Colouring in cruelty

It’s time for my monthly ramblings from the world of vegan parenting…

It’s been raining, and raining, and raining some more these last few weeks so we’ve been spending a lot of time colouring¬† in pictures.¬† Littlepixie is getting bored of her colouring book and my drawing skills are reasonably close to abysmal, I mean I know what I’m trying to draw, it’s just that our pencils are quite clearly malfunctioning!

I had the bright idea of going online to print out some colouring sheets for Littlepixie, she likes to colour elephants, monkeys, horses and giraffes, I’m sure you can imagine what my drawings look like!

So I did a little googling and I must say, I know coming from a vegan perspective I’m a little sensitive to animal cruelty but honestly, who would give this picture to their children to colour in? Do they have no compassion? Or do they just not think about these things?

I foolishly had thought that the vast majority of people had come around to the idea of animal-free circuses. But no, I appear to have overestimated once again.

Abuse of animals is still rife in circuses, circuses.com has some harrowing reports on it and one well-known circus is going to be appearing in court soon over claims of elephant abuse.

I googled “elephant circus colouring pages” and there are thousands of sites all offering the same types of pictures, happy elephants dancing on a ball or carrying balloons. What a fantastic message to send to our kids, eh?

It’s worth mentioning that I have no problem with talking anthropomorphic animals in children’s stories and pictures, in fact I think children really love talking animals and feel a real affinity towards them, but there is a world of difference between that and the above picture. The above picture is depicting a real life scenario, it’s not a walking talking elephant playing games, this picture clearly depicts a trained dumb beast being used for entertainment, it’s every bit as cruel as the practices in a factory farm, yet for some reason I can’t seem to find any battery hen colouring pages, odd!

Now, I know some people will think this an extreme reaction to a harmless colouring-in picture, but you know children build their world-view based on the things they see and do everyday.

A child who often colours in pictures of animals performing in a circus will be understandably quite excited when they see circus posters appear around town, as he will associate them with the happy animals he has been colouring. Do we want our children to be excited at the prospect of seeing a circus elephant balancing on a ball? I know I don’t!

There are thousands of colouring page websites to choose from, but most have plenty of images of performing animals included in their lists.

One way of using these pictures positively could be to use them to gently explain to an older child about natural and unnatural animal behaviour, and perhaps use the pictures to kick off discussions about the use of animals for entertainment. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has a website aimed at older children which discusses elephants in circuses and other examples of animal cruelty.

Littlepixie is still a little young for such discussions, so I am going to print off some decent colouring pages while she is in bed and keep the circus discussion until she’s a little older.

National Geographic has a colouring book archive with dozens of wild animal pictures, each with an interesting factoid or two to amaze the children!

As always, I’ll finish with my usual book recommendations, these aren’t colouring books, but they are great for children who love to read about wild animals. For beautiful drawings of parent-child animal pairs have a look at “Mama, Mama/Papa, Papa” by Jean Marzollo and while we’re on the subject of elephants, one of Littlepixie’s current favourite books is “I am a little elephant” by Francois Crozat. Neither book shows the elephants having fun balancing on a ball however, strange that!

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