by Marsha Rakestraw

As we spend more time studying nonhuman animals, we humans are learning just how intelligent, complex, and sentient they are.

Recent studies have highlighted the significant intellectual and emotional capacities of cows, pigs, and chickens.

Who Am I?, an activity created by one of our M.Ed. graduates, serves as a great introduction to thinking about the commonalities that humans, cows, pigs, and chickens share, and can lead to important critical thinking and discussions about why we treat farmed animals the way we do.

In the first part of the activity, participants are given a slip of paper with a descriptive characteristic on it that is specific to either a human, cow, pig, or chicken (e.g., I ride a bike. I have 4 stomachs. I oink.). Based on their characteristic, participants are asked to walk to the habitat that is appropriate to who they are. (Before the activity begins, the habitats are created/posted, either by the participants or teacher.) It’s pretty quick and simple.

Then, participants are given a second slip of paper and asked to do the same thing. This time, they have much more difficulty. Why? Because the characteristics are true for more than just one species:

  • I have a good memory (that’s true for humans, cows, and chickens).
  • I have friends (that’s true for all four species).
  • I talk to my baby before s/he’s born (that’s true for humans and chickens).
  • I can play computer games (humans, chickens, and pigs can all do this).
  • I like to play (true for at least humans, pigs, and cows).

And so on.

Once participants complete the activity, they can begin reflecting on their knowledge, assumptions, and judgments about pigs, cows, and chickens. They can learn more about these animals and their complexities. They can talk about how we treat farmed animals and whether that matches their values.

There are numerous possibilities for exploration and discussion.

And one of the great elements of this activity is that it can be done with kids (starting around grade 2) as well as with adults (with a few modifications).

Download the complete activity.

Find more humane education activities in our online Resource Center.