Schenectady County

Rotterdam teen activist wins PETA award

Zach Brooks of Rotterdam wants everyone to know about the cruel conditions under which some animals

Zach Brooks of Rotterdam wants everyone to know about the cruel conditions under which some animals live.

Brooks, who has organized protests against inhumane treatment of circus animals and of those animals killed for food, said he is against anything involving exploitation of animals for money.

For his efforts, the 16-year-old Mohonasen High School student has received a Star Street Teamer Award from peta2, the youth division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

“It was really cool. I’m so excited. I always read about people getting awards,” he said.

Brooks said he first got interested in animal rights when his brother became a vegetarian and became involved with PETA.

“I watched a video from PETA, and I was like, ‘I can’t believe people are doing this to animals,’ ” he said. “Since then, I’ve done everything I can think of to help animals.”

He protested against the treatment of animals in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. “They beat their elephants and there’s a lot of cruelty with animals,” he said.

Brooks has also protested against the process used to kill poultry for delivery to fast food restaurants.

“They hang the chickens up by their legs, slit their throats. Sometimes, they boil them alive in water. It’s disgusting. I would never, ever eat somewhere like that.”

He also handed out PETA literature at the recent LarkFest in Albany. Other targets of his protests have been horse racing in Saratoga and the use of leather and fur in clothing.

While his brother is no longer a vegetarian, Brooks became vegan about three months ago. He will not eat animals or any products derived from animals.

“I love animals so much I don’t eat any of them,” he said.

Brooks said he believes he is setting a good example for others who are interested in animal rights and has convinced friends to go vegetarian.

His diet consists of fruits and vegetables and other things like veggie burgers. Brooks said he has lost weight and feels healthier since he became a vegan.

Brooks also serves on the peta2 advisory board. Only 20 people get accepted each year, he said.

He said he plans to continue his animal rights advocacy and would like to intern or work for PETA. He is not sure what he plans to study in college but believes his animal advocacy will remain an interest.

“No matter what my career, I’ll be trying to help animals in whatever way I can,” Brooks said.

Rachel Owen, assistant manager of youth campaigns, said peta2 has been working with Brooks for a few months after he reached out to organizers for materials such as stickers and leaflets. “He’s just got an incredible amount of dedication, passion in speaking out for animals,” she said.

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