Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.

An Interview with Ingrid

Written by PETA | February 1, 2008

Ingrid Newkirk in India, symbolically averting Gandhi’s eyes from the cruel “Jallikatu” festival earlier this month
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A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog asking if people had a specific question for Ingrid, and it turns out that a lot of people do! She’s just back from her trip to India (for more on how that went, click here), and she took some time today to respond to the questions. You can read the resulting “interview with Ingrid” below. Not all the comments and emails I received are addressed in this interview (otherwise this entry would be, like, 12 pages long), but if you asked a question that’s not featured here, I’ll hit you up with a response by email. Enjoy!

When did you become a vegetarian/vegan and what exactly prompted you to make that decision?

In my book, Making Kind Choices, I talk about what a slow learner I was. How I first stopped eating escargot after watching some snails looking for an escape route out of a paper bag, shellfish after ordering a lobster on my birthday and realizing he was broiled alive for my fleeting taste, and finally, going vegetarian after rescuing a little pig abandoned on a farm to starve to death. It was hard 45 or more years ago, now it’s easy as (tofu cream) pie.

I am only a kid but I saw your show and know all I want to do is help. But how?

Every one of us, no matter if under eight or over eighty, is powerful. We all influence the marketplace. You may send PETA $50 (and we are grateful) but you spend thousands a year on food, household products, shampoo, clothes, entertainment, gardening supplies, candles, I don’t know what all. If those goods are tested on animals or made from the parts of animals who have suffered greatly in slaughterhouses, or come at the expense of animals being carted around in small cages (the circus, for instance), then we have a problem. But if you choose compassionately, then you are a powerful consumer. And your voice, the leaflets you leave everywhere, will educate others and get them to understand. Your advocacy makes a whole world of difference.

There are quite a few chain clothing stores that sell fur and fur trim. How does PETA choose which ones to target for a campaign?

At the launch of the Indian version of 50 Awesome Ways Kids Can Help Animals
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Ah, that would give away our secret formula. We look at many factors, but among them are how many animals suffer and in what ways, how popular they are, how out of synch this is with their line/brand/image. The important thing is to never cut any retailer any slack, but complain, complain, complain and do not help them sustain (by buying in that store) if they carry fur. The same goes for people you see in the ugly stuff. Polite is fine, but saying something, anything, is vital. Don’t let them go home thinking no one did anything but admire their cruel choice.

I would love to know your stand on giving drugs to animals. Both my husband and I are vegans and have made the decision not to use drugs tested on animals but find it really hard when one of my animals need medication.

You are lovely people. If there is a non-tested (natural) remedy, great. If not, well, please do all you can to join us in pushing the FDA to change its outdated animal testing methods for 21st century tests. After all, we have whole human DNA on the web and super-computers we can program with the right data for the right species.

When people ask me, ‘why do you care about animals?’ I am starting to feel stuck with answers and was wondered if you have any really good comebacks when you are asked question’s like that?

Ingrid feeding one of the overworked bulls that PETA India is trying to save from becoming leather shoes and belts
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I’d ask “why don’t YOU?” What an odd question, really. It’s like asking “Why do you care about the planet?” You just do. Or should. Especially, if you have the power every day to help or hurt. When people ask me “Why are you vegan?” I want to ask “Why aren’t you vegan”, but I do tell them exactly why. After all, eating meat is all about not having the discipline to overcome a desire for a taste habit, whereas being vegan is all about being kind, being healthy, being a responsible environmentalist, leaving enough resources for others to share.

Would it be effective for all of us to gather in one place to flex our strength and end one or more of the horrible things happening to animals?

That might indeed be the case, but I’m afraid we human beings will never agree which ONE horror to unite about, so I think we must all do as much as we can to combat as many horrors as possible. The more activism we expend, the quicker we will have total animal liberation. And sometimes it takes only one person, not the whole lot of us, to bring about a change. One letter can sway a whole corporation to drop a product like sticky glue traps for mice, one phone call can get a mall to stop sponsoring one of those cheap traveling zoo shows.

Can you ever, in reality see an end to factory farming and animal experimentation?

I think I was born an activist. Injustice makes me see red. And I always cared about animals. I was living in India when I was eight and actually stopped a man from beating a bull who had collapsed with exhaustion from pulling a heavy cart in the sun. Whether or not we will ever have an end to all cruelty, even to factory farming (although I think the water shortages of the future will put paid to that), we can make a difference for so many animals by helping open people’s hearts and minds and eyes to the alternatives to the suffering around them.

