PETA Prime, part of the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) organization, is preparing to crown this year's Sexiest Vegan Over 50 — and Ashland resident Rick Schmitt is vying for the title. He beat out entrants from across the country to advance to the final round of six contestants. Visitors to PETA Prime's Facebook page can now help the group select the lucky winners, who will each receive a free Holistic Holiday at Sea luxury cruise vacation to the Bahamas and Virgin Islands.

Seventeen years ago, the longtime vegetarian learned that the dairy industry tears calves away from their mothers and treats cows like milk machines until their bodies give out, so he went vegan and never looked back. Now 57, this world traveler makes vegan friends around the globe and shares the benefits of going vegan with every new community he visits.

"Thanks to Rick Schmitt, people all over the world have learned that going vegan can save animals and help us stay healthy," says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. "Each of the finalists in PETA Prime's Sexiest Vegan Over 50 contest is a testament to how sexy vegans of all ages are, inside and out."

PETA — whose motto reads, in part, that "animals are not ours to eat" — notes that, in addition to saving more than 100 animals every year from daily suffering and a terrifying death, people who go vegan are less prone to suffering from heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity and, on average, are fitter and trimmer than meat-eaters.

Voting for the finalists to help PETA Prime determine who should be selected as the winners — one man and one woman — ends today, Sept. 27. PETA Prime will choose the winners based on several factors, including vote count. Winners will be announced on Oct. 4.

For more information, go to PETA.org.