PETA President Ingrid Newkirk recently went on a book tour through the sunshine state, signing copies of her latest, Making Kind Choices. On the heels of Ingrid’s tour, This article ran in today’s edition of the Sun Sentinel:
PETA chief seeks a kinder, gentler world
By David Fleshler
Posted March 3 2005
Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, slid into a banquette at the elegant Fort Lauderdale restaurant Sublime and ordered cream of asparagus soup.
There would be no actual cream in the soup, of course, because Newkirk doesn’t consume animal products, and the restaurant doesn’t serve them. And the existence of Sublime, along with the presence of vegan restaurants in cities all over the United States, is in part a tribute to PETA’s impact during the past 25 years.
With a platoon of undercover investigators and celebrity allies, PETA has become the enemy of meat packers, fur farmers and animal-research labs. While other animal-protection groups ignored young people because they were unlikely to become donors, PETA set up college chapters and sent activists to Taste of Chaos concerts.
The Norfolk, Va.-based organization has also alienated many people — including some animal-rights activists — with stunts such as handing out bloody dimes outside the offices of the March of Dimes to protest its funding of animal research, urging Timothy McVeigh to have a vegan last meal and setting up cages with nude women in body paint to dramatize the plight of circus animals.
Newkirk, who was in South Florida last week to promote her new book, Making Kind Choices (St. Martin’s Griffin, $13.95), said such tactics are necessary to get coverage from media organizations that often prefer froth over substance.
“We’ve had news conferences that have been extremely serious, but no one has shown up,” said Newkirk, speaking in a soft English-accented voice. “I’m on the road with a book, and it’s very hard to get press for it because it’s considered not very controversial, not very provocative, not very sexy.”
PETA’s opponents, both inside and outside the animal-rights movement, say the group’s tactics and rhetoric have prevented the sort of compromises that could actually improve animals’ lives.
“Ingrid Newkirk has made PETA about confrontation rather than give-and-take, rather than compromise to reach goals,” said Jacqueline Calnan, president of Americans for Medical Progress, an organization backed by pharmaceutical companies and medical researchers to counter animal-rights groups.
“There are a lot of people in this country who feel we’ve lost a generation of researchers because of PETA’s influence in the schools.”
In contrast to PETA’s usual confrontational tactics, Newkirk’s book focuses on the quiet steps people can take in their daily lives, from choosing cruelty-free cosmetics to avoiding furniture that contains wool to dealing kindly with household mice.
Before you choose a leather interior for your car, Newkirk wants you to think of the suffering of the cattle she saw being driven across India so their hides could be exported to Europe and North America.
“When they fall from exhaustion in the heat and the dust, the men break each segment of their tail one by one to make them stand to move them on,” Newkirk said. “They stick sticks up their rectums and put chilies in their eyes. I followed it, and it broke my heart, and my heart’s been broken so many times.”
Before ordering an omelet, Newkirk wants you to think about the realities of industrial agriculture, in which hens live out their lives in spaces too small to even lift a wing.
“She will be there for a year and a half, unable even to find enough room to sit down,” she said. “The light’s on constantly. And at the end of that, she’ll be pulled out by the wings, causing bruising and breaking, shoved into a crate, she’ll see daylight for the first time from the back of a truck, and she can only be petrified and she’ll have her legs jammed onto shackles to be made into a chicken pot-pie or a chicken dog.”
Newkirk has lots of fans in South Florida. It was standing-room-only at her talk and book-signing at Borders bookstore on Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.
“I bought the book because I think making kind choices is what it’s all about,” said Ellen O’Neill, of Fort Lauderdale, who actually bought three books to give to friends. “We’re not violent but we’re trying to bring forth to the public the violence toward the animals. They realize a pig or cow is being slaughtered. One thing they don’t want to know about is the animal’s suffering. It’s pushed under the rug.”
While the crowd on the second floor of Borders adored her, Newkirk said she knows full well that PETA serves as an object of ridicule for much of the outside world.
“Making fun of an issue is always the first step, and someone has to take it over that hurdle,” she said. “Our job is to put out a new idea, let everybody throw stones at it, fall over laughing at it, and create discussion around it. We bring it closer to the day when it’s old hat and quite acceptable, and of course there’s nothing new about that idea.”
David Fleshler can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4535.
Stitch and Bitch, Minus the Sheep Mutilation.
Do you knit? C’mon, no need to hide it … knitting is hip and you know it. Unfortunately, some people knit with wool, unaware of the cruelty that comes along with it. See what you can do to make your knitting experience a pleasant one, for you and for animals.