definition of Wikipedia
Ingrid Newkirk with Little Man, her photographer's chihuahua, during an interview for Wikinews in 2007.
June 11, 1949 |
Surrey, England, United Kingdom
|Residence||Virginia, United States|
|Citizenship||British and American|
|Occupation||President of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals|
|Spouse||Steve Newkirk (divorced since 1980)|
Ingrid Newkirk (born June 11, 1949) is an English-born British American animal rights activist and the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, also known as PETA, which is the world's largest animal rights organization. She is the author of several books, including Making Kind Choices (2005) and The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights - Simple Acts of Kindness to Help Animals in Trouble (2009).
Newkirk has worked for the animal protection movement since 1972. Under her leadership in the 1970s as the District of Columbia's first female poundmaster, legislation was passed to create the first spay/neuter clinic in Washington, D.C., as well as an adoption program and the public funding of veterinary services, leading her to be among those chosen in 1980 as Washingtonians of the Year.
Newkirk founded PETA in March 1980 with fellow animal rights activist Alex Pacheco. They came to public attention in 1981, during what became known as the Silver Spring monkeys case, when Pacheco photographed 17 macaque monkeys being experimented on inside the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. The case led to the first police raid in the United States on an animal research laboratory and an amendment in 1985 to the Animal Welfare Act. Since then, Newkirk has led campaigns to stop the use of animals in crash tests, has convinced companies to stop testing cosmetics on animals and to press for higher welfare standards from the meat industry, and has organized undercover investigations that have led to government sanctions against companies, universities, and entertainers who use animals. She is known in particular for the media stunts she organizes to draw attention to animal protection issues. In her will, for example, she has asked that her skin be turned into wallets, her feet into umbrella stands, and her flesh into "Newkirk Nuggets," then grilled on a barbecue. "We are complete press sluts," she told The New Yorker in 2003. "It is our obligation."
Although PETA takes a gradualist approach to improving animal welfare, Newkirk remains committed to ending animal use, and the idea that, as PETA's slogan says, "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment." Some animal rights abolitionists, most notably Gary Francione, have criticized PETA for this position, calling them the "new welfarists." Newkirk has also been criticized for her support of actions carried out in the name of the Animal Liberation Front. Her position is that the animal rights movement is a revolutionary one, and that "[t]hinkers may prepare revolutions, but bandits must carry them out."
|“||Animal liberationists do not separate out the human animal, so there is no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights. A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. They're all mammals.||”|
—Ingrid Newkirk, 
|Wikinews has related news: Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder of PETA, on animal rights and the film about her life|
Newkirk was born in Britain where she lived in the Orkney Islands and in Ware, Hertfordshire. Her father was a navigational engineer, and the family moved to New Delhi, India, when she was seven, where her father worked for the government, while her mother volunteered for Mother Teresa in a leper colony and a home for unwed mothers. Newkirk attended a convent boarding school in the Himalayas for well-to-do Indian nationals and non-natives. "It was the done thing for a British girl in India," she told Michael Specter for The New Yorker. "But I was the only British girl in this school. I was hit constantly by nuns, starved by nuns. The whole God thing was shoved right down my throat."
Newkirk helped her mother out in the leper colony—packing pills and rolling bandages, stuffing toys for orphans, and feeding strays—and says that this informed her view that anyone in need, including animals, was worthy of concern, along with her mother's advice that it doesn’t matter who suffers, but how. She tells the story of an early experience of trying to rescue an animal, when she heard laughter in the alleyway behind the family home in New Delhi. A group of people had bound a dog's legs, muzzled him, then lowered him into a muddy ditch, laughing as they watched him try to escape. Newkirk asked her servant to bring the dog to her, and tried to get him to drink some water, but someone had packed his throat with mud, and he died in her arms. She told the Financial Times that it was a turning point.
When she was eighteen, her father joined the United States Air Force and the family moved to Florida, where he worked on designing bombing systems. It was there that she met her husband, Steve Newkirk; the couple divorced in 1980. He introduced her to Formula One racing, which—along with sumo wrestling—remains one of her great passions, according to The New Yorker: "It's sex. The first time you hear them rev their engines, my God! That noise goes straight up my spine."
