Animal World
 
The Shining World Compassion Award: Shannon Keith - Animal Attorney and Award-Winning Documentary Film Director      
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Everywhere in the world, we can observe and be touched by acts of kindness. People from all walks of life, faiths, and cultures extend themselves beyond the call of duty to help others unconditionally. Through their noble deeds, humanity as a whole is elevated.

To commend virtuous actions and encourage more people to be inspired by their examples, Supreme Master Ching Hai has lovingly created a series of awards, including the Shining World Leadership Award, Shining World Compassion Award, Shining World Hero and Heroine Awards, Shining World Honesty Award, Shining World Protection Award, Shining World Intelligence Award, and Shining World Inventor Award, to recognize some of the most exemplary, generous, caring, and courageous people who walk amongst us.

When I was in college I got an unsolicited piece of mail from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and it talked about animals in factory farms, and I had no idea. I thought I loved animals, (Yes) but I still ate them, (Yes) and when I saw what goes on in factory farms I instantly went vegetarian, and that began my path of becoming vegan, becoming an animal rights attorney and making films for animals.

Shannon Keith of Los Angeles, USA is a vegan, animal-rights advocate, attorney and award- winning film director. Having grown up in a house full of animals, Ms. Keith has always had a special bond with our fellow beings and a heartfelt desire to help them. On her way to becoming an animal-rights attorney, Shannon Keith discovered a better, quicker way to provide a voice for the voiceless.

I was in law school and I actually showed people some documentation about animals used for fur, used in vivisection, and animals on factory farms, and the people in my class did not believe it. They said, “No that’s not true; that doesn’t go on anymore.” So the next day I am walking through the hallways of law school and this one student came up to me, he was the most vocal in the class the day before, and he said, “Shannon, I have to apologize. Last night at two in the morning I was flipping the channels and I ran across a documentary called ‘Lethal Medicine.’”

And “Lethal Medicine” is a very old documentary about vivisection and he said, “Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe what you said was true.” And I thought, “Wow, he had to see it on TV to believe it,” and that’s when I realized the power of the media, and that this was a great way to reach people.

In 2004, Ms. Keith founded the non-profit group Animal Rescue Media & Education, which rescues and re-homes wonderful animal companions such as dogs and cats and makes documentaries to raise public awareness about animal abuse and exploitation in the USA and elsewhere in the world. She also founded her own production company, Uncaged Films, which partners with animal Rescue Media & Education in producing the documentaries.

Her first film, “Behind the Mask,” about people who risk their lives and freedom to save animals, took three years to complete, has won several awards including best documentary feature at festivals in the US and Italy, and has been translated into 12 languages. The film has generated waves of worldwide support from animal lovers and those who hadn’t previously considered the oppressive circumstances that animals may face.

Thousands of people emailed me and said their lives changed after they saw “Behind the Mask.” They went vegan, they were re-inspired with their activism. I had such great responses that I thought this is the way to do it, this is the way to change the world.

Fully seeing the power of the media, Shannon Keith went on to produce a second documentary, the “Skin Trade,” which uncovers the horrendous truth behind the leather and fur industries, from the birth of their helpless victims to their ends as blood-stained garments.

I was so thrilled with the responses to “Behind the Mask” and knew what impact that film made, that I of course wanted to make a second documentary about animals. I decided on the fur and fashion industries because fur is one of those things that there is just no argument for. Fur for vanity, that’s ridiculous. It should be gone and over with it by now.

I made “Skin Trade” so that people can see what goes on, how animals are killed for fur and how they can make a change and stop the brutal fur and fashion industries.

In recognition of Ms. Keith’s outstanding efforts to produce enlightening documentaries such as “Skin Trade” to uplift society’s consciousness and rescuing homeless animals, Supreme Master Ching Hai honored her with the Shining World Compassion Award along with a contribution of US$10,000 to further Animal Rescue Media & Education’s noble, life-saving mission. The following is an excerpt from Supreme Master Ching Hai’s loving letter to Ms. Keith:

As an animal-rights attorney and film producer, you have used your award-winning talents to expose the disturbing truth behind the glamour of fur. Skin Trade depicts the atrocities made by the leather and fur industries in their quest to maximize profits without respect for life.

By using prominent film stars who support kindness and humane justice, this documentary is sure to reach the hearts of millions of people, promoting change at the grassroots level and thus a stop to animal cruelty. Recognizing that education is the key to elevating humankind and stopping the barbaric killing of billions of animals, you have heroically dedicated your life to animal welfare.

