“A Voice for Animals” Essay Contest Winners Demonstrate Ingenuity in Promoting Human-Animal Coexistence

Four smiling teenagers gather around a Golden Retriever.
Photo by Light Field Studios

Washington, DC—From documenting the plight of city pigeons to describing how the barn owl is harmed by folklore and superstition, the winners of the 2022 “A Voice for Animals” contest use their voices to explore urban wildlife struggles, showcase volunteer work benefiting animals, and examine how cultural beliefs influence attitudes about animal welfare, among other topics.

The annual contest offers high school students ages 14 to 18 the opportunity to win cash prizes for essays, videos, or photo essays that explore strategies to alleviate animal suffering. The contest is sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Humane Education Network, with additional support from the Palo Alto Humane Society.

Twenty winners, nearly half of whom live abroad, were selected this year. Students were given the option this year to choose their own topics. Additionally, they were invited to explore how alternative energy sources impact wildlife. Many students acknowledged in their submissions the need to generate alternatives to fossil fuels and mitigate negative consequences of energy generation for animals and their habitats.

“These young people are embracing creative challenges and engaging their peers and communities on important issues of species decline, models of compassionate care, and the interplay between technological advancements and animal protection, said Regina Terlau-Benford, AWI’s humane education manager and co-manager of the contest. “Their leadership will inform the next generation of animal advocates.”

The first-place winners are:

  • Ava Smith of Davidson, North Carolina, for the video “The Overlooked Struggles of Pigeons and Ways to Help,” which examines the efforts of an Amsterdam organization that rehabilitates pigeons whose feet get tangled up in string or hair in the urban environment, as well as Smith’s own work at the Carolina Raptor Center and as a foster home provider for pigeons and doves who are unable to be released back into the wild.
  • Katelyn Chen of Portland, Oregon, for the essay, “The PAWS Club,” which focuses on how Chen led her school’s companion animal club during the COVID-19 pandemic. Limited by age and geography, the club developed innovative strategies to contribute to local shelters, such as participating in dog wash fundraisers, crafting pom pom cat toys for shelter cats, and learning woodworking to build dog-training tables.
  • Emily Scott of Chantilly, Virginia, for the essay, “Reforming Hydroelectric Power Infrastructure to Promote Ecological Preservation,” which examines the ecosystem impacts of renewable energy sources, including loss of terrestrial habitat and biodiversity, and discusses potential remedies.
  • Ayram Beltran of Phoenix, Arizona, for the essay, “Barn Owls and Witches,” which explores how Mexican folk tales labeling barn owls as witches in disguise result in the animals being mistreated, abused, and even killed. Instead, as Beltran notes, barn owls should be appreciated for controlling rodent populations and contributing to ecological balance.
  • William Tsay of Manhasset, New York, for the essay, “The Downfall of the Blue Bloods,” which discusses how hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs are captured and forcefully bled each year by the medical industry for vaccine development and other research. Horseshoe crab blood is a bright shade of blue and has remarkable antibacterial properties, but there are synthetic alternatives. After surveying students and community members, Tsay concluded that many people remain unaware of the crucial role horseshoe crabs play in our ecosystem.

For more information on the “A Voice for Animals” contest and to review all the winning entries, visit hennet.org/contest.php. The 2023 contest dates will be announced in mid-December.

Media Contact Information

Margie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
margie@awionline.org, (202) 446-2128

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywherein the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

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