Where’s Alex Pacheco?

Alex and I, like any human beings, had our agreements and disagreements, but he worked hard at PETA for many years. He did some great undercover investigations, including the one that got Exxon and other gas companies to cap their stacks, down which went flying (and then frying) birds and small mammals who got caught and couldn’t get out. It is hard for someone to do those investigations and Alex moved on about nine years ago now. He deserved a rest.

How do you maintain your strength, your energy, your being, after being present in slaughter houses and watching hours and hours and HOURS of undercover footage of animal abuse? How do you not get too depressed to function?

If you close your eyes, it does not go away. I feel pressure to work hard and try to change lots. I imagine myself in their place. BUT, I try not to watch more footage than I have to. I try to show it to those who need to see it in order to understand why bad habits must change! Please use our videos everywhere you can, at the bottom of your signature on your email, to show to visitors and schools and clubs and relatives. A video is worth a million words. When I am in danger of being overwhelmed by human supremacism’s vicious consequences, I watch a funny movie, read something amusing, or go for a walk in the fresh air.

How do you respond to those that are unaware of what’s really happening and refuse to believe it?

I’m more interested in the fence-sitters, although if you bang your head against a brick wall hard enough, the brick wall will eventually fall.

How do you convince them otherwise?

Dare them to watch those films—but don’t be there in the end, so they don’t have to be resistant and defensive. Just dare them to watch and then ignore them.

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  • Brandon Becker says:

    “The Philosophy of Animal Rights” by Tom Regan httpwww.cultureandanimals.organimalrights.htm The other animals humans eat use in science hunt trap and exploit in a variety of ways have a life of their own that is of importance to them apart from their utility to us. They are not only in the world they are aware of it. What happens to them matters to them. Each has a life that fares better or worse for the one whose life it is. That life includes a variety of biological individual and social needs. The satisfaction of these needs is a source of pleasure their frustration or abuse a source of pain. In these fundamental ways the nonhuman animals in labs and on farms for example are the same as human beings. And so it is that the ethics of our dealings with them and with one another must acknowledge the same fundamental moral principles. At its deepest level human ethics is based on the independent value of the individual The moral worth of any one human being is not to be measured by how useful that person is in advancing the interest of other human beings. To treat human beings in ways that do not honor their independent value is to violate that most basic of human rights the right of each person to be treated with respect. The philosophy of animal rights demands only that logic be respected. For any argument that plausibly explains the independent value of human beings implies that other animals have this same value and have it equally. And any argument that plausibly explains the right of humans to be treated with respect also implies that these other animals have this same right and have it equally too. It is true therefore that women do not exist to serve men blacks to serve whites the poor to serve the rich or the weak to serve the strong. The philosophy of animal rights not only accepts these truths it insists upon and justifies them. But this philosophy goes further. By insisting upon and justifying the independent value and rights of other animals it gives scientifically informed and morally impartial reasons for denying that these animals exist to serve us. Once this truth is acknowledged it is easy to understand why the philosophy of animal rights is uncompromising in its response to each and every injustice other animals are made to suffer. It is not larger cleaner cages that justice demands in the case of animals used in science for example but empty cages not “traditional” animal agriculture but a complete end to all commerce in the flesh of dead animals not “more humane” hunting and trapping but the total eradication of these barbarous practices. For when an injustice is absolute one must oppose it absolutely. It was not “reformed” slavery that justice demanded not “reformed” child labor not “reformed” subjugation of women. In each of these cases abolition was the only moral answer. Merely to reform injustice is to prolong injustice. The philosophy of animal rights demands this same answer abolition in response to the unjust exploitation of other animals. It is not the details of unjust exploitation that must be changed. It is the unjust exploitation itself that must be ended whether on the farm in the lab or among the wild for example. The philosophy of animal rights asks for nothing more but neither will it be satisfied with anything less.

  • Michele says:

    Mabel your logic about human superiority is highly flawed. By your logic humans who could not reason think or fight infants disabled and elderly for example must be inferior. Your speciesism is just as bas as being a racist… I dare you to watch the ENTIRE movie “Earthlings” then come back to this site to comment. But as I have noted from being on the PETAfiles for about a year I do not know of any “anti” who has dared to do so rojo I know you watched some on YouTube but I do not remember if you ever did get a chance to eventually watch the whole DVD.

  • Anonymous says:

    mabel it’s a good thing that animals and humans are different to a point. monkeys don’t boil humans alive. you insist on having a limited and stubborn way of thinkng because you’re one of those types of people who always has to be right even when you don’t get the point.

