In Arts & Entertainment

Ingrid Newkirk

In Arts & Entertainment

One of the many PeTA ads that gets your attention.

PeTA president promotes new pub

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OMC: Last year PeTA was denied a commercial spot during the Super Bowl. Why?

IN: It's funny, our ad was very mild compared to some of our others, and it was certainly not as provocative as Janet Jackson's breast.

OMC: So, is any press considered good press for PeTA?

IN: It's really a Catch-22. The media has no interest in the theory behind our work. If it's titillating and controversial, then the media pays attention. So we give them what they want. After all is said and done, the media has fun with us and our message gets out there. It's all we can get, and we take it.

OMC: Why do you use shock tactics in your ads?

IN: Everyone and everything is competing for attention. We have to turn heads and catch eyes if we want change. Silence is the environment's and the animals' worst enemy. We are compelled to have funny or sexy or gimmicky ads just to get a moment of attention.

OMC: Is it true you said you want to dance on Col. Sanders' grave?

IN: (Laughing) No, that I never said. But KFC, unlike McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King, refuses to make any reforms in their treatment of chickens. I ask people not to stop the car for KFC. Our Col. Sanders bobble heads are going like hotcakes on our Web site (peta.org) as are our "We Do Chickens Wrong" T-shirts.

OMC: What are PeTA's main issues these days?

IN: More of the same: We're trying to convert a few people at a time. We're also trying to get KFC to use "controlled atmosphere killing," meaning they show some kindness to the birds and knock them unconscious before they plunge them into boiling water to defeather them or put them on a conveyer belt still alive only to have their legs broken (and other internal injuries) before they finally die. We are also focusing on Iams (pet food) and the wool industry.

OMC: There's a lot of great suggestions in "Making Kind Choices," but come on, do you really practice everything in this book?

IN: Of course not. I travel so much that it's difficult and I'm human, I slip up now and again. But I do my best. I'm not saying people should do everything (in the book). No matter how small of a step someone takes, to me, it's one grand step.

OMC: What's the most important thing people can do to protect animals?

IN: If people who eat animals and animal products could once a week -- or twice a week -- try a vegetarian or vegan recipe that would be wonderful. Even if someone says "I am going to use a faux meat in my lasagna tonight" it's something ... There is such a fabulous array of (meat) taste-a-likes now.

OMC: Do you have pets?

IN: No. I travel too much. But we have four cats in our office.

OMC: Does PeTA commit crimes?

IN: No. Everything we do is legal. We have been arrested before in demonstrations, but it's usually because of an overreaction from the police.

OMC: Are you as outspoken about animal rights in your personal life as you are in your career?

IN: If someone I know is doing something unknowingly I might drop them a kind note. I would never embarrass someone, unless they are wearing fur. I always say something -- even to strangers -- when it comes to wearing fur. Everyone knows better.

OMC: So what do you say?

IN: I usually say something like "You're so pretty, why ruin your look with that coat?" I almost missed a plane once because I had to say something to a woman wearing a fur. It's a calling.

OMC: I read that you think having a baby is like adopting a pure-bred animal -- totally selfish.

IN: Yes, that's true. I wish more people would adopt children. If I had more time, I would. There are so many beautiful children in Eastern Europe -- all over the world -- that need to get out of orphanages and into families.

OMC: So how long have you been a vegetarian?

IN: Since I was 21. I'm 55 now.

OMC: Are you a vegan?

IN: Yes. I used to put milk in my tea but I haven't (had any dairy) for a very long time.

OMC: What made you leave law enforcement and start your own non-profit?

IN: When I was a cruelty investigator in Maryland I invested a cruelty case on a farm where the family had moved, but left their pigs behind to starve and die slowly. There was only one little pig alive by the time I got there and I took the little fellow and let him drink water from my hand and he made the most grateful little grunting noises. When I got home that night, I realized I had defrosted pork chops for dinner and I said to myself, "What are you doing?"

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