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Libertyville teen advocates vegan lifestyle

John Jungenberg 17 is finalist for contest by PETA's youth division. Winners receive their own poster ad feature peta2's website.

John Jungenberg, 17, is a finalist for a contest by PETA's youth division. Winners receive their own poster ad and a feature on peta2's website. | Katlyn Smith~Sun-Times Media.

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John Jungenberg

Who: Finalist in peta2’s “Cutest Vegan Alive” contest


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Updated: August 20, 2013 2:29AM

Libertyville teenager John Jungenberg has rainbow-colored hair and often wears a T-shirt with the phrase, “Meat Sucks.”

As he passed out leaflets on animal abuses in the agricultural industry at the Libertyville Days festival June 14, one onlooker yelled out, “I love your hair. It’s tight.”

Jungenberg, 17, is used to the attention: He’s the only Chicago-area finalist in a national contest by peta2, the youth division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Twenty finalists in the “Cutest Vegan Alive” contest are vying for a professional photo shoot, their own poster ad and a feature on peta2’s website.

The contest attracted 400 entries — dedicated to vegans for the first time in its eight-year history. Peta2 will announce the winners, a male and a female, July 1, based on several factors, like cuteness, of course.

“John is a good example of how anyone can speak up for animals,” said Annie Leal, peta2’s street team coordinator.

“He constantly is organizing protests and passing out leaflets, and he does some really cool events. He’s always excited to spread the word.”

Jungenberg is a homeschooled student who was raised as a vegetarian. He recently talked with the Libertyville Review about his activism and what made him go vegan. This is an edited version of that conversation.

Q. If you win the contest, what will you do with that kind of national exposure?

A. I really just want to raise awareness about veganism and animal rights. I really like to speak up for animals because they don’t have a voice. It just makes you feel good. It’s just doing the right thing. Animal agriculture is really cruel. I really want to take that down and expose it for what it is.

Q. What do you do to shed light on animal abuses?

A. I sometimes volunteer at local animal rescues. I recently started my own animal-rights group, which is a bike touring group called F.A.S.T. (Five Activists Standing Together). It’s a group four of my friends have formed with me, and we basically bike around to different schools and colleges to hand out leaflets. I think it’s really good to combine causes. Cyclist safety and animal rights are obviously both really good causes.

Q. What are your plans for F.A.S.T.?

A. We’re looking into doing another bike tour to St. Louis, maybe in August. We just completed our first tour in April, and we went from Libertyville to Madison, Wis., and then Milwaukee and back, which was about 300 miles round trip. We handed out 7,200 leaflets along the way.

Q. You seem well-versed on cases of animal cruelty.

A. Peta2 has a ton of information on that. PETA’s website. Mercy for Animals (a nonprofit organization that aims to educate consumers and conducts cruelty investigations). Those are all really good resources.

Q. Why did you become vegan?

I’ve been vegan a little over three years now. I found out that male chicks are ground up alive for the egg industry, and then I found out that baby calves are taken away from their mothers for the diary industry. So that made me decide to become vegan. It’s easier than most people would think. I’m actually gluten-free too (because of celiac disease). Originally, I thought it would be nearly impossible to become vegan, and then one day I just decided to stop feeling guilty about what I ate.

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