Pilar is the winner of this year's competition to sit on the Lush Prize judging panel, as a representative member of the public.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Pilar, I am 32 years old and I work as a Spanish language and literature teacher in a public high school in Zaragoza (Spain). I went vegan ten years ago; now animal rights is my main interest together with social issues. In my free time I love hiking with my two adopted dogs, especially in the Pyrenees which are not far from where I live.
What made you apply to be a Lush Prize judge?
I spent some days this summer in the UK visiting some friends who told me about this Prize. I thought I should try, why not! Then straight away after arriving in Spain I wrote the application and explained how could I contribute to the Lush Prize as a judge. I couldn’t believe it some weeks later that I had been chosen!
When did you first become involved with animal rights?
It was in 2004 when I went as an Erasmus student to Sheffield University, to finish my journalism studies. In the student’s union, there was an animal rights group and I decided to join them for the anti-fur campaigns and demos.
Please, tell us a bit more about the Aula Animal project.
I am one of the founders of an educational project called Aula Animal. We specially organise conferences and workshops for other teachers who want to teach respect for animals and put animal rights into the curriculum. We also do talks in schools and workshops for families as well, and the website is a platform to share pedagogical materials amongst teachers.
We consider education as a powerful tool to show kids how important it is to respect others, no matter whether they are human or non human, so it’s very important that they learn positive attitudes towards the animals as well as empathetic behaviour at an early age.
During the last four years we have been in different schools, parents associations and universities, and we even have done awareness activities in prisons. One of the most important activities we have done took place last year at the University of Zaragoza where more than 70 teachers and students participated in different seminars connected with animals in different aspects.
Which aspects of the fight against animal testing are most crucial to you and Aula Animal?
The use of animals in schools and high schools is quite common in the Spanish education system. So when these students go to university is very hard for them to question the idea that animals are not there as a tool to learn or to research with.
All the members of Aula Animal are Secondary or Primary school teachers, so we specialise in that field. We explain to other teachers or the families of our students why they should promote empathy towards animals in their kids or students. We show them why having animals in classes strengthens the idea that animals are there for us to use, and therefore is bad for the students and for the animals.
We explain to science teachers that carrying out animal biopsies is not needed at all, and we show them the alternatives. But we are also aware of other practices that, at the beginning could seem less linked to animal research, such as school visits to zoos.
Please could you outline the current governmental policy on animal testing in Spain?
As far as I am concerned, the governmental policy on animal testing in Spain is too slight when it comes to the pain and cruelty that millions of animals suffer every day in labs. The government’s role is based basically on submitting numbers and public information about how many animals are used, and following at the same time the EU guidelines on the 3Rs.
What aspect of animal testing polices do you think is the most vital to address?
I strongly believe that we cannot talk about animals as numbers, as they are sentient beings and therefore able to experience pain and suffering as well as joy and love. Because of it, the testing polices have to be lead through the 1R policy, which is Replacement, further than other welfarist policies which could prolonge the suffering of animals inside labs. I cannot talk from a scientific point of view as I am not a scientist, but I can position myself from an ethical perspective. From this perspective, society as a whole should no longer support a science which is unethical and painful to others.
Why is the Lush Prize important to you?
I felt very lucky when I knew I had been selected as a Lush judge so I can contribute my personal views to the issue of animal testing. It’s been very interesting to get in contact with the other judges, all of whom are experts in different areas of this topic, especially from science and research areas. I realised that there’s a strong feeling among scientists, that science without cruelty is possible.
When you are campaigning for animal rights you are mainly focused on the pain that animals suffer inside farms, labs or circuses, but when I read about all the nominees, I discovered that there are wonderful people doing such a good job for the animals in different parts of the world, which is amazing!
I think Lush can really make a difference to the animals by promoting this prize!