Changing Hearts, Changing Minds

Editor’s Note: Today Is Ingrid Newkirk’s Birthday, and this special article written by her is being published to celebrate her birthday and accomplishments.  Thank you for what you have done, Ingrid!

by Ingrid Newkirk

I’ve been handcuffed, jailed, and hung naked on a meat hook. I set fire to a donated car outside a General Motors auto show and slapped a “Meat Stinks” sticker on a police cruiser. I was bound and force-fed like a goose in front of a foie gras retailer. All these things were to draw attention to animal rights. I’m sure none of this is what my mother had in mind when she taught me how to minister to lepers, orphans, and stray animals while growing up in India. Still, she always said, “It’s not who suffers—it’s how they suffer.” And I’ve carried that principle with me my whole life. My early volunteer experiences are what led me to believe that anyone in need, including animals, is worthy of concern. I was 8 when I actually stopped a man from beating a bull who had collapsed in the street, exhausted from pulling a heavy cart in the hot sun.

Ingrid As A Child. Image Credit - PETA

Ingrid As A Child. Image Credit – PETA

The Beginning Of A Journey Into Animal Rights And Compassion

In 1970, I was studying to become a stockbroker. One of my neighbors abandoned some kittens, and I decided to take them to a local animal shelter. Seeing the workers there abuse and hurt the animals (including by stomping on the kittens!) was a life-changing experience for me. I started working to help animals, investigating cruelty cases and cleaning out kennels. I read and was deeply inspired by Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation. And after seeing wild animals caught in painful steel traps set in the woods, finding a pig left to starve to death on a farm, and inspecting laboratories and circus acts for the government—I realized that an organization like PETA was desperately needed.

We focus attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: in laboratories, in animal agriculture, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment industry. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of rodents, birds, and other animals considered “pests”; the companion-animal overpopulation crisis; and the abuse of domesticated animals, including “backyard dogs.” We’ve taken on the deadly pastime of pigeon racing, conducted investigations into the sheep mutilations in Australia’s wool industry, and pretty much decimated China’s cruel angora industry.

Ingrid Newkirk Demonstrating Vivisection. Image Credit - PETA

Ingrid strapped to a medieval torture device and fitted with a gas mask hooked to tanks of “toxic chemicals” in protest of the Ministry of Defence’s use of monkeys in cruel and deadly laboratory tests. Demonstration in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2016. Image Credit – PETA

Animals For Food And Pests – Rare Recipients of Compassion In Our Society

I feel particularly moved by the plight of chickens. Billions of chickens are eaten around the world, and it is painful to know that these dear little birds suffer from the moment they’re born until their throats are cut and they’re plunged into tanks of scalding-hot water. I am also drawn by the plight of rats, as so few people see them as the intelligent little mammals they are and the only reason they’re considered “pests” is because they try to take away what we discard in the streets. They have the same capacity to feel as humans, and cruelly exterminating them with poisons that destroy their internal organs is appalling.

Ingrid is arrested after running in front of hunters to free pigeons before they’re shot at the Hegins Pigeon Shoot. Image Credit - PETA

Ingrid is arrested after running in front of hunters to free pigeons before they’re shot at the Hegins Pigeon Shoot. Image Credit – PETA

PETA is known for making headlines with our more provocative actions. Our purpose is to stop animal suffering, and getting people to pause and pay attention is extremely important. At times, this requires tactics, such as street theater and colorful ad campaigns, that some people find outrageous or even rude, but part of our job is to spark interest and even shake things up a bit in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action. The current situation is critical for billions of animals, and our goal is to make people think.

PETA Ad: We Are All The Same. Image Credit - PETA

For one ad, Ingrid Newkirk hung on a meat hook in a London market next to the bodies of dead pigs to show the striking similarities between humans and other animals.. Image Credit – PETA

People Are Starting To Think, And Things Are Starting To Change For The Better

And think they have. Look what’s happened in just the past few years. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus went dark after 146 years. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to eliminate all animal testing. Top designers and retailers are going fur-free. Thousands of personal care companies are cruelty-free. “Vegan” has become a household word and is seen in every restaurant and grocery store. The foie gras store that I protested in front of stopped selling “torture in a tin.” General Motors stopped using pigs as crash-test dummies long ago.

Ingrid Protesting Foie Gras In Front Of Fortnum and Mason

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in an eye-catching demo outside British retailer Fortnum & Mason’s Piccadilly store in 2013 to illustrated what geese endure while they are being raised for foie gras. Image Credit – PETA

While PETA works globally—and we have affiliates in Germany, India, the U.K., Australia, Asia, the Netherlands, and France—it also acts locally. Our cruelty caseworkers and fieldworkers respond to emergency calls for assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We spend millions helping neglected and abused animals in impoverished areas surrounding our Virginia headquarters, providing animals with free food, flea and worm treatment, flystrike prevention, grooming services, emergency vet care, and more. We distribute hundreds of sturdy, weather-proof doghouses and straw bedding, free of charge, to low-income residents who refuse to allow their companion dogs to live indoors.

