In Arts & Entertainment

Ingrid Newkirk

In Arts & Entertainment

One of the many PeTA ads that gets your attention.

PeTA president promotes new pub

In 1981, Ingrid Newkirk co-founded PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the largest animal rights organization in the world. Today, she remains president of the organization -- now 800,000 members strong, including a slew of celebrities from Pamela Anderson, who posed nude for their ads, and Chrissie Hynde who was arrested while protesting.

Recently, Newkirk (who alledgedly has been arrested 40 or 50 times) published her sixth book, called "Making Kind Choices," which demonstrates how the simple choices we make every day can have a life-saving impact on animals and the environment.

Newkirk will read from her book and discuss related issues on Wednesday, Feb. 2 at Schwartz Bookshop, 2559 N. Downer Ave., at 7 p.m. The event is free.

Before founding PeTA, Newkirk served as a deputy sheriff, a Maryland state law enforcement officer, director of cruelty investigations for the second oldest humane society in the United States and chief of Animal Disease Control for the Commission on Public Health in the District of Columbia.

Since its founding, PeTA has exposed animal laboratories with inhumane practices, helped shut down the largest horse-slaughtering operation in North America, convinced dozens of designers to stop using fur, cleaned up substandard animal shelters, helped schools find alternatives to dissection and provided information on vegetarianism, companion animal care and countless other issues to millions of people.

The Norfolk-based organization is often criticized for its subversive, unconventional tactics to gain media attention. Previous stunts include people parading in the buff to protest fur coats and naked-but-heavily-bodypainted women in cages protesting the inhumanity of zoos and circuses.

According to Newkirk, this is the only way her non-profit is able to get its message to the masses. "Silence is the environment's and the animals' enemy," says the England native.

Newkirk and PeTA are controversial, but whether you find her compassionate or kooky, she's always a good interview.

OMC: So, are you really planning to donate parts of your body to different organizations as a final commitment to animal rights?

Ingrid Newkirk: Yes. I plan to send my liver somewhere in France to protest foie gras (liver pate). California recently banned this food and England and Germany banned it as well. I really think France needs to ban it.

OMC: What else?

IN: I am going to donate my pointer finger to Ringling Brothers. Not the (swear) finger, I'm not that rude, but the pointer finger as a way to say "shame on you." They have mistreated so many animals over the years, and recently killed three baby elephants that were too young to be weaned from their mother.

I plan to have handbags made from my skin ... and an umbrella stand made from my seat. I grew up in India and it's common for an elephant's foot to be cut off and made into an umbrella stand. My feet are too small to make a proper umbrella stand, but my seat...

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