You likely remember the wildly popular article that my 88-year-old grandmother, Sherrey Reim Glickman, recently wrote for Our Hen House entitled “Never Too Late to Change the World: Why I Became Vegetarian at Age 86.” That article — the most read in Our Hen House history — was a true testament to changing your worldview and changing the world at any age.
With that in mind, I’m truly honored to welcome to Our Hen House 16-year-old Andrew Puccetti. Andrew is already using his skills, talents, and circles to change the world for animals. He is the founder of the animal advocacy group Live Life Humane, and — much like my grandma — is proving that when it comes to finding and fostering compassion, age is irrelevant. In fact, he is a walking example that it is never too early to change the world.
Never Too Early to Change the World
by Andrew Puccetti
I have distant memories of going into veterinarian offices and animal shelters at about eight years old wanting to volunteer, but being rejected because of my age. Since I was a little boy, I have always loved animals. I simply wanted to help them, and I did not understand why people could not find a place for me. Luckily, this passion for animals that I had as a child never left me; I carry it with me now, as a teenager. And it’s not going anywhere.
It wasn’t until seventh grade that I even gave a thought to being vegetarian – let alone vegan. I had always felt that something was just not right about eating other living creatures, but I thought that I was too young to change my diet. I had heard somewhere that a vegetarian diet is unhealthy for people my age, and I figured that my parents would probably never allow it.
Then I stumbled upon the Humane Society of the United States’ youth outreach website. I remember feeling awful reading about all of the animal cruelty issues involved with eating meat. As I researched, I learned that young people can quit eating animal products and be perfectly healthy – even optimally healthy. Stumbling upon that website planted a seed deep inside of me that is still growing today: it gave me the reassurance that I needed to know that I can make a difference, no matter how young I am.
I still didn’t find it easy to go vegetarian, though. But a year later, after trying a couple of times to no avail, I had the opportunity to visit a farm with my biology class. The weekend trip changed me forever. I was quickly horrified when the first “experiment” conducted involved passing around a chicken, letting us kids bond with the animal, and then cutting off the poor creature’s head for dissection. It was even more appalling when one of my classmates was allowed – even encouraged – to commit the murder. On that same trip, a couple of my classmates were rounded up to go hunting. They came back with a dead deer, which they proceeded to dissect. I refused to participate in the maiming of this innocent animal and later learned that one of my fellow students actually fainted.
The very next day I went vegetarian, and vowed that I would never let age stop me from making a difference for animals. Shortly after going vegetarian and then vegan, I joined the Humane Society of the United States’ student advisory board, supporting the same program that originally prompted me to look into vegetarianism in the first place. During my tenure, I met many other young advocates who motivated me even more in becoming a voice for animals.
Shortly thereafter, at the age of 14, I created my own nonprofit organization, Live Life Humane. Since then, I have spent much time planning, and I am finally prepared to launch my outreach efforts this year, focusing, naturally, on youth. I believe that young people have extraordinary power to change the world, and I want to help them find the confidence to do it. With Live Life Humane, my goal is to educate this generation, so that animals can have a better life in the next one. This year, we will conduct outreach events, presentations, and youth trainings. We are also producing educational materials for both elementary and high school students, all geared toward changing the world for animals.
Live Life Humane is not the only thing I’ve been working on. During the past two exciting years, I have also spent time volunteering for local grassroots nonprofit organizations, and was accepted to be on peta2’s youth advisory board for the 2012–2013 term. I am also currently a guest blogger for both An1mal and Tails magazine, where I try to give young people ideas on how they can make a difference in their own communities. When it comes to speaking up for animals, the voice of my generation needs to be heard.
Throughout my activism career, many people have influenced me. I’m very lucky in that no one has encouraged and supported me as much as my parents. My father has always taught me about business, and I don’t think I would ever be able to manage a nonprofit corporation without him showing me how to conduct myself professionally. My mother has taught me about true passion and creativity, helping me to form many of my core beliefs of compassion. Whether driving me to my animal rights events, cooking me meat-free meals, or standing outside in the freezing cold holding a picket sign, they have always been there to help me, and have shaped me into the changemaker I strive to be today.
Another person who has been kind enough to act as my mentor is Nathan Runkle, founder of Mercy For Animals. Because he founded MFA at 15 years old, I have always looked up to him, and when he offered to have dinner with me, I was ecstatic. This was a man who had been my role model since I first became involved in the animal rights movement. Nathan’s continuous advice and support has been invaluable to me.
I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life being a voice for the voiceless. Now, at the age of 16, I’ve dedicated my life to all animals, and I don’t plan to ever stop being the change I want to see. I believe that the key to promoting a humane world is youth outreach, and my wish is to see Live Life Humane create a new compassionate generation of changemakers. Young people are our future leaders, and it is up to us to decide whether animals will live in a world where they are not oppressed.
We can all change the world, no matter our age or situation. All we need is the inspiration, knowledge, and passion. If I can make a difference, anyone can.
Andrew Puccetti is president and founder of Live Life Humane, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating young people about animal rights issues and inspiring them to make a difference. A homeschooled 16-year-old student, Andrew has cultivated an expertise in youth outreach and has been on the youth advisory boards for both HSUS and peta2. He resides in Chicago, Illinois, with his family, including his dog, Maxwell. For additional information about Andrew or Live Life Humane , visit www.LiveLifeHumane.org or his personal blog www.AndrewPuccetti.com.