COCOA – At Space Coast VegFest, Nov. 18, the weather was conducive to a day at the park – not too hot with a light breeze – and guests enjoyed food, shopping and learning about plant-based lifestyles.
During the fun and camaraderie, a local teen was recognized for her years of work in animal rights and her commitment to maintaining a lifestyle that reflects her beliefs.
The nonprofit organization Animal Hero Kids – which offers humane education programs, conducts presentations in schools and makes awards to youth who demonstrate outstanding compassion toward animals –presented 15-year-old Kayson Barley with a Kind to All Award.
Kayson, who has been Vegan since she was seven years old, was nominated by the Space Coast Animal Rights group for her volunteer work and participation in marches and protests, noted Animal Hero Kids founder Susan Hargreaves.
“I am 15 and I have been an animal activist since I was 10 years old,” Kayson said.
“The first event I ever participated in was with Animal Rights [Foundation of] Florida (ARFF) and it was the Marching of the Elephants, in Orlando,” Kayson continued. “That's when Ringling would unload the elephants (and other animals) from the train, really late at night and then walk them all the way to the arena. I did lots of protesting, with family and friends, against the circus and it worked since Ringling is now out of business.”
Along with participating in protests with the Space Coast Animal Rights group and other organizations, Kayson volunteered with the Farm Animal Rights Movement at the Van's Warped Tour in Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach for three years in a row to distribute information on the negative effects of animal agriculture.
She also volunteered with the same program – which is now funded by Compassion Over Killing, Kayson noted – when it was held at college campuses.
More recently, Kayson has been assisting a project to protect marine life. She would like to pursue an art-related career and said she will always be an activist.
“My mom always jokes that I'm the family member most likely to be arrested (in the future) for civil disobedience,” Kayson said.
The Kind to All award is one of several awards Animal Hero Kids typically makes as part of a mission to increase awareness about the importance of compassion toward all species.
“When children, teens, adults, okay everyone, hear about a kind action they marvel at the good story,” Ms. Hargreaves said.
“Sometimes they may think, if that 8 year old can speak with city commissioners to ban electroshock prods being used then I can, or if these children can choose to be vegan for animals or the earth [then] I can, too,” Ms. Hargreaves added.
Animal Hero Kids aims to place a copy of Ms. Hargreaves’ book, “Animal Hero Kids Voices for the Voiceless,” in every school library. A copy is donated after every presentation.
To purchase a copy of the book, set up a free school presentation or to nominate a child or teen, go to www.animalherokids.org.