Each year, AWI, in partnership with the Humane Education Network, holds the “A Voice for Animals” competition. High school students from all over the world are invited to submit essays, photo essays, or videos that examine animal suffering and present possible solutions.
Students answered the call this year with moving entries on behalf of pit bulls and pachyderms, cats and clownfish, bees and birds. Among numerous admirable efforts, the following four claimed the top prizes:
First Prize, Climate Change: “Seeing Scarlet: Saving a Gorgeous Neotropical Migrant,” by Claire Wayner, Baltimore, MD. “Walking through downtown Baltimore at 5 AM with a butterfly net in my backpack, I get odd looks from security guards.” So starts Claire’s essay detailing the perils migratory birds face, including climate change, habitat loss, and (the reason for her early morning urban stroll) window strikes. Claire works with Lights Out Baltimore helping to track window strikes in the city and, where possible, rescue wounded birds, all the while attempting to get building managers to save energy and take steps to prevent additional bird mortality in her hometown.
First Prize, Essay: “When the Powerful Are Crushed,” by Naomi Chongsiriwatana, Los Angeles, CA. Naomi, an American teen living in Thailand, details the brutal treatment of captive elephants there and seeks to educate readers about the reality behind one of Thailand’s most popular tourism draws: elephant camps. “In these camps, foreigners can see elephants play games, watch them paint masterpieces, and ride them. Underneath most of Thailand’s elephant camps’ picture-perfect facades, though, lies a dark, heartbreaking truth.” She describes how baby elephants are torn from their mothers in infancy and broken to a life of servitude via phajaan, or “the crush.” Naomi encourages tourists to visit and support true elephant sanctuaries instead.
First Prize, Essay with Photographs: “Cozy Condos for Feral Felines,” Olivia Banks, Nottingham, MD. Olivia’s photo essay describes the often-perilous life of feral cats and gives an overview of “trap, neuter, and release” (TNR) programs that deal with feral populations in a humane and effective manner. She describes her own project to construct shelters for feral cat colonies in her area. “These shelters have a dual purpose—not only do they protect the cats from the elements and from other animals, they also provide TNR workers with easy access to the cats, so that they can be identified and given proper medical care.” (Olivia is pictured above with some of her cat condos.)
First Prize, Video: “Save a Baby, Save a Species,” by Myriam Burger, Ridgewood, NJ. In discussing the effect on African elephant families due to poaching, Myriam aptly quotes Dr. Jane Goodall: “It’s not just a species facing extinction. It’s also a crisis of massive individual suffering.” After describing the grief elephants endure, the video introduces viewers to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) and its work saving orphaned baby elephants in Kenya. Myriam tells of her own efforts through Fight Against Animal Mistreatment (FAAM), a school club she founded, to raise funds to sponsor an elephant at the DSWT.
Even when they are chronicling dire situations, there is inspiration in the desire of these students to prevent animal suffering and model a better way. We invite you to view the essays, photos, and videos—the ones described above as well as the second and third prize winners, “active involvement” honorees, and honorable mention entries—at www.hennet.org/contest.php.