Where do human rights and animal rights diverge?
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 human rights and animal rights diverge?
Ingrid Newkirk: I think that question has been asked about rights for all beings. For example back in Sojourner Truth’s time – and she is a heroine of mine – when she fought for the rights of Black people to be emancipated, she was jeered at. The buildings in which she was staying was sometimes burned because people could not imagine that here was not only a Black person, but a Black woman daring to talk to what were then audiences of White males about what a Black person, or a Black woman, or any individual wanted. So I believe that we have to look at it in that context of it doesn’t really matter who it is. It only matters what we do and what we feel is just.
Maybe at some point your interest would converge or contradict the interests of another human being. You weigh it. If a dog attacks you, you’re going to have to take some action against that dog. But you don’t necessarily have to shoot the dog in the head. You don’t have to torture the dog. You can take aversive action. If you can’t, maybe you do have to shoot the dog in the head. If a mugger is coming at you, you shouldn’t kill them. Hopefully you’ll be able to take an aversive action or do the least damage that you need to do. But you might have to. So it really depends on the circumstance. It’s not really a question of species. It’s a question of how can you do the least harm. How can you avoid doing the most harm?
Recorded on: November 12, 2007
Both are founded in justice, Newkirk says.
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