If only frogs could send text messages, then 13-year-old Sarah Wingo would be sure to win the Cutest Vegetarian Alive contest.
Wingo made national headlines in February when she stood up for the 10 million animals sacrificed each year for classroom dissection. Now the North Naples Middle School student needs supporters to cast text-message votes to win a contest sponsored by PETA2, the youth division of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Wingo was chosen as one of the 20 finalists, beating out more than 1,200 contestants who entered. While she was not a top vote-getter, she secured her spot as a top 10 female contestant by being a “judges’ pick.”
“We wanted Sarah to be a judges’ pick because of all the great things she’s done for animals this year,” said Rachel Owen, PETA’s assistant manager of youth campaigns. “Her story is really inspiring. She is a young person who is passionate.”
After her science teacher reportedly taunted her by dropping a bag of freeze-dried frogs on her binder, the distraught Wingo took the matter to her parents and sought help from PETA, which wrote a letter to Collier County Schools Superintendent Dennis Thompson. The teacher has since been reassigned to a different school as discipline for the incident.
While Wingo feels good about taking a stand for what she sees as animal cruelty, she has endured merciless teasing and harassment over the incident, said her mother, Carrie Wingo.
“It’s been difficult,” her mother reports. “She has lost a lot of friends. She has endured incredible chastisement. But in the end, you lay your head down and know you did the right thing.”
Carrie Wingo said winning the Cutest Vegetarian contest would help affirm to Sarah that she was right to stand up for her beliefs. “She does have those moments of doubt,” said Carrie, who has not yet converted to a vegan lifestyle but is fully supportive of her daughter’s passion.
She calls Sarah the “total package” when it comes to finding the cutest vegetarian, not only for her looks but because she is educated and respectful when it comes to explaining the benefits of being vegetarian.
Sarah stopped eating meat about nine months ago after watching PETA’s “Meet your Meat” video on factory farming. “I don’t believe animals should be harmed on purpose for any reason,” Sarah said.
She was awarded a framed “Compassionate Action” award from PETA after the dissecting incident at North Naples Middle School. Sarah said the experience has taught her the importance of standing up for herself and for compassionate causes.
“I am 100 percent more bold now,” she said. “I know I can stand up for what I believe in, and I shouldn’t be ashamed for my beliefs.”
Her mom adds another reason to vote for Sarah: “She’s just gosh-darn cute!”
To cast a vote in the PETA2 Cutest Vegetarian Alive contest, text “Sarah” to 73822. Standard texting rates apply.
Voting ends May 31, and the winner will be announced June 8. If Sarah wins the contest, she will receive a professional photo shoot and be featured in an upcoming PETA2 advertisement.
To find out more about the contest and to see all contestants, visit peta2.com.