As a long-time vegetarian, then vegan, you exemplify love and how it can be put into action. You are a superb example of how one woman can make a real difference to the lives of so many, and inspire a cast of like-minded souls to change the world. For selflessly sacrificing for the wellbeing of animals, for your vision, wisdom, creativity and ideals and for being a dedicated and noble role model, we hereby applaud and celebrate the compassionate deeds of Shannon Keith, founder of Animal Rescue Media & Education. With Great Honor, Love and Blessings, Supreme Master Ching Hai

Wow! Thank you so much. I’m crying. That was so beautiful. I don’t even know… I’m speechless right now. It’s so giving and wonderful of Supreme Master Ching Hai, and she’s such a beautiful spirit and someone that so many people look up to. And just being around her message and people that follow her, is such a great feeling and uplifting feeling of spirituality and beauty and compassion and veganism.

And this means so much to me, because I have dedicated my life to helping animals. And Supreme Master Ching Hai, I cannot thank her enough for recognizing this and for giving me this noble award. I’m really, really honored.

On behalf of Supreme Master Ching Hai, our local Association members presented Ms. Keith with the Shining World Compassion Award plaque, a check for US$10,000 and Supreme Master Ching Hai’s #1 international best-selling books, the “Dogs In My Life,” “The Birds In My Life” and “The Noble Wilds,” along with a selection of her poetry, music, other books, DVDs and CDs.

Wow…. thank you, this is gorgeous! Oh my goodness, I I am so honored. Thank you, this is so beautiful! I will display this proudly in my office, and I’ll bring it with me wherever I go. Thank you. This is gorgeous! I… I’m just… I’m so honored and blessed. The generous check that Supreme Master Ching Hai has awarded me and my organization is going to go, of course, towards saving more animals since that is my life’s work. That is what I do. And there’s a lot of different ways that we’re going to use the check.

Number one will be to continue production on my third film, which we’re in production with now. It’s called “Sanctuary.” And it’s the story of five primates in captivity. And we’re going to tell their stories and teach the audience about animal experimentation and about animals in entertainment and why that is wrong. And this check is just amazing. It’s going to help us get this movie done and complete and out there and save primates. So we’re so excited. (Wonderful.)

Yes, and I also want to dedicate part of the check to hands-on saving of animals. And a new project that we just started is called the “Beagle Freedom Project.” And we are now saving beagles from laboratory research. Basically, once they’ve been used, unfortunately, by the medical industry they usually kill these animals.

And I have an inside source who was telling me that when they’re ready to do that that they’re able to release them to me instead. So we started this project where we can go get them and provide them with homes. And it’s been so rewarding, so some of the check will go directly towards the saving of those animals too.

While sharing her dreams and visions for the future of Animal Rescue Media & Education, Ms. Keith revealed an exciting outcome from the release of “Skin Trade.”

I’d love my organization to just get bigger and bigger and save as many animals as we can in as many ways as possible. As it is now, I am still touring the globe with “Skin Trade” and showing that movie all over the place. And it’s just been wonderful. And actually a great success of “Skin Trade” has been the passage of the Truth in Fur Labeling Act.

That was something that we highlighted in the movie and (President Barack) Obama just signed it, which means that when people buy a product that’s labeled, “fake fur” or “faux fur” and it’s under US$150, it must be labeled where the furs come from because they are not synthetic. They are dog and cat fur that come from China. So now it’s required so people actually know what they are purchasing and they won’t buy that anymore. So that was a huge breakthrough.

Here are some kind parting words from Shannon Keith.

Supreme Master Ching Hai, I cannot thank you enough for everything you’ve done, not only for myself and my organization but for all the animals around the world. You are one of the most honorable and noble women that I know. And even though we’ve never met personally I feel like I know you. You are in my heart and my soul and what you are doing for me, and all of the animals is just, is so commendable.

Again, our heartfelt thanks, Shannon Keith for making it your life’s work to encourage people to treat animals as our brothers and sisters. You are to be applauded for your courageous legal efforts to safeguard animals’ rights, tireless work rescuing injured and homeless animals and profound filmmaking

For more information on Animal Rescue Media & Education, please visit:
The “Behind the Mask” and “Skin Trade” DVDs are available at

Altruistic viewers, thank you for joining us today on our program. Coming up next is Enlightening Entertainment after Noteworthy News. May God bless all the animals with whom we share our beautiful planet.

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