Harald Ullmann and Andrea Müller’s long and winding road to making PETA Germany a success required determination, heart, and a little help from Sir Paul McCartney
Security was tight. Lines were long. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s wife was inside the crowded store, promoting her meat-heavy cookbook. But somehow a 6-foot-tall orange “carrot” managed to slip in to deliver a message: “Go vegan!” It was just another day in the life of PETA Germany Senior Vice President Harald Ullmann and his wife, PETA Germany’s invaluable consultant Andrea Müller.
Before this animal rights power couple shook things up, German animal welfare organizations tended to be unexciting and inconspicuous. “PETA was different,” explains Harald. “Colorful, flashy, provocative, humorous – the challenge was to introduce PETA US’ style into our culture.”
Since establishing PETA Germany in 1994, Harald and Andrea and the teams they have assembled have helped eliminate fur farms throughout the country. They’ve made animal testing for cosmetics a thing of the past and are getting live animals out of German movies. Once known for schnitzel and wurst, virtually all restaurants now offer vegan options.
A Kindhearted Girl Meets a Determined Refugee
Andrea grew up in a suburb of Stuttgart, where she passed a farm on her way to school. “Sweet rabbits I had petted just a few days earlier were lying dead on a table, skinned, their fur hanging from a wire.” But her “Aha” moment came later, when she was living near a slaughterhouse and the screams of pigs and cows could be heard through her bedroom window. When she called to complain, a worker said, “If you want your schnitzel tomorrow, this is what happens today.” At that moment, Andrea became an animal defender.
Harald was born in a World War II refugee camp in Austria. Though his family didn’t have much, Harald gave away his toys to less fortunate village children. Growing up amid violence and poverty sensitized him to social injustice and led him to commit to a life of nonviolence. When he traveled to the US for graduate school, a fellow student introduced him to animal rights. “It had never occurred to me that animals also deserve a life free of violence. The more I read about the horrors of animal exploitation, the more I understood that animals must be included in my nonviolent lifestyle.”
Love Me Do
After graduate school, Harald moved back to Germany. One day in 1986, he saw an ad stating that PETA US was hiring. He applied and soon after received a postcard from Ingrid Newkirk inviting him back to America to see if he and PETA would make a good match. So he crossed the ocean and volunteered with PETA for a couple of weeks. How lucky we are that those two weeks turned into 37 successful years!
Next, Harald found his other match. While working the PETA information table during the German leg of Paul McCartney’s world tour, he met Andrea, who was with a German organization that raised awareness of horrific experiments on animals. The two fell in love.
Not long afterward, Harald moved back to Germany to set up PETA Deutschland, and now he had Andrea by his side. In the beginning, they did everything themselves, from stuffing envelopes to stripping down for “Fur Is Dead” demos. With nonstop hard work and dedication, Harald and Andrea built the fledgling foundation into the biggest and most effective animal rights organization in Germany.
For Harald and Andrea, animal rights is a way of life. “We received a lot of media attention when we tried to persuade the mayor of Fischen (fishing) to change the town’s name to Wandern (hiking). Hiking is so popular in that region, and since fishing is cruel, it makes perfect sense,” Harald points out. “In another town, after butcher apprentices pass their exams, they traditionally jump into the public fountain. So we secretly poured in some red dye beforehand, and when the butchers emerged from the water, their white clothes had turned bloody red. After killing so many animals, it suited them!”
When Harald and Andrea sent out an alert to PETA Germany’s supporters asking for help shutting down a university’s experiments on pigs, it took only two hours and 2,000 e-mails before the school’s officials agreed to stop. Harald’s work started a revolution in Germany’s auto industry, too, with more and more manufacturers offering fully vegan interiors. Today, even the German Airbus helicopter seat is available in high performance, cruelty-free Ultraleather.
In poverty-stricken areas in Romania, PETA Germany’s rescue team provides homeless dogs and cats with shelter and veterinary care. And when war broke out in Ukraine, the team rushed in to save thousands of animals, like a dog called Atya, whose shoulder had been blown to bits but who is now healing both physically and emotionally.
Wherever the long and winding road takes them next, each step that Andrea and Harald take is bringing Germany – and the world – closer to animal liberation.