechanisms that are often detrimental to the learner's psychological health.
It thus seems to us on the contrary desirable to encourage the expression of emotions, to make them a lever of learning rather than a barrier.


For the trainer: to enable expression of emotions in a constructive manner

For the trainee: to consider emotions as a way of understanding oneself.


We consider two major steps in expressing emotions: (1) learning to recognize and express one's emotions; (2) learning to question one's emotions...

1. Learning to express emotions

Emotions, whatever they are, must be welcomed. To allow the expression of emotions, whatever they may be, is to welcome the person in full authenticity, to allow them to become aware of themselves and to better understand others.
It is sometimes difficult for a learner to express his/her emotions, to feel the right to do it.
In the literature, many texts on animal suffering can be suggested to the learners, asking them to express what they feel. The Anicare films are also likely to generate emotions of anger, joy, sadness, disgust, surprise, etc.
At the end of the film screening or a debate, the teacher can invite the person to a free expression of emotions, while asking him/her to express the physical feeling that reflects the emotion. To express your emotion is to distance yourself from it and a step towards taming it.
Other means can be used to express emotions with regards to a situation of animal suffering: painting, sculpture, poetry, body movement, photo-montage... are as many ways to express one's emotion, but also to begin to formulate and question it.
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2. Question what the emotion says about us

If the occasionally strong emotions that a film can evoke are welcomed, they always calm down and can give way to an intention, a movement, a message that makes sense to the learner, a kind of meaning. In other words, emotion is a physical movement that invites action. It meets a homeostasis need for a return to well-being. It is an emergent quality generated by and during the process of change, i.e. the reflexive process generated by the didactic approach itself. Emotion is talking about us. What does it tell us? This is the challenge of this pedagogical phase, to question what emerges from a deposited emotion. Expression of an emotion can trigger a power of action, a desire, a change of perspective. Allowing expression means showing emotions to highlight the diversity of the ethics at stake, but also to highlight the new knowledge to which this desire responds. This can then be an opportunity to become part of a training project, with the teacher ensuring that emerging projects are part of an ethic of respect for others. It may also involve identifying philosophical issues through the expression of students and inviting them to a debate that allows them to learn to listen to and tolerate the thoughts of others.

Pitfalls and recommendations

Welcoming emotions is not easy because as an educator we may also be recipients of their violence. If the expression of emotions disturbs us, it may be better not to engage in such pedagogy. Welcoming emotions presupposes feeling anchored, in a form of inner security. It requires a great deal of respect and sensitivity from the educator to be able to receive what the learner delivers.


I had proposed literary texts to teachers that made animals talk, particularly through the suffering they could feel. I asked them how they felt. It wasn't always easy to express directly what one could feel. Often the person makes an analysis of the text, an analysis of what the author is trying to create, but does not talk about his emotions. It's a real learning process, or re-learning to talk about emotions."

Often, it feels like we're perceived as a bit of a softy. But are we more sensitive, more fragile than others? During the training, my colleagues said to me, "Oh yes, maybe we can actually say what we think, what we feel.””