Until she was 22, Newkirk had given no thought to animals rights or even vegetarianism. She and her husband had moved to Poolesville, Maryland, in 1970, where was studying to become a stockbroker, when a neighbour abandoned some kittens, and Newkirk decided to take them to an animal shelter. She told Michael Specter:
When I arrived at the shelter, the woman said, 'Come in the back and we will just put them down there.' ... I thought, How nice—you will set them up with a place to live. So I waited out front for a while, and then I asked if I could go back and see them, and the woman just looked at me and said, 'What are you talking about? They are all dead.' I just snapped when I heard those kittens were dead. The woman was so rude. The place was a junk heap in the middle of nowhere. It couldn't have been more horrible. For some reason, and even now I don't know what it was, I decided I needed to do something about it. So I thought, I'm going to work here.
Newkirk took a job in the kennels, witnessing the mistreatment of the animals, including physical abuse. Kathy Snow Guillermo writes that Newkirk disinfected kennels by day, and by night studied animal care, animal behavior, and animal-cruelty investigations.
I went to the front office all the time, and I would say, "John is kicking the dogs and putting them into freezers." Or I would say, "They are stepping on the animals, crushing them like grapes, and they don't care." In the end, I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself. Because I couldn't stand to let them go through that. I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day. Some of those people would take pleasure in making them suffer. Driving home every night, I would cry just thinking about it. And I just felt, to my bones, this cannot be right.
She blew the whistle on the shelter and became an animal-protection officer, first for Montgomery County, Maryland, then for the District of Columbia. She became D.C.'s first female poundmaster, persuading the city to fund veterinary services and to set up an adoption program, an investigations department, and a pet sterilization program. By 1976, she was head of the animal-disease-control division of the District of Columbia Commission on Public Health.
In 1980, Newkirk met Alex Pacheco in a D.C. shelter where he was working as a volunteer. She had by then become a vegetarian, despite her great love of eating meat. She told Specter: "I loved meat, liver above all ... My God, I would eat it tomorrow. Now. I would eat roadkill if I could."
I'd eat burgers, steak, anything. I love car racing and meat. I am a boy at heart, I am my father's son ... On my way down into the District, I would stop in Potomac and pick up triple-ground prime meat ... I would break a raw egg and take onions and capers and I would mix it all, and I would go about checking on the animals while eating this raw food right out of my hand. I am just a raw-oyster, raw-meat-eating person who happened to find out what happened in the meat industry, and I just can't support it.
It was Pacheco who introduced Newkirk to the concept of animal rights. Pacheco presented her with a copy of Peter Singer's Animal Liberation (1975). She has said that Singer had put into words what she had felt intuitively for a long time. She called Pacheco "Alex the Abdul," a name given to messengers in Muslim stories.
The concept of animal rights was at that time almost unheard of in the United States. The modern animal rights movement had started in England eight years earlier, in 1972, when a group of Oxford University scholars, particularly philosophers, had formed the "Oxford group" to promote the idea that discrimination against individuals on the basis of their species is as irrational as discrimination on the basis of race or sex. In March 1980, Newkirk and Pacheco decided to form a group to educate the American public about these ideas, at first consisting of what Newkirk called "five people in a basement." The couple also fell in love and began living together, though they were very different. Newkirk was older, practical, very organized, whereas Pacheco spent his time in white painter's overalls eating vegetarian hot dogs straight from the can.
The case of the Silver Spring monkeys, an animal-research controversy that lasted ten years, transformed PETA from just Newkirk, Pacheco, and a small group of friends into an international movement.
In the summer of 1981, Pacheco took a job as a volunteer inside the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, so that he and Newkirk would have some firsthand knowledge on which to base their campaigns. Edward Taub, a psychologist, was working there on 17 monkeys. He had cut sensory ganglia that supplied nerves to their arms and legs, then used physical restraint, electric shock, and withholding of food to force them to use the limbs. The idea was to see whether monkeys could be induced to use limbs they could not feel.
