Ondine Sherman, Co-Founder of Voiceless & Author, Educating Our Youth on the Truth
Ondine Sherman is a woman I love. Her gentle and kind demeanour in no way takes away from her strength, commitment and ability to be vulnerable in her work she shares with the world. Alongside of steering the ship of the animal rights group Voiceless, she has also wrote three books, one, The Miracle of Love is about her journey mothering her twin boys who have genetic disabilities and is a real eye and heart opener, a must-read for everyone. The other two books are from her young adult fiction series. With her passion in educating the next generation about creating a kinder world for animals and caring for the planet, Ondine is affectively lifting the veil of secrecy from many different angles. A powerful woman - I know her life's work will be anything but boring and always helpful, in her refreshingly genuine and truthful manner.
What have been the most positive changes you have witnessed since founding Voiceless?
Since we started Voiceless, there have been many positive changes. Key animal cruelty issues such as the suffering of pigs, dairy cows and chickens in intensive farming have moved from being the concern of only a minority in the fringes of Australian society into the mainstream. Today animal protection is seen as one of the biggest social justice movements of our century.
Voiceless has worked hard to build the fledgeling Australian animal protection movement into the powerful one it is today, through our many years of seed-funding, support and in-depth scientific and legal reports. We also encouraged media coverage on animal cruelty issues and are now seeing the results - journalists are writing increasingly about the use of animals in food and entertainment industries.
What area do you think Australia is lagging behind in regarding animal welfare?
Despite there being a marked increase in public concern about animal cruelty, the Australian Federal Government, as well as many of our States, has dragged its feet on making any real meaningful change to protect animals. One can see that clearly exemplified, sadly, in the recent public call for an end to Greyhound Racing and Live Export. Few politicians seem to have the courage to lead the way in making progressive changes. This means that the responsibility is increasingly is in our hands to create the change we want to see for animals. We the power to protect them from cruelty and suffering.
You have always been very passionate about education, firstly for law students and now for the younger generation with Voiceless actively incorporating education resources for schools. Can you tell us about their reactions?
We are just about to launch our new Animal Protection Education (APE) resources with the first being about Dolphins in Captivity. There are many more on their way soon! Voiceless APES investigate key animal protection issues and ethical and legal concepts and are all free and downloadable from our website. APEs contain a suite of high-quality resources including videos, podcasts, fact sheets and infographics, that are linked with the Australian Curriculum. APEs are created by educators for educators and are very easy for teachers to use in the classroom. We have already had wonderful feedback from high-school teachers around Australia. We are currently interviewing educators to gather information on how we can make our APEs as great as possible and encourage all educators to let us know their thoughts, sign up to our dedicated mailing list and join our Facebook Group 'Voiceless: Educators for Animal Protection'.
If you are a teacher interested please check out the Voiceless page. This is one of the examples of a video from the education kits.
Can you explain why you believe it is important to teach the next generation about these issues?
The biggest historical changes in our societies have come from young people. They are the next generation of influencers and voters; future lawyers, politicians, CEOs, and judges and have the passion, open-minds, idealism, creativity and innovation to lead this social justice movement. By encouraging them to think critically about animal protection, we will see a future society that is more compassionate and ultimately rejects cruelty to sentient beings.
Currently, Australian school students may only be exposed to farmed animal education from materials created and supplied by animal-use industries. With profit-driven industries creating educational materials, Voiceless is concerned that students will not be exposed to the whole picture or other perspectives on the same issues. Instead, we aim to provide facts and encourage the students to make up their own minds.
I was recently asked about advice for teenagers going vegan/vegetarian with unsupportive parents, which I imagine would be very isolating and frustrating. What is your advice to them?
Voiceless is starting to work on the seeds of a book that will help youth through this process, so exciting! The last thing we want for our teens is to have them go through this change process alone. This could cause social isolation, unhealthy eating and emotional hardship. I would suggest that families, even if they don't choose to go veg themselves, help support their teens,. There are so many resources available today online. It can be fun, for example, learning to cook an easy-vegan meal together that has all the needed plant-based nutrition. Helping your child stay grounded, connected and healthy is key.
Your book Skye, was another direction you took to help young adults with their journey on learning about animal welfare issues. Can you tell us about what inspired you to write the book and what you are doing next with the series?
I wrote Sky to help introduce teenagers to ideas about animal protection. On the way, I fell in love with the characters and writing process and had so much lovely feedback from my young readers. One young reader, Coco, read it twelve times! My next book in the series is in the works to come out in early 2019 and I'm already starting to write number three!
What are three affective ways to effect change?
What we do in our day-to-day life is hugely powerful. Not only can we 'vote with our wallet' by not supporting cruel industries, we can also become a powerful example for our friends and families.
Try moving towards cruelty-free living by replacing animal products with healthy plant-based food in your diet, avoiding fur and leather, and not supporting entertainment industries that exploit animals.
Being active on social media is becoming increasingly important in our device-obsessed society! Use the power of the internet in the best way possible by signing petitions, sharing campaigns, and writing to companies or commenting on their pages to express your support or concerns.
Find an hour or two a week to volunteer at an animal shelter or in an animal protection organisation. Helpful and reliable volunteers are a huge asset to the movement.