Docu-Thriller Meets Animal Rights in ‘Free the Animals’

For Immediate Release:
May 5, 2022

Megan Wiltsie 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va.

Bill Maher said, “If you don’t cross the line, how do you know where the line is?” If you have ever wondered what might inspire someone to cross the line from police officer to outlaw, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk has a book for you: Free the Animals (30th anniversary edition), an action-packed insider’s look into the early days of the animal rights movement.

With a new foreword by Joaquin Phoenix—who now owns the movie rights—and an introduction by Chrissie Hynde, the book tells the true story, beginning in 1981, of “Valerie,” a 23-year-old police officer whose world is turned upside down when she comes face to face with a group of monkeys removed by her own department from a laboratory. She decides to join people who are willing to risk their careers and their freedom in order to save animals from cruelty and death—even if it means breaking into laboratories, taking the animals, and living on the run from the law she swore to uphold.

From midnight stakeouts to cross-country journeys with rescued baby chimpanzees, dogs with wires emerging from their chests, and cats with electrodes cemented into their heads, Free the Animals is full of fascinating real-life characters, vivid descriptions of the raids, and backstories that no one knew. And as Phoenix details, it might just inspire readers to take their own actions for animals:

Yes, Free the Animals is about the balaclava-wearing heroes who break windows and laws to save animals, but it’s also about everyone. … Whether it’s wielding crowbars and bolt-cutters or picking up a pen or a protest sign, every one of us can and must fight injustice and push for animal liberation every chance we get.

The book was first published in 1992, and this 30th anniversary edition by Lantern Press is revised, expanded, and updated, including with a new afterword by Dr. Emily Trunnell, a scientist and former animal experimenter who now champions alternatives to using animals. She describes how PETA came up with the world’s first strategy for replacing animals in all experimentation with the Research Modernization Deal—which is now on the desk of every member of Congress and every federal research agency chief. It’s one of PETA’s answers to the directive Phoenix gives in his foreword: “Ask yourself what I ask myself—‘What can I do today to stop human supremacism, to stop speciesism, to help animals be respected for who they are?’”

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