Mary Church Terrell

Appeal for Animal Day - 29 April 1902

Mary Church Terrell
April 29, 1902
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[Appeal for Animal Day]

Washington D.C.

April 29 1902/

To the Honorable Board of Trustees :Let

Let me respectfully call your attention to the necessity of setting apart just one day in the year, on which the children of our Public Schools shall be especially urged to treat all animals kindly and be taught what cruelty to animals means. When I was a member of the School Board a few years ago, I urged that such a day be set aside and called Animal Day. The proposition was endorsed by nearly every member of the Board, more or less heartily, but there seemed to be no urgent necessity of enacting it into law, according to the opinion of some, so that it was finally laid upon the table for future consideration, where it now sleeps- not the slumber of death, however, I earnestly hope. Among the members who endorsed the proposition to establish an Animal Day was General Harries, who is at present a member of your Board. In our Public Schools one day is set apart eacy year, on which children are taught the duty and beauty of patriotism and of what it consists. It is just as necessary, I think, that children should be taught the duty of being kind to dumb animals and of what cruelty to them consists. For no child can become a true patriot, who practices cruelty upon dumb brutes.

From close observation I have discovered that many are unkind to animals through thoughtlessness rather than a malicious desire to unjure them. Boys and girls and boys who would not stick a knife into an animal, or beat it to death inflict greater cruelty by constantly neglecting to attend to its wants and allowing it to perish slowly for want of water and food. Parents who get the credit of being both intelligent and humane either consider it unnecessary to cultivate tenderness toward animals in the heart of the children, or they do not find time to do so. It is therefore, the duty of the Public Schools to supply this training in the case of children who receive none at all at home, and supplement it in the case of children who do.

In some of the best schools lf the country Animal Day is observed-that is a day with some other name, perhaps, but whose salient features are such as I would like to see introduced into the Public Schools of the District. Rev. J.T. Packard, a noted divine, who is very much interested in this subject, ascertained that of the 7000 children in the public schools of Scotland who were educated to be merciful in their treatment of dumb animals, not one has ever been brought into the courts.

I believe that if the majority of deliberate murderers were asked, when they took the first step in crime, they would relate a story of cruelty practiced upon some animal. In these days, when one hears so much about educating the head and training the hand, and so little about cultivating the heart, would it not well for us here at the Capital of the nation to take a step in the right direction by teaching children to be kind to helpless dumb brutes? During the years that have elapse since I implored the School Board to provide such heart training for our youth, I have become increasingly anxious that it should be realized. I am frequently amazed at the inhuman cruelty practiced upon animals by Christian, cultured communities. A case in point is the treatment, to which the elephant Dung has been subjected in our Zoological Prk. As you well know, this poor animal has been practically standing in one spot for four years bound by a chain barely three feet long, according to a statement made by the Humane Society not long ago. At the time when I first urged the Board to establish an Animal Day, some of the best citizens in the District joined heartily in the request. The Post, the Star and the Times advocated it strongly in eitorials and the Star spoke very favorably of it. The Humane Society put forth strenuous efforts to have it adopted. I shall be very glad to explain in detail the manner in which I think such a day should be observed, it you care to hear from me on the point. I am well aware, however that the Board of Education does not need any points from me.

Hoping that the reasons which I have presented in my effort to prove that the inauguration of an Animal Day will be instrumental of good in our public schools will appeal both to the head and the heart of the Honorable Board of Trustees,

I am respectfully yours,