Advancing Animal Welfare with a Multigenerational Approach

BY: Dr. Jane Young, Chair, Women for Humane Canada

When I look back to my early childhood (as much as my memory will allow it!), two powerful images come to mind. My love for animals and my love of teaching. My dominant happy times were with our family dogs and also “playing teacher” with my friends (I can recollect the wonderful patience of our Irish Setter, Shannon and toy poodle, Cocoa sitting quietly as students in my pretend classroom). I also vividly remember my parents instilling in me that “dogs rule” and that there needs to be compassion, kindness, and equality for all species.

One other strong memory is forever with me. My mother, who died much too young, was the most intelligent person that I have ever met. She was ahead of her time and taught me that women mattered and that they were powerful and could do anything that they put their minds to. When I was learning this from Mom, I decided that I needed to pass this strong confidence on to as many girls and women as possible. For example, I tell my nieces, Carolina (in the attached photo with me), Julianna and Rachel, that they are not only beautiful, but they are very smart and capable.

My childhood memories have transformed into adult experiences in the areas of animal welfare and education. My love and respect for animals have become even stronger – and I am a retired professor and have taught for most of my adult life. I have also had, and continue to have, the great privilege of working with inspiring, passionate and intelligent women – both younger and older – throughout my career and retirement.

The theme for International Women’s Day this year is, I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights and is aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality. The aim of this campaign is to bring together generations of women and girls, and find ways that they can collectively move the needle ahead for the equality of women and girls all over the globe. This is truly a very exciting and inspiring idea. As women and girls, we can make a difference at an individual level and an even stronger one at a group level. When you add to this a multigenerational aspect, you have a force that is impressive.

The younger generation brings with it refreshing and current ideas. They know social networking and its power of educating the world. The more experienced generations bring mentorship which is important not only because of their knowledge and skills that they can pass on, but because mentoring provides support to help facilitate the success of younger generations.

I am currently Chair of Women for Humane Canada, a group of like-minded women across Canada who want to make positive change for animals at the national level. One of the missions of this group is to amplify the voice of Humane Canada and to use our networks to educate the public on animal welfare issues. I see our group as having an important mentoring role for the younger generation in the quest to advance animal welfare. I am excited about the potential of our youth as they have shown much awareness and compassion with regard to animal, environment, health and human rights issues.

Let us not forget that the plight of vulnerable beings can be very much connected. The documented link between animal cruelty and domestic violence is becoming more well recognized among various stakeholders, but much more effort is required to develop interventions for individuals who abuse animals.

Yes, there have been important strides to make life better in the world for animals, and for women and girls, yet they all remain undervalued in countless aspects. There is still so much work to be done.

Enter the multigenerational group of women and girls.