Shannon Kimball has been the Program Coordinator of Bridges of Respect since 2005. He became involved with CAA around the time he met Freeman Wicklund, former Program Coordinator of Bridges of Respect, when Freeman came into his store to print and laminate some posters for the program in 1998. Shannon became involved with CAA’s outreach and the Bridges Program gradually, before becoming a Humane Educator in 2003.
“Once I took over as coordinator [in 2005], I could see that I needed to learn all of the presentations and I started to develop a few that we didn’t have,” said Shannon of the transition, which included a focus on growing the program further and reworking some existing presentations. Their focus was on narrowing the presentations down to a strong core of topics that would be sustained by a growing team of volunteers.
Bridges of Respect provides free humane education presentations to schools and community groups of all ages in the Twin Cities metro area. The current Humane Education Team includes Christine Coughlin, Kathy Coughlin, Freeman Wicklund, and Shannon Kimball. The team brought 38 presentations to over 1100 students in 2018, presenting six out of their seven presentation topics. Circle of Compassion, Our Food Our World, Beyond Violence, and Animals in Entertainment were the most popular presentations in 2018.
The presentations encourage students to critically think about the use of animals in our society and honoring humanity’s values of compassion, responsibility, mercy, and empathy. Shannon has presented to students from middle school to college and tailors each presentation to the group’s age, curriculum, and amount of time available for the presentation.
“I want to leave people with a sense of urgency without destroying their outlook on the whole world,” said Shannon with a little laugh. “I get kinda tired sometimes of being the bearer of bad news. I can see the looks in some kids faces––no matter what age group I’m with––when they start to get a grasp on the realities of how bad it is out there and that we really do need their help.”
Each presentation Shannon gives ends with a brief overview of plant-based nutrition along with ways to eat more plant-based if the students are interested in giving it a try. This information is typically something students will not receive in class, and if they do, it’s usually a very brief overview. After each presentation, Shannon shares additional resources with students. “We want to be accessible for students who may have further questions and we want to be approachable.”
Shannon makes sure that each presentation ends on a positive note, reminding students that their decisions can make a difference. “I want to make sure that students are empowered and leave happy.”
“We always come back to ethics and compassion as our main message, but we also include health and environmental issues.” Shannon has presented for several health classes and shifts the message to more of a dietary focus. While he’s comfortable answering many of the standard vegan questions like, “Where do you get your protein?” he looks at being asked new questions as an opportunity to learn more and makes sure to have a number of additional resources discussing topics like maintaining a plant-based diet while gluten-free, soy-free, or diabetic. “The best resource I can recommend for these questions is veganhealth.org––there are a number of physicians that are in a better position to answer these questions than I am.”
A Tasty Message
The end of each presentation also includes another favorite: samples of vegan meats, cheeses, and milk. In 2018, Bridges gave shared over one thousand food samples, reaching 570 students. Food samples really help show how easy (and how delicious!) plant-based eating can be.
One of the questions he frequently gets in classes is ‘What about conscientious omnivorey? If we’re nice to animals, isn’t that good enough?’ To which Shannon answers, “Any action is commendable if we’re trying to reduce suffering for animals but it’s more of a milestone than an endpoint. The vegan community has built more infrastructure than conscientious omnivores. What I mean is that if I hop on a plane and ask for a vegetarian or vegan meal, chances are they’ll know what I mean whereas if I said I was a conscientious omnivore they wouldn’t know what I was talking about and that’s because groups like Compassionate Action for Animals have been there building structure and community that makes it easier for people to move in the plant-based direction.”
For more information or to schedule a free presentation for your students or organization, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also support Bridges of Respect’s outreach and longevity by making a donation to our year-end campaign.