Cathy Davey: ‘Children need to be taught empathy’

Singer tells the Róisín Meets podcast why schools need classes on kindness

“I would love to get some kind of class put into schools to teach empathy through hands-on experience, thinking outside the box and teaching people alternative ways. I just think we are breeding little narcissists,” says singer and animal rescue founder Cathy Davey.

“My mind is boggled as to how it’s not a class, because the things that we’re doing to each other, let alone animals, are crazy,” she told Róisín Ingle, presenter of the Róisín Meets podcast.

It has been six years since Cathy Davey released new music and during that time she has been kept busy tending to the ever-growing animal rescue that she founded with some friends after identifying an “equine crisis” in Ireland during the recession.

It started with one horse, “in a field belonging to someone who has a bit of equine knowledge,” and developed into the My Lovely Horse Rescue, with animals of all kinds happily occupying 50 acres of land in Co Kildare.

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‘Father Ted’

The name is an obvious nod to her partner Neil Hannon’s

Father Ted

Eurovision ditty of the same name, and she says it has been given the seal of approval by the show’s creator.

“It stuck because it was just funny to us. I asked him [Neil Hannon] and he then asked Graham Linehan if it was okay that we sullied the name and he said: ‘oh go on’!”

A long-time vegetarian, Davey has always been disturbed by how humans treat animals. The lack of empathy that allows people to mistreat small creatures travels all the way up to the devastation done to the world through consumerism, she says.

There is no point in ranting on the internet though. Instead we need to start at the beginning, teaching small children about empathy.

“No one reacts well to being preached at, so I think if we even got in at a primary school level and there was one class a week . . . it would have to be devised by therapists and psychologists and see how empathy develops in the brain,” she said.

The My Lovely Horse Rescue is a charity run by volunteers and Davey’s commitment to it is such that she didn’t think she would go back to music, instead allowing herself “24 hours a day to work on the farm”.

She realised music is a platform to highlight the issues that mean so much to her, however, and her latest album, New Forest, is full of references to creatures great and small.

To listen to Cathy Davey sing two songs live, talk about her animal rescue, and more, go to Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher or irishtimes.com

Davey's album, New Forest, is out now