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Leading a Demonstration With Ingrid E. Newkirk

Each week, PETA’s campaigners publish a new post about their lives as they travel across the country fighting for animals. This week’s post is written by Katie Arth.

May 16 2013

There are lots of reasons to get nervous at work: giving a big presentation, being given new responsibilities, talking to that cute guy at the water cooler. But what I never expected was to lead demonstrations with animal rights icons such as Ingrid E. Newkirk in attendance.

A couple of weeks ago, PETA organized a demonstration outside the District of Columbia’s City Hall to call on the mayor to enforce cruelty-to-animals laws that apply to Ringling Bros. circus, specifically one that makes it illegal to force sick animals to work. Two of the elephants who will be traveling to D.C. for the circus this year are named Karen and Nicole, and veterinarians have recommended that they be pulled from Ringling’s shows because they have painful arthritis that is made worse by performing difficult tricks, are chained for up to 100 hours straight during transport between cities, and are forced to stand on concrete.

When I e-mailed staff at PETA’s D.C. office about the demonstration, Ingrid was the first to reply, “I’ll be there!” and then sent a note to everyone in the office about the importance of grassroots activism and having everyone attend the protest.

The day before the demonstration, I brainstormed every way that I could possibly make the demonstration come off perfectly—from knowing my media talking points word for word to making sure that we had all the supplies we’d need and extra batteries in the camera as well as an organized way to transport staff to and from the protest. I always do these things, but there was an extra sense of urgency because, well, Ingrid was attending.

I’ve learned from working with some of the greats of the animal rights movement that they are always natural, calm, and quite simply impressive during these events. Ingrid has organized some of PETA’s most effective campaigns and persuaded people to extend compassion to animals through her speeches and books. She also knows how to get the perfect photo, make every volunteer feel special and needed by PETA, and explain very clearly why animals deserve better than to be trucked all around the country and beaten to perform in circuses.

The demonstration went well. We had a number of local media outlets cover the story about how the mayor ignored cruelty-to-animals laws and also spoke to many people about how animals suffer in circuses. I even got a “Good job!” comment from Ingrid! All in all, it was a pretty good day of helping animals.

Inspired to help animals?