As a compassionate parent, you’ve likely been there: You’re sitting with your little one, singing one of the many nursery rhymes you learned growing up, only to cringe as you realize that its message is one you don’t want to share with your child.
Attitudes toward animals have changed a lot in the hundreds of years since many nursery rhymes were written. And in the same way we’ve given old songs and fairy tales much-needed makeovers to replace racist, sexist, and otherwise insensitive language, we should make sure nursery rhymes are relevant for kids today and don’t encourage speciesism, cruelty to animals, or fear of them.
Animals are intelligent individuals capable of joy and suffering. They’re not ours to exploit, and our language must evolve to reflect this. As parents, we know kids are like sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear. Just as we try to be careful not to use certain words that we don’t want our kids repeating, we must consider what messages about animals we’re imparting to them through traditional nursery rhymes.
While things may have been different long ago, we now know that sheep used for wool are bred to grow much more wool than they ever would naturally and are abused and even killed during shearing. Sheep need their wool—it’s not ours to take, and a nursery rhyme like “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” should be updated to reflect that.
So we’ve created animal-friendly versions of five classic nursery rhymes! Check them out:
As a parent, you influence how your child grows up and their outlook on life. When singing one of these super-popular nursery rhymes to your little one, exchange the outdated lyrics for the compassionate new ones to teach that it’s not OK to be cruel to animals. Let’s ensure that we’re instilling empathy in our kids at every opportunity and building the most compassionate generation yet.