  • Mike Quinoa says:

    Mabel As I pointed out no animals are not equal to humansthey can at times be superior. Do you have the eyesight of a hawk the hearing of a bat the acuity of sense of smell of a pig the strength of a gorilla the agility of a tree squirrel the homing instinct of a pigeon the speed of a cheetah the bitestrength of a hyena the perfect pitch of a songbird the photographic memory of a chimpanzee the engineering skills of a beaver the aerial maneuverability of a hummingbird?and on and on ad infinitum. No I didn’t think so. Animals don’t have to be equal or unequal to be regarded with compassion and empathy by humans. Frankly I would never turn my back on or trust a human animal that was totally devoid of these attributes.

  • Judith, Freedom Fighter for Animals says:

    Ingrid a jet setter? Thats one I haven’t heard.

  • Mabel says:

    Mike the only way I would be in a cage with a lioness was if I or another human put me there. No lion is able to come get me and put me in a cage. But humans are able to get lions and put them in cages. So your point doesn’t hold up. My comment about abolition was in reaction to the posters who say that the animal rights movement is equal to or a modern day equivalent of the abolition of slavery. All of this talk of animal freedom or liberation or whatever word you want to use comes back to the same pointanimals are free or not free depending on what humans do. So right there you’ve admitted whether you will acknowledge it or not that humans are on a different level and animals aren’t inherently equal.

  • Mike Quinoa says:

    Mabel We are not fighting for animal “abolition” we are fighting for animal freedom. There are many animals whose sensory intelligence eyesight hearing sense of smell and physical dexterity far exceed the supposed “superiority” of the human animal. You would have a hard time if you were in a cage with a lioness convincing her that you were her superior in any way. In case you missed this blog a chimp beat out the British human champ in a memory skills test httpblog.peta.orgarchives200801britainsnewme1.php

  • Mike Quinoa says:

    Tols I for one would not purchase produce harvested by abused children. I actually pick what I can myself or buy from farmers’ markets here in Ontario. Since you are knowledgeable on the subject please let me know which countries are involved in this abuse.

  • rojo says:

    Ana I’m pretty sure every animal dies so in essence what you want is a longer life and a longer death. Sadly old age in the animal world is not pleasant no health plans no dental sevices and at this stage no meals on wheels. Some libbers would say “natural predators” but then we’re back to square one where the animal dies early and in pain. Except that a humanely slaughtered animal will feel no pain. Comparisons to slavery depend largely on whether the animal knows its freedoms are being curtailed. Certainly noone would approve beatingswhippings from a welfare perspective so that is an irrelevant difference between welfarists and libbers. If we focus on less hardwork sheep should take a break growing wool? cattle not bother eating? Not every animal is forced to do anything unnaturalalthough some are like foie gras nor will they be doing much different if freed. Minimum wage may solve some inequities particularly when it comes to retirement plans. At least then we wouldn’t automatically consider it slavery. Support free range chicken if it’s about the cage I do.

  • Mabel says:

    I don’t understand the comparison between the abolition of slavery and animal rights. Humans rose up and worked and fought for abolition of human slaves. So by admitting that animals need humans to work and fight for their “abolition” you are admitting that humans are superior. We are the ones who control how the world is run we are the ones able to think reason argue fight work for change etc. If horses mice dogs cows etc. were of the same level as humans they could have their own abolition movement change laws etc.

  • tols says:

    I wonder how she would earn a living if Peta did not exist to pay for salary and jet setting ways…. too bad she couldn’t express one word of sympathy for the human animal children abused terrorized and murdered vryday.. many of whom work in crop farms so vegetrians and vegans can live a guilt free “cruelty” free lifestyle.. I wonder if Peta devotees could eat another apple if it had a picture of the abused child that picked it…

  • Ana says:

    The slave abolitionists believed complete abolition was the answer. They were right. Fighting for less hours of hard work and less whippings did’t cut it. Having larger cages is ridiculous the ultimate end is an extremely cruel death in the slaughterhouse. If you were a chicken you would want to be saved from the ultimate violent death having a larger cage only insures her death not the eradication of slaughtering animals.

