On behalf of International Women’s Day, we wanted to shine a light on one lady in particular who continues to inspire us every day with her courage, determination and passion.
Ingrid Newkirk is an animal rights activist, and also President and co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, better known as PETA – the world’s largest animal rights organisation. Since PETA was formed in Ingrid’s basement in 1980, they have had many breakthrough achievements, including withdrawal of funding for animal experiments, persuading hundreds of fashion companies to stop using fur and securing the very first arrest of an animal experimenter.
As a cruelty-free brand, the work of PETA remains extremely important to us and we were thrilled when we were given the opportunity to ask Ingrid a few questions…
First of all, we just wanted to say that you are an incredible woman for all you have achieved, thank you for being such a strong voice on behalf of animals and we are so proud to be a PETA approved brand. When did you decide to become an animal rights activist? Was there something in particular that drove you to want to make a difference?
When I was running an animal shelter in the 1970’s, I read Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, which made me realise that it isn’t enough to treat animals “kindly” while exploiting them before ultimately killing them. I came to believe that caring for dogs and cats is not enough – not when other equally sensitive animals are suffering on factory farms, in laboratories, in circuses, etc. The idea that animals exist for their own sake – not for whatever we like to do with or to them – was novel, even radical, at the time. There was no voice or organisation proposing that animals have the right to be left alone to lead their own lives. I wanted to show people that there was a kind alternative to every cruel choice. Some friends and I began meeting in a basement of my house in 1980, and PETA was formed.
We push boundaries and encourage people to question their behaviour, and most importantly, we’re unstoppable.
Since then, PETA has exposed horrific animal abuse, leading to many firsts, including the withdrawal of funding for animal experiments, the closure of cruel facilities, the seizure of animals from laboratories, and charges against perpetrators by government agencies. We have also persuaded dozens of major designers and hundreds of companies to stop using fur, ended all car-crash tests on animals, helped schools to switch to humane alternatives to dissection, and provided millions of people with information about vegan living, companion-animal care, and countless other animal issues.
We push boundaries and encourage people to question their behaviour, and most importantly, we’re unstoppable. Wherever animals are suffering, we’re there, doing out damnedest to help them.
Obviously PETA has many ongoing achievements to be proud of. If you could put your finger on it, what would PETA’s biggest achievement be? Is there something in particular that you would say was the biggest breakthrough?
I’d have to say it was securing the very first arrest of an animal experimenter – a monkey experimenter – for cruelty to animals and having all the monkeys confiscated. That shook things up.
PETA has become infamous for its media stunts, for example flour-bombing Paris Hilton at London Fashion Week and chaining yourself to a torture table on Trafalgar Square. You have even admitted that you are “stunt queens”. Generally, what kind of reactions do you get from engaging in, what some may call ‘extreme’ acts and how do you deal with negative responses?
It’s not controversy that is animals’ biggest enemy – it’s silence. It’s indifference. It’s people who choose to remain ignorant. Getting – and keeping – animal issues in the headlines and the public eye is the only way we can stop abuse.
It’s not controversy that is animals’ biggest enemy – it’s silence.
We admire your passion and your drive to be a voice on behalf of animals. What have been the most challenging aspects of pubically voicing your opinions and promoting the way society thinks about animals?
You have to do extraordinary things to draw attention to cruelty of animals – because in the hustle and bustle of daily life, the simple facts alone hardly get a second look. That’s why we use humour, sex, shock and more. It is sometimes necessary to shake people up in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action.
You have to do extraordinary things to draw attention to cruelty of animals
With a big rise in Veganism and cruelty-free brands such as ourselves, it does seem as though people are slowly starting to realise the truth about animal cruelty and environmental impacts of animal agriculture. Have you noticed a surge in interest in volunteers for example, since the recent rise in Veganism?
Definitely. When you are not eating animals, it’s natural to want to persuade others to abandon meat, eggs, and dairy “products” (almost all of which come from factory farms), in addition to ditching leather, avoiding cruel animal attractions on holiday, donating only to health charities that never experiment on animals, and so on. People do want to make a difference in a world that sometimes seems overrun with violence – that’s why PETA and our affiliates in Germany, in France, in Australia, and elsewhere are gaining more supporters every day.
What would your advice be to someone who is wanting to become more conscious of animal rights and get involved with PETA?
All you need is desire to do something positive for animals. It helps to study in your chosen area – in my case, I took courses in animal husbandry, cruelty-to-animals investigations, and animal health and well-being – but it’s not essential. You don’t need qualifications to go out and take action to raise awareness, shake up the status quo, get people thinking, open eyes, rescue animals, and change hearts, minds and habits. You’ve just got to care enough to find out what’s needed, and there’s a lot that is: for example, leafleting, posting videos on social media, speaking up when people don’t realise they are hurting animals, letter-writing, unfurling banners, talking to store managers, making cruelty-free shopping choices, and sharing vegan foods and tips with colleagues, and classmates.
Do you think a world where animals aren’t ‘used to eat, wear, experiment on, used for entertainment or abused in any other way’ is in the near-future, or do we still have a long way to go?
It’s a bit like campaigning for world peace – you may never fully achieve your goal. So the aim has to be to make people more aware, open their eyes and hearts, and let them know that there is a compassionate way. It is our duty to seek out kinder choices and stop exploiting other beings for our own ends.
It is our duty to seek out kinder choices and stop exploiting other beings for our own ends
You have 10 seconds to speak to everyone in the world at the same time, what would you say?
Let’s acknowledge the absolute fact that animals are sentient beings whose lives are their own, not “things” for us to use, and that we can and should make kind choices in everything we do and buy and say and support.
Why is it so important for people to turn to cruelty-free cosmetics?
As demand for cruelty-free and vegan products increases, more and more companies will choose to offer them. And that’s good news for the rabbits who are caged and subjected to agonising tests in which harsh chemicals are dripped into their eyes just to create, for instance, another mascara.
On the topic of inspiration, who inspires you the most and why?
I continue to be inspired by everyone who is helping the animal rights movement grow in strength and numbers. One day, we’ll look back on the way in which we have treated animals with the same horror and shame we now feel when looking back on slavery. Picturing that day brings me great hope.
One day, we’ll look back on the way in which we have treated animals with the same horror and shame we now feel when looking back on slavery. Picturing that day brings me great hope.
All of our products are cruelty-free and we are proud to have an extensive range of Vegan products that we continuing to expand – you have no reason to not make cruelty-free make up choices.
Beauty, not brutality.