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: Beyond a simple title, how would you describe what you do?
Ingrid Newkirk: What I do is try to open people’s mind and their hearts to the concept that you are faced with choices in every minute of your life; from the moment you get up, what you put on, what you wear, where you go, what you buy, what you say. And you can make a compassionate choice or a cruel choice. You can be rude to people or you can be decent to them. You can try to understand or you can turn a blind eye. You can be greedy, or you can just see how much you need. And nobody can be the Buddha. Not even the Buddha was the Buddha. I think nobody can live as if they’re really just having the very, very simplest of lives. But you can be actively kind.
My goal in life is to say try and make kind choices. Learn about the other life forms who feel joy, and love, and pain every bit as much as you do; and who feel the cold, and don’t want to suffer, and struggle for their lives. And then once you know what your role is in causing them suffering – and it could be a removed role, just as we didn’t know about child labor for a shoe manufacturer; or we didn’t know about gold or diamond mining and what that does to people; learn where your food comes from. Learn where your clothes come from. And if they come from cruelty, choose something else. And I wish to facilitate that change and to make it really easy for people.
Recorded on: November 12, 2007