Our fleet of mobile spay/neuter clinics has sterilized nearly 200,000 dogs and cats at low to no cost, preventing the births of hundreds of thousands of unwanted puppies and kittens. We provide euthanasia services for sick, injured, elderly, and unsocialized animals free of charge. Our doors are open to every animal in need.

Ingrid With Dogs

Ingrid With Dogs. Image Credit – PETA

What Drives PETA And Their Members And Friends Around The World?

What drives us? Animals feel pain, hunger, thirst, fear, joy and love, just like us. They are individuals with wants, needs, and interests entirely separate from our own. It’s self-serving for humans to ignore their interests, and it’s not right. Animals are not things to be used for our own pleasures, pursuits, and purposes; they are our fellows. Even if we don’t understand their language, they have a voice. For all these reasons, PETA has set our sights in 2021 and beyond on ending the toxic mindset known as “speciesism”—a misguided belief that one species is more important than another. This attitude is deeply ingrained in our society, and it results in all kinds of negative consequences. We aim to upend that mentality.

Ingrid Being Dragged Away By Police At A Protest. Image Credit - PETA

Ingrid being dragged (literally) off to jail. Image Credit – PETA

Ways You Can Help

Animal rights is gaining awareness, and the movement will only continue to grow. PETA now has 6.5 million members and supporters. We are leading the way, but we need everyone to do their part, to find a way to help. If you haven’t already, go vegan. Use social media to get the word out about campaigns that matter to you. Hold a protest when the circus comes to town. Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper. Contact your elected officials to request that they ban the chaining of dogs. Go to to sign up for our upcoming virtual animal rights conference. There are tons of ways to make a difference, both large and small, and we are here to help.

Ingrid With Pigeons. Image Credit - PETA

Ingrid In A Park With Pigeons. Image Credit – PETA

Ingrid Newkirk is the president and founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 1536 16th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20036;

Ingrid Newkirk

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights organization in the world, and PETA entities have more than 9 million members and supporters globally. PETA opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview, and focuses its attention on the four areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the most intensely for the longest periods of time: in laboratories, in the food industry, in the clothing trade, and in the entertainment business. We also work on a variety of other issues, including the cruel killing of rodents, birds, and other animals who are often considered “pests” as well as cruelty to domesticated animals. PETA works through public education, investigative newsgathering and reporting, research, animal rescue, legislation, special events, celebrity involvement, and protest campaigns.


  • Avatar Fiat Equals Slavery says:

    Happy Birthday, Ingrid!

    What an adorable kid you were!

    I am sure your parents played a significant role in shaping who you are. Your dedication to helping the helpless brings tears to my eyes.,

  • Avatar Darcy (North Shore) says:

    This is a life worth learning about. I have no words.

    There’s something special about Ingrid.

    But any of us could be just as dedicated. That is, if we had the will and commitment to do so.

    Compassion is not just a word we throw around. It isn’t something big business owns,just another commodity to help sell widgets.

    I did not know anything about PETA, except for sound bites the major media throws out every once in a while.

    I want to get involved now. Where do i begin?

  • Avatar ... says:

    This woman cares about rats? And there are starving people in tyhe world? Priorities messed up, much?

    • Kandy Krusher Kandy Krusher says:

      Umm….yeah. A person can care about people AND rats. I have a friend who had a pet rat. It was about the smartest creature I’ve ever met. My dogs seem dumb by comparison. But what do starving people have to do with rats? There is also the issue of battered and abused women, racism, bias, anti-LGBT sentiment….poverty…greed…health care inequalities… Complaining about how someone else spent their life helping to make a better world shows something about the commenter.

    • Avatar T. Miller says:

      I would go vegan but in my mind it’s not not feasible. Omnivores like humans are designed by evolution to eat flesh and plants. I don’t think you can get proper nutrition et a plant based diet, as much of a trend as it is.

      Still, I think animal rights is a big deal, based on the science.

      I’m inspired by this article, but I am not really ever going to go out and join a group. I have extreme social anxiety. I know there’s only so much each of us can do, so I focus on buying products that are fair-trade.

      I know I could stop buying leather, but I mean, if the shoes are already there on the shelf, the animal is already killed?

      • Avatar GO VEGAN says:

        Right. But if you stop supporting the trade in leather, that’s one less person that’s going to keep the industry alive.

  • Avatar Kathy B says:

    I am very happy that Staten Islander chose to run this. I have always cared about animal rights, but never really thought I could do much to change anything.

    I am a vegetarian, and have been for over twenty years now. But my family and friends still regard this choice as a weird quirk, “Jamie being Jamie.”

    It’s dismissive. I hate hearing that. It’s just a way of taking my life choices and ridiculing them. I am probably not going to go out and protest. Maybe I could start a blog? There’s something I can do, it’s just that my life circumstances aren’t really geared toward anything more than writing.

    I read about Ingrid’s life and I feel empty inside. I also cared about animal welfare, and did nothing. My parents did not seek to teach me about helping others. They only cared about themselves, not even their children. We were a burden. My mom? She just wanted us to stay out of her hair.