Pacheco repeatedly went into the lab at night to take photographs, and to escort scientists, including veterinarians and a primatologist, through it to secure their testimony. Newkirk lay crouched on the back seat of a car outside, hidden under a large cardboard box with holes for her eyes, using a walkie-talkie from a toy store to alert Pacheco if anyone else entered the building. The monkeys' living conditions documented by Pacheco were graphically disturbing. Having collected the evidence, Newkirk and Pacheco alerted the police, who raided the lab, removed the monkeys, and charged Taub with 113 counts of animal cruelty and six counts of failing to provide adequate veterinary care. Taub maintained that he had been set up by Newkirk and Pacheco while he was on vacation, and that several of the photographs had been staged. The judge found Taub guilty of six counts of cruelty to animals for failing to provide adequate veterinary care and fined him $3,000. A later jury trial saw five of these counts dismissed, and the sixth was overturned on appeal due to a technicality. The National Institutes of Health, which had funded Taub's research, was among the scientists and other professionals who criticized the conditions in which Taub had kept the monkeys, though the NIH later reversed its decision when the charges against Taub were overturned.
Newkirk and Pacheco found themselves thrust overnight into the public eye. The images of the restrained animals became iconic after the Washington Post published one of them on its front page. It was the first police raid on an animal-research facility in the United States and the first conviction (subsequently overturned) of an animal researcher. The controversy led to an amendment to the 1985 Animal Welfare Act, became the first animal-rights case to be heard before the United States Supreme Court, and established PETA as an internationally known animal-rights group, with Newkirk as its outspoken president.
Newkirk has been criticized for publicizing actions carried out in the name of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). She supports the goals of the ALF, arguing that "Not until black demonstrators resorted to violence did the national government work seriously for civil rights legislation ... In 1850 white abolitionists, having given up on peaceful means, began to encourage and engage in actions that disrupted plantation operations and liberated slaves. Was that all wrong?" She has said that she understands, but shrinks from, actions that involve arson:
I do support getting animals out in the same way I would have supported getting human slaves out, child labor, sex slaves, the whole lot. But I don’t support burning. I don’t support arson. I would rather that these buildings weren’t standing, so on some level I understand. I just don’t like the idea of that. Maybe that is wishy-washy of me, because I don’t want those buildings standing if they are going to hurt anyone. And the ALF has never hurt mice nor mare.
She has been accused of having had advance knowledge of one ALF action. During the 1995 trial of Rod Coronado, in connection with an arson attack at Michigan State University (MSU), U.S. Attorney Michael Dettmer alleged that Newkirk had arranged, in advance of the attack, to have Coronado send her stolen documents from the university and a videotape of the action.
Newkirk and her cause provoke strong feelings. Specter writes that she has the popular image of a monster, becoming more disliked with every PETA stunt, unable even to walk through an airport without accosting every woman wearing fur. She told him that she has had to stop vacationing in tropical or poor countries like Mexico, because she spends the entire time rescuing animals from what she calls their "horrid owners."
She was criticized in 2003 when she wrote to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to protest the use of a donkey as a suicide bomber, triggering the criticism that she was prioritizing animal over human life. "We are named People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals," she told Specter. "There are plenty of other groups that worry about the humans."
In this business I am very easy to cubby hole. As someone said to me the other day—they had seen the HBO special—and they said, "Are you really a sad obsessed person?" And I thought, No, I’m not really a sad person, except when I lie awake at night in winter thinking about all the animals out without shelter, and then I’m sad! Who wouldn’t be? Wouldn’t anybody be sad if they have a heart? It’s just that I’ve seen so much.
Newkirk has been accused of employing a double standard for her organization's practice of euthanizing animals for which it has neither the space nor resources to shelter. Debra Saunders, a critic of Newkirk, argues that "PETA assails other parties for killing animals for food or research. Then it kills animals – but for really important reasons, such as running out of room." PETA believes that euthanasia is the most humane method of dealing with animals forced to spend a long time in cages in shelters or who have certain kinds of illnesses.
Newkirk and PETA both oppose animal testing out of principle as well as on practical grounds. Specter asked whether she would be opposed to experiments on five thousand rats, or even chimpanzees, if it was needed to cure AIDS. She replied: "Would you be opposed to experiments on your daughter if you knew it would save fifty million people?"
The Peace Abbey, in Sherborn, MA, awarded her with the Courage of Conscience award on March 20, 1995.
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