Video: The Former ‘Third-Culture Kid’ Turned ‘Word Warrior’ for PETA

For Immediate Release:
October 16, 2018

David Perle 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va. – A new 10-part video series from PETA, titled “PETA Reveals: Everybody’s Got a Story,” includes a surprising revelation from PETA torchbearer and Yale University alum Hanh Nguyen that the words that we use—even one as simple as “it”—can have a harmful impact.

In her video, “How Our Everyday Language Reinforces Ideas of Power and Supremacy,” Nguyen—who was born in Vietnam, raised in Laos and Thailand, and now calls Norfolk, Virginia, home—describes how her experiences of having to “navigate a foreign environment and not always being understood” opened her eyes to the ways humans use everyday language to put, and keep, others down.

“[M]y experience growing up as a third-culture kid was in no way traumatizing, but it does help me understand how language can be used to justify exclusion and allow certain groups to say, ‘Those who don’t speak our language and don’t follow our customs are less intelligent, less civilized,'” Nguyen says in her video. “When that happens, language, rather than being a bridge to understanding, becomes a weapon against both human and nonhuman ‘others.'”

Since taking on the role of torchbearer for PETA last year, Nguyen has launched an all-out offensive against speciesism—the belief that other animals are at humans’ disposal simply because they belong to a species other than our own—and she’s delivered compelling speeches everywhere from New Haven, Connecticut, to Vancouver, encouraging people to choose their words with care and intention. Everyone can probably remember an instance in which people, even those in public office, attempted to denigrate their opponents by calling them “dogs” and “pigs,” which Nguyen says is speciesist as well as inappropriate.

Other videos in this series of personal stories from PETA activists touch on issues including why true feminism must include empathy for cows on dairy farms and the long-term mental health effects of eyewitness work, such as the intense flashbacks experienced by an investigator after witnessing sheep being beaten, kicked, punched, and mutilated by shearers in the wool industry. The full series from PETA—whose motto is, “Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way”—is available here.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind