February 11, 2009
Calif. Teen Wins '2009 Humane Teen of the Year' Award
He's not afraid to engage others in a friendly debate about the welfare of hens, calves, pigs and seals and he's a friend to any needy animal he encounters, from birds to bees. Thirteen-year-old Benjamin Byrom of San Diego, Calif. has been selected as the 2009 Humane Teen of the Year by Humane Society Youth, a division of The Humane Society of the United States.
The Humane Teen of the Year Award recognizes a student in grades 7 through 12 who has made a significant contribution to animal protection. The winner receives a cash prize of $300.
Ben volunteered with the Animal Protection & Rescue League to help spread the word about Proposition 2, which recently passed in California, and stops the inhumane confinement of egg-laying hens, calves raised for veal and breeding pigs in small cages and crates. He helped his parents gather signatures to put Prop 2 on the ballot, mailed volunteer packets, worked booths at events, held signs and eloquently made his case to voters. He also called the opposition to discuss the issue, educated his classmates during social studies and furnished his mother's car with a "Yes on Prop 2" bumper sticker.
"At such a young age, Ben became aware that animals on factory farms are subjected to life-long confinement, and he decided not to stand on the sidelines but instead to do something about it," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "We honor him with this award for his important participation in California's Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, and the tangible steps he's taken to make the world a better place for animals."
As a vegetarian, Ben lives his beliefs each day, "It's so cruel," Ben said of the conditions of confined animals. "The animals can't even turn around. It's heartbreaking." Not being able to turn his back on any animal, Ben said, "If I see a dying bee, I pour a few drops of honey in front of it, and it drinks the honey and flies away."
"When most teens are worried about social life at school, rather than the social consequences of what is on their plates, Ben has a different outlook on life," said Christina Tacoronti of APRL. "He has the drive to tell other people and actively change the situation for animals in San Diego and beyond."
Ben continues to make a difference in his community and has contacted many politicians to help the seal pups and mothers of Children's Pool Beach in La Jolla, Calif. He's actively trying to provide a safe harbor for seals who use the area to breed and nurse their young and keep the public at a safe distance.
At home, Ben lives with his dog Stuart, Max and Bubbles his cats and one betta fish named Charlie. He also adopted a beloved chicken, Becky, who walked the neighborhood with him until she passed away of old age.
Ben's immediate plans for the future are to visit a farm animal sanctuary in Los Angeles to lend a helping hand. His long-range plans include a 2030 bid for elected office, mainly to make laws to protect animals. "Prop 2 is only the beginning! We are going to change the way America treats its animals," said Byrom.
To read more about Ben and other young people at work for animals, visit humanesociety.org/teens.
Humane Society Youth is a division of The Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.