Bridges of Respect Turns 20!

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.

For a presentation at the School of Environmental Studies, students watched the documentary Cowspiracy, learned about veganic agriculture, and looked at how living lower on the food chain can be the most sustainable for us all.

In 2018, the team brought 38 presentations to over 1100 students, presenting six out of their seven presentation topics. Their presentations cover topics ranging from our society’s use of animals in entertainment to food. Circle of Compassion, Our Food Our World, Beyond Violence, and Animals in Entertainment are the most popular presentations and can be tailored for audiences from primary to postsecondary school age, curriculum, and time available.

Shannon Kimball was the Program Coordinator of Bridges of Respect from 2005-2018. 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.

In 2005, Shannon focused on reworking the presentations down to a strong core of topics that would be sustained by a growing team of volunteers.

Using critical thinking to cultivate kindness

Bridges of Respect has been connecting with young people and showing them how they can use critical thinking to make kind choices since 1999.

“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.”

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.

Each Bridges of Respect presentation 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.

“We always come back to ethics and compassion as our main message, but we also include health and environmental issues,” noted Shannon. Classrooms that have requested Bridges presentations range from biology to ethics to nutrition and beyond!

Changing lives one classroom at a time

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 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 info@bridgesofrespect.org. You can also support Bridges of Respect’s outreach and longevity by making a donation or getting involved as a presenter.

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