A Lakeridge Junior High School student aims to teach peers about the cruelty many animals endure

by: REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Riley Henne addresses her fellow students at a recent Voice of Animals Club meeting.Animal cruelty is disturbing, but, with countless animals in distress worldwide, many people shrug their shoulders because it is too difficult to take on such a huge, pervasive problem.

Moved by the stories she’d heard of animal suffering, Lakeridge Junior High School student Riley Henne decided she had to do something. Riley founded the Voice of Animals Club in her seventh-grade year last year.

“Animals, they can’t talk, so we have to speak for them,” she said.

She and her friends, including Annie Choo, aim to raise awareness about animal cruelty, starting with their fellow students.

At one after-school meeting last month, Riley spoke to her classmates about the abuse of circus animals she has read about, discussing the physical harm inflicted during training and the neglect that results in some animals standing in their own waste for hours.

Animal abuse doesn’t necessarily have to be physical; some animals suffer from having to be the center of attention, she said.

“I don’t think these animals should be in any kind of show,” Riley said.

Annie spoke up in support.

“It’s not natural for them,” she added.

by: REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Voice of Animals Club member Annie Choo discusses abuse of animals at a club meeting last month.

Riley, addressing about 12 other club members, went on to ask them how they would feel if they were put in a similar situation against their will. She said most of them wouldn’t want to be made to get up and make a speech in front of the whole school.

“Would anyone feel terrified about that?” Riley said. A chorus of yeses followed her question.

She plans to continue the club next year and is trying to make sure that other students aren’t confused about what the club does.

“Some people say Voice of Animals Club is about making animal noises,” she said.

To that assumption, Riley has a straightforward, one-word response: “No.”

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