Despite the likely prevalence of puppies in your Instagram feed, Ingrid Newkirk says that not everyone is an animal lover. “You should read my mail,” she says. “Some people are born without a seat of empathy.”
Newkirk founded People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (better known as PETA) in 1980 and still heads the organization today. And just as not everybody loves puppies, not everyone is a fan of PETA.
The animal rights activist recounts photos she’s received through the years, including ones that show phrases like “Fuck PETA” written with rabbit or bird organs. “My work really upsets some people who don’t like animals,” she says.
Newkirk spent a lifetime cataloging animal abuse and neglect, often garnering criticism for the fervor of her beliefs. Now, she is taking a softer approach to changing hearts and minds.
With Gene Stone, she’s co-authored a book titled Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion. Her book tour will include a stop in Tempe on Monday, February 3.
The book explores research into animal intelligence, feelings, and communication. “Animals are more than pets,” Newkirk says. “They’re whole, thinking individuals who live, breathe, and experience joy.”
But the authors go beyond sharing the science that buoys their beliefs. The book also suggests ways people can change their everyday lives to be more animal-friendly. “I want to help readers change their old habits,” Newkirk says.
She’s changed several of her own habits through the years. Newkirk recalls going to the circus as a child and getting a fur coat when she was 19 years old.
“I grew up loving animals, but I didn’t make the connection between things like eating meat and animal cruelty,” she says.
Today, she encourages people to apply their values to not only how they deal with fellow humans, but also how they relate to animals. “If you want your kids to be kind and you teach them to not be a bully, make sure they apply those same principles to the way they treat animals,” she says.
Despite the prevalence of social ills affecting people across the globe, Newkirk is convinced that animals face far greater injustice. “Animals are the most discriminated against, oppressed beings on the planet,” she says.
Even if you don’t accept her premise, you’ll likely find something in Newkirk’s book that lends insights into your lifestyle. The book addresses several areas, including food, clothing, entertainment, research, and more.
“We can’t wait for legislation to protect animals,” Newkirk says. “We have to take personal responsibility.”
Ingrid Newkirk is scheduled to appear on Monday, February 3, at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. Admission is free.
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