Ingrid Newkirk is an animal rights activist, an author, and the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). She is best known for the animal rights awareness campaigns she organizes on behalf of PETA, which she cofounded in 1980. As PETA's president, Ingrid has spoken internationally on animal rights issues—from the steps of the Canadian Parliament to the streets of New Delhi, India, and from the drowning tanks of Taiwan to the halls of the U.S. Congress. Newkirk is the author of several books, including Free the Animals, You Can Save the Animals, and 250 Things You can Do To Make Your Cat Adore You.
Question: What do celebrities bring to a cause?
Ingrid Newkirk: When you live in a society that is so bored with itself that it lives vicariously through celebrities, then I think you have no choice but to try to use celebrities’ voices for your cause if you have a social cause. So there’s no harm done. There’s only good done. Because you can say something. But if Pam Anderson says it, everybody turns and looks whether they like her or not; whether they admire her or thinks she’s just a sexpot, they turn and look. So it’s one of those ways in which they get the message, like it or not.
Celebrities are like anybody else. A percentage of them care about animals. A percentage of them don’t. Some are totally selfless; some are totally selfish; and everybody in between. So if you can get; Sir Roger Moore recently narrated a film for us about how cruel foie gras production is where they force feed the ducks and geese. And Pam appeared in a bikini made of lettuce leaves to say, “Try vegetarian. Get our free recipes.” People are going to pay attention, and that’s what must happen. I will tell you recently Alicia Silverstone stripped down and was swimming in a pool and advocated vegan eating. And we got, I think, 1.7 million views to our web site. Our web site crashed in next to no time because people wanted to see her nude. But they also got to learn something about an issue that they might not otherwise have cared to come to our web site to find out about.
Recorded on: November 12, 2007