  • rojo says:

    I’ve seen a few comments recently that wish to bypass welfare and go straight to abolition. Not the cleverest gameplan and one doomed to failure. With welfare you have a subject that will unite the vast majority of people and yet some here wish to disregard that as somehow contrary to their goals. Abolitionists with such a mentality could look upon welfare as a stepping stone but seem to want to swim against the current instead. Or banging heads against brick walls. I guess their fear is that the animals will have too comfortable a life with a welfare revolution and humans won’t feel bad about using them. Ingrid herself obviously doesn’t expect an end to the use of animals. At least not through activism water shortage maybe. Really “total liberation” is then not even possible in Ingrids view but keep on donating just in case.

  • josh bishop says:

    she is such an inspirational person. every generation has a great activist ghandi martin luther king jr and ours is ingrid newkirk. 3

  • betty gale says:

    so sad so happy so full of emotion the circus came to our cityCharlotte N.C We were so over ourselfs to be part of the peta demo leafletting helping out with my children chatting with the public recognising the friendly faces in the police force the security people that worked the Arena were mix with emotion they treated us like scum others told us in confidence how sad they were to be there and how proud they were of us and how much good it does to campaign people reading this I know I am just a mother of two boys but we beg of You lovely peta members come and help when the circus come to your town You will meet the wonderful team Jason and Joel will smily and couch all and every one of You. and most of all will make friends that work for a cause that benefits your community you do not want the criminals that Mr Ringling and his team recruits near your loves ones. do it for a better america if is not just for the poor animals that only have your voice. Betty Gale animals always come first.

  • Tanya says:

    Ingrid you truly are an angel wo her wings. You are such an inspiration! If only the animals can speak the language of humans they would be saying the same thing!

  • kathleen wissenz says:

    What a wonderful interview! Ingrid is an amazing person and her answers were wonderful. We must all give animals a voice. Ingrid said in the interview what I always tell people you can change the world through your purchasing power and actions!

  • Tamara says:

    “I’m more interested in the fencesitters although if you bang your head against a brick wall hard enough the brick wall will eventually fall.” Oh Ingrid…thank you so much for that…How did you know that is what I needed to hear? I have been so passionate about this PetsMart thing poor Jack… that I have just exhausted myself. And I’ve only been doing this for 5 years or so and occasionally do burn out. I finally learned that in the end you can only educate. But now have found out that you can bang your head enough times trying to educate that it hurts Besides banging my head…heh…I have learned over these 5 years to make crueltyfree choices besides trying to stop chain pet stores. Ingrid thank you so much…for just being around and educating me and making me a little better person.

  • Zoe says:

    Ingrid is a brilliant and wise person and I love her views!!!

  • claudia marrapodi says:

    i am and will always be a huge ingridfan and my congrats to Brandon Becker this is a great powerful post! we need people like you!

  • Marie says:

    Too cool. Ingrid thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. The work that you and everyone at PeTA does is a constant inspiration to me. 3

  • Susannah S says:

    What an exemplary life what a great person Ingrid is. I couldn’t help but imagine what the world could be like if everyone became as passionate about ONE cause as Ingrid has been about hers. As for offering filmsbooks etc. and then not being there I agree. I offered my best friend a staunch meateater “Dominion” by Matthew Scully. At first she praised the writing. Next she was horrified by what she was reading. Now she’s starting to change her views little by little as she continues to read and I haven’t said a word. Yet. I really believe that most people given a chance to work out their resistance to the stark facts of what life on a factory farm is like for example or life on a fur farm will change their minds about our “rights” to use animals the way we do. It could take years and years but we’ll get there.

  • Michael Essi says:

    Ingrid you are truly amazing! You inspire me move me educate me and are such a fine example of limitless compassion. My experience is that so many people turn away from making crueltyfree choices because of their ignorance not too long ago I was one of those people. You ARE making a difference! I am taking the difference you made in my awareness and magnifying it so that anyone that I encounter will be graced with the same gift! Thank you!

  • John Carmody says:

    Ingrid YOU are the real animals hero!

  • Chelsea says:

    omg has anyone seen the news lately?!?! this place is using sick cows and the video is very disturbing! they cattleprod these cows and pull them by their legs and pick them up with forklifts! and they also let them walk around with broken legs!!! whats wrong with these people!?!?! it makes me sick. these poor animals need help!

  • Brandon Becker says:

    “The more activism we expend the quicker we will have total animal liberation.” Exactly. Our movement must keep the vision of total animal liberation in our thoughts words and actions. It is a monumental struggle but we must resist the pressure to compromise to the insidious conservative forces of welfarism. Animal rights is an abolitionist struggle. Reform is not enough. We must never be satisfied until all animals are free from human control and domination. Onward we move until victory is achieved when all cages are empty and all animals are free!

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