Adam HaRishon named each creature, the Midrash tells us, intuitively recognizing the spiritual energy with which it was created. He also recognized that animals, while to be respected as living creations, are not people.
Jewish customs reflect these concepts. Except for a few fables quoted in the midrash for the benefit of adults, animals in Jewish culture are not anthropomorphized. People are people. Chickens are chickens.
The spiritual energy, essence and attributes that Adam recognized for each particular animal are unique. Some, we are taught, are to be emulated, others avoided. Kosher animals are generally recognized as milder and more compassionate than non-kosher creatures, and the physical signs of their Kashrut also have lessons to teach us, such as how to dwell in the material world without becoming too attached to it. Kosher animals represent a lifestyle of spiritual purity.
The Torah teaches that children and purity go hand in hand. We recognize the innocence of our young children. Following Torah guidelines and traditional customs, we seek to raise them surrounded by images and items of holiness.
At the same time, school-age children must learn words and concepts, including animals, from Torah and from life, not all of which are kosher or even necessarily good. We cannot teach Parshat Bereishit without knowing and recognizing a snake.
Perhaps, also, as people mature, we are all more able to discriminate and also understand how to channel particular energies in the proper way. We see that the Tribe of Binyamin, compared to a wolf, had to learn, through the bitter experience at Givaah, how to control and channel its wolf-like nature. Eventually, the people of Binyamin applied those attributes in the service of kedushah via the special day of Tu Be’Av. (See Body, Mind and Soul by Y. Ginsburgh)
Because our purpose at Hebrew Scouts is to educate school-age students in Torah and life-relevant vocabulary, we present both kosher and non-kosher animals accurately. We teach words for creatures mentioned in the Tanach, and of animals that children may see in daily life. We almost always introduce and teach these animals within a Torah context.
For instance, Shlomo HaMelech kept monkeys to inspire happiness and birds to inspire sweetness and beauty. Yehudah ben Teimah encourages us to be strong as a lion, swift as a deer, bold as a leopard, and light as an eagle, to fulfill Hashem’s Will. Hashem’s Chariot bears the face of a lion and an eagle. And many more examples abound.
Hebrew Scouts recognizes that kosher animals have special meaning for Jewish children, and that each creation has a lesson that can be appreciated at the right age, time and place.
Read more about this topic from Talks of the Lubavitch Rebbe here.