Education doesn’t transform the world, as Paulo Friere said, it rather ‘changes people and people change the world.’ If we want to make progress towards a just, sustainable future, we must invest in young people and current times have reminded us, we must encourage the abilities of youth to think critically, to question, analyse, discuss and debate issues of great importance.
Australian students rarely engage in one of the greatest social justice issues of our generation, animal protection. This is something Voiceless has been passionately working to change with our unique program, Animal Protection Education (APE).
Animals are woven into every fabric of human life, and yet often remain unseen. They are entrapped out of sight in factory farms, hauled onto ships as catch or by-catch, and transported on trucks and trains in the dead of night, or on ships to destinations across oceans. Of course our beloved companion animals are in plain sight, but even so, puppy farms and breeders often conduct their business behind a veil of secrecy with dire results for animal welfare.
We have all grown up, as generations preceding, immersed in a culture that puts animals at the bottom of the hierarchy. For some humans, they are considered lesser, ‘other’, of minimal significance. The culture of animal exploitation is strengthened by laws and policies which name them as ‘property’ with their sole value being to feed, entertain or assist humans in the ways we demand. This is reinforced in all aspects of society, from industries and institutions to our education system.
Students care about social change and are often particularly passionate about animal protection. They want to learn about animal sentience, animal law, animal ethics… and to question for themselves media headlines such as those which call for an end to live export.
Presently, most animal-related school education resources are created by meat and dairy industries – they sponsor school prizes and direct large budgets to create and distribute materials. It’s interesting to note that this used to be the case with environmental issues, also once a fringe concern. Sustainability and environmental education used to sit outside the curriculum, the narrative often controlled by wealthy natural resource industries. Today, these core issues are integrated into teaching plans and subject areas across the country.
Engaging students in learning about animal protection has been Voiceless’s top priority for the last five years when we started work on building our innovative Animal Protection Education (APE) suite of resources.
Today, we have a multi-disciplinary, online, free and interactive library of educational resources. To date, our materials have been downloaded nearly 3,000 times and through our partner, Education Perfect, reached 533 schools and 1600 Australian students. The response has been overwhelmingly positive and, although small, we have made a step towards addressing the gap in the education system.
In 2021, Voiceless released a comprehensive set of APE resources on one of the most important animal welfare topics to the Australian community, the live export industry. Resources included an explainer video, fact sheet, lessons plans, teacher guide, worksheets and quizzes. We also launched ‘Comparing Cruelty’ - educational resources linked to the Voiceless Animal Cruelty Index (VACI) encouraging students to consider how animal cruelty can be measured and compared across 50 countries. Voiceless also recently wrote a submission to include animal protection in the new national high school syllabus; it is crucial that young people learn about animal protection and currently there is no requirement for teachers to include this content in any subject area.
We believe in the power of education to spark change, to transform our youth who will soon have the decision-making powers to change the world. Although 2021 will see our education program winding down as Voiceless transitions into a leading Grants Program, APE will continue to live on through our partner platforms and as an online library of educational resources via our website.
Voiceless will continue to invest in humane education through our Grants and we’re looking forward to witnessing a new generation rise - visionaries and change makers who can use their critical thinking skills to create a better future for animals.
--- End ---
Dr. Bronner’s has supported Voiceless through All-One International since 2020. All-One International is an initiative to ensure that mission-aligned brand activism is a priority for our international partners in countries we distribute to around the world.
Through this initiative, at least 1% of sales made by Dr. Bronner’s participating international distributors are donated to local advocacy efforts in support of social justice, environmental sustainability, and animal advocacy. You can learn more about our partnered organisations here