Why does PETA use such graphic imagery?

Question: What is the power of the image?


Ingrid Newkirk: It’s everything. The power of image is everything to us, because you can talk all day long to somebody at an intellectual level. But if you show them, it’s irrefutable. It’s the old business of a picture worth a thousand words. A video is worth a million words probably. If you show them what’s happening and they can’t turn away, that image will be burned the way a camera takes a picture. It will be burned into some part of their mind for a period of time.

And so when they think of maybe the turkey at Thanksgiving, if they’ve seen our footage of what’s happening in the Butterball plant or at Smithfield foods – with people sexually abuse the animals; with people hitting the animals as if they were baseballs or baseball bats against a wall; doing things that are just because they’re bored. The workers are bored. The line moves fast. Their legs splinter – people will remember that and they will think twice. And then if you give them an option, which is very important to do, they may choose the option, which may be the Tofurky or something else if we’re talking about Thanksgiving.


Question: Why does PETA use such graphic images in their campaigns?


Ingrid Newkirk: It’s very hard to show these graphic images on TV. You know most stations won’t show it even though it’s the truth. And someone once said, one of our presidents; they say I give them hell. All I do is I give them the facts or I show them the truth and they think it’s hell. We’re not creating these images.

We’re simply documenting them. We’re documentarians of how society is treating animals. And society doesn’t want to look because it’s uncomfortable. But the thing is what kind of moral individual are you if you say, “I’m not going to look at that because I enjoy doing this thing,” whatever it is, “so much that I don’t want to know.” We can’t force people. We can’t pin open their eyelids and put them in a chair the way they do with animals and force them to watch this footage. So people have to make a decision themselves if they’re strong enough, if they’re principled enough that when they say “Do unto others”; or they say, “Kindness is a virtue,” they really mean it. And if they do, then they owe it to themselves, not to us, to watch this footage and decide if there’s something different they should do in their lives.


Recorded on: November 12, 2007


Newkirk talks about the power of the image.

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