Contest Showcases Efforts of Youth to Advance Animal Welfare

On July 31, AWI and the Humane Education Network announced the winners of the 2022 “A Voice for Animals” contest. As in prior years, students were free to choose their own topic, but this year were also invited to explore the relationship between alternative energy sources and the impacts on wildlife. Many entrants accepted this challenge and wrote submissions that acknowledged the need to generate alternatives to fossil fuels while working to mitigate the negative consequences energy generation can pose for animals and their habitats. Other entries covered urban wildlife struggles, highlighted volunteer work, or examined the role that cultural beliefs can play in shaping attitudes toward animals.

owl - photo by Dagmara Ksandrova
photo by Dagmara Ksandrova

First prize video winner Ava Smith underscored the plight of city pigeons. Her engaging video details the efforts of an Amsterdam organization that rescues birds who suffer debilitating foot injuries after becoming ensnared in trash containing strings, as well as her own efforts to foster pigeons and her work at the Carolina Raptor Center. The video is a wonderful example of how education, combined with action, can make a difference in the lives of animals.

Determined to help animals despite her group’s youth and the limitations imposed by COVID-19, PAWS club president Katelyn Chen facilitated unique projects her group could take part in. Her prize-winning essay describes how she and other club members embraced creative challenges such as constructing training tables for a local rescue. Under Katelyn’s leadership, the club also went on to make toys for shelter animals and build feral cat shelters. 

ESL winner Ayram Beltran’s essay explains how understanding cultural context can improve the well-being of certain species that may be maligned due to folklore and superstition—specifically lechuzas (barn owls). Ayram makes a case for disseminating clear, factual information to communities that may not realize the critical role of these birds in the ecosystem, and for supporting groups who work to protect them.

To see the entire list of winners and their submissions, please visit