The seed of activism was planted early on for activist and author, Susan Hargreaves, founder of Animal Hero Kids.
Born in Meryside, England, from a young age she shared tender moments and witnessed profound kindness with her Irish grandfather who cared for injured wildlife in his neighbourhood.
It was through this relationship that she met many rescued ducks and crows. “Before the age of six, I realized we are each individuals with our own personalities,” says Hargreaves.
However at age nine, she was taken to a chicken hatchery and witnessed all the male chicks being gassed and suffocated. Horrified at this extreme cruelty and confused by the adults around her standing by and doing nothing to stop it was the pivotal moment Hargreaves’ journey into advocating for animals began.
Her early activism work is extensive, from closing down rodeos, exposing circuses, factory farms, the cruelty of hunting to rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife.
In 1980, while a student of early childhood education in Canada, the idea to merge her passion for activism and teaching was born and she created interactive education programs which eventually morphed into Animal Hero Kids.
Kindness and empowerment program
Animal Hero Kids is a complimentary kindness and empowerment education program Hargreaves has presented to thousands of kids (now more a virtual program due to Covid).
Described by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall as “outstanding”, the program involves Hargreaves sharing stories of animal rescue and advocacy, bringing beautiful costumed characters along such as Ronnie V Cow, and often has vegan cooking samples for the children to try.
Her reasons behind this work are clear: “If we don’t educate, effectively and empower young people, how are we ever going to stop the constant running tap of animal abuse?”
The kids are encouraged to join campaigns, some of which include helping to put an end to greyhound racing and the black bear massacre in Florida.
Several Animal Hero Kids were involved in the high-profile Million Dollar Vegan campaign in 2019. Appearing in a series of videos, the children implored then US President Trump to go vegan and improve the public health system.
The Animal Hero Kids – who hail from across the globe – are also given the opportunity to speak to commissioners and local government representatives and have their voices heard.
This has proven to be highly successful, with media support and politicians engaging with what the kids have to say.
Animal Hero Kids for the Voiceless book
Inspired by endless amazing real-life stories of kids helping animals, Hargreaves decided to compile them into a book: Animal Hero Kids for the Voiceless.
In this uplifting anthology, you can read about Latrell who saved a disabled man and his canine from a fire, Elena who found a forever home for Gizmo the pig, the Australian boy who saved a dying swan, the English boy who stopped a dog from strangling, and the 12-year-old girl who saved a pig who had fallen off the back of a truck on its way to slaughter.
There are over 300 pages filled with these beautiful heart-warming tales. The children also love to learn new words from the book. “They are empowered to bring their own voices into their own communities, and they love to learn new words from the stories like the word ‘whistleblower’ in the story about the piglets used for paintball practice and the whistleblower who saved them,” Hargreaves explains.
The children’s involvement with Animal Hero Kids has also encouraged some positive changes at home. “I have received a letter from a Miami Dade College student who turned his entire family vegan after seeing a presentation I did,” says Hargreaves. “Vegans are sprouting up all over.”
Hargreaves encourages all kids interested in helping animals and going vegan to join Animal Hero Kids. “We are here to help; you are not alone, so many others want to help animals and feel the same way you do,” she says.
“We are united and even have step-by-step guides in the Animal Hero Kids for Voiceless book on how to speak to your local government, how to start a school club, how to organise a protest and how to ask your school for vegan meals.”
‘Person of extraordinary ability’
In addition to the book, Hargreaves has created the Animal Hero Kids Awards which has garnered support from many animal-friendly celebrities such as Sir Paul McCartney, Joaquin Phoenix, Jessica Chastain, Ricky Williams, John Salley and Suzy Amis-Cameron.
It has also brought Hargreaves much acclaim and allowed for her early emigration from Canada into the United States in the person of extraordinary ability category – usually reserved for Olympic Athletes – for her groundbreaking education programs. The US government ascertained she is in the top 5% of her field.
While the Covid-19 situation has caused Florida-based Hargreaves to change some aspects of the Animal Hero Kids program delivery, she continues to be a powerful force in building the next generations of animal advocates.
Images supplied by Animal Hero Kids.
Elizabeth Bowie is a freelance journalist, writer, actor and singer with a focus on mental health, animal welfare, women, plant-based living and self-sufficiency. She runs a blog, ‘Madly Living,’ is mother to two, has a home filled with rescue animals and a garden filled with food. She spends her time writing, studying, reading, gardening, bingeing series and exploring the wilderness. Elizabeth is based in the Blue Mountains NSW.