Compassionate Times: April, 2014

Student Holding Soy Milk
Student Holding Soy Milk

Bridges of Respect (Bridges) is Compassionate Action for Animals’ humane education program. Bridges serves the Twin Cities and surrounding area by providing presentations on animal protection issues for classrooms and community organizations free of charge. We spoke with the Program Coordinator, Mr. Shannon Kimball, about some details of the program:

1. Tell us about how Bridges of Respect and CAA work together.

Bridges of Respect is an outreac and education program that reaches hundreds of people with a large amount of information. At the same time, we have other activities, such as leafleting, that reach thousands more with a smaller amount of information. Both are vital. I wish the general public sought out information on animal protection and veganism more often, but for the most part, we have to make a platform for our advocacy. In other words, we often create the opportunity to share our message and we do it well through a variety of community building events, food giveaways, the TC Veg Fest, and a lot more. In the schools, the administration seeks us out on a professional level, putting CAA in a position of authority. In a well-established institution of learning, the Bridges program has the undivided attention of the audience, who are in an environment where they expect to learn.

2. What were some of the program’s biggest initiatives last year?

We’ve been expanding our vegan food samples for students, which really enriches the presentations! Lately, we’ve been providing Tofurky sandwiches complete with whole grain bread, Vegenaise and lettuce. We serve plant-based milks to go along with the sandwiches. Vanilla and chocolate soy milk are always a big hit, but while watching students’ reactions, I want to say that the almond milk is about to push soy off the throne. Also last year, the program participated in a national humane education study with several other organizations. It was designed to track how effective humane education is at motivating students toward vegetarianism. While the results for that aren’t in yet, our own student surveys that we hand out after our presentations indicate that an astounding 70-80% of the students are interested in making some change in their lifestyle, such as eating less meat, becoming vegan, or carefully considering the impacts of their spending on things like clothes, entertainment, and cosmetic products.

3. Can you describe what humane education is?

Humane education is an effort to enhance students’ understanding of how their choices impact other human beings, other species, and the planet itself. With a focus on the world’s most pressing needs, humane education infuses curricula at all levels with meaningful tools and critical thinking skills that prepare students for personal and global responsibility. Humane education has existed since the 1800s, and has always been recognized as a vital component of character training and violence-prevention. More than a dozen states have passed laws promoting or mandating that humane education be provided in the classroom.

4. How many schools do you visit each year?

We’re invited to about a dozen schools every year, middle school through college. As the Program Coordinator, I take pride in knowing that once we get our foot in the door, once we’ve had a chance to speak with the students, it is rare that we’re not invited back in the future. Getting that foot in the door is an on-going challenge, though. If anyone knows an educator who might be interested, please let me know or direct them to our website.

5. Can you describe what impact Bridges of Respect has had?

We focus on what the students need most right now. With about 22,000 Minneapolis students living right at the poverty line, we need to give them direction on how to eat healthy and affordably so they can make the best choice for themselves, animals, and the planet. We’ve also empowered advocates. For instance, we provide opportunities for up and coming dieticians to share their expertise with students. We help other humane educators and community organizers get started by providing them with materials and by having them shadow us in the classroom. One budding humane educator even flew in from out of state to accompany us.

In 2013 alone, the program reached over 1,500 students during 51 presentations, distributed nearly 2,000 pieces of literature, and served about 4,000 vegan food samples in public schools all over the Twin Cities. Whereas our overall impact can be difficult to measure, both students and teachers have remarked that our presentations are the reason they are making changes in their lives to help animals and to better reflect how they feel animals should be treated. Earlier this year a 10th grader at Como High school told us in her evaluation of the presentation: “I’ve been thinking about going vegan for a while; this showed me it wasn’t as hard as I thought.” Another student commented on our technique, “… he told us everything we need to know. Because he wasn’t telling us to change, he was telling us how he changed and we could do the same if we want.”

Shannon can be reached by email at shannon@bridgesofrespect.org or by phone at 612-718-0829.

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