After nearly 20 years of protesting everything from leather shoes to circus animals, PETA's Ingrid Newkirk explains how a baby pig changed her life and why she fired Naomi Campbell.
1. What prompted you to write this book now?
Actually, it's a rewrite of a book I wrote eight years ago. So much has changed. Back then, companies like General Motors and Gillette were testing products on animals, and today many of them no longer test on animals. Today, also, there are alternatives to dissection in the classroom and wonderful vegetarian foods are making more sense to more people. That was not the case a decade ago. I wanted to modernize it. It writes itself, really.
2. Have you always been outspoken about protecting animal rights, or did a particular incident jar you into action?
I was a slow learner (she laughs quietly). I had my first fur coat when I was 19. There were no animal rights activists back then, no one passed out materials or protested. We ate them, and allowed others to take refuge in thinking that nothing was disturbing or wrong about this. It took a series of experiences for me, but one ... I took a baby pig I had found and rescued him. Later that same day, I was driving home and thought about what I was going to have for dinner. I knew I had pork chops in the refrigerator. It absolutely struck me then. How could I rescue an animal one minute, and turn around and subsidize its death the next?
3. What do you tell someone who doesn't believe that one person's actions could make a difference?
People are the first step. They always say "I had no idea" about some of the cruel ways animals are treated. But when they look at the bullwhips and the scars on the backs of elephants' legs, it's like the curtain is lifted. Then they learn that circus elephants spend 95 percent of their lives in leg shackles. Some [people] may sit quietly. But those who open their mouths are dynamos. They lead the marketplace. The young idealistic companies follow right behind them. Then comes big business just because they know it'll be big business.
4. Looking at runways today, wearing fur again seems to be fashionable. What do you think about Naomi Campbell who a few years ago made a big hoopla about not wearing fur being spied blatantly wearing it in a recent magazine ad?
We fired her. She had been photographed in what people thought was fur; we confronted her and she denied it, saying it was faux. Then we caught her in a double-page spread in a European magazine in what we knew was fur. She knew she was in deep trouble. We hear that she was desperate for her career. And we say now "If we're going to lose a spokesperson, at least it was an inarticulate one." But that's been a unique situation. We've gained so much since.
5. Do you have pets?
No. I had two old dogs, but they have both died. And today I travel so much I can't have them. But I loved them dearly. I had a little rat-terrier and Chihuahua mix that I got from an animal hospital and an old shepherd mix I got at a shelter I called her Miss B. I had her for 17 1/2 years. She was more of a cross between a couch and a
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