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: Where do animal rights come from?
Ingrid Newkirk: Well where do human rights come from? You know you can say where do the rights of the comatose come from, or the babies come from. It’s the fact that within us we have a sense of moral purpose. And we know innately, most of us, whether something seems right or seems wrong. And we have the rules that we live our lives by which say, “Do not do such and such to some individual that may hurt.
Do not be disrespectful.” And I think that that has to extend beyond those we relate to most, because the true test of compassion is if you can be decent to those you relate to least. So I believe it comes from within us; from where we get kindness generally; and where we’re able to be altruistic to others. We should extend that to animals, too.
Recorded on: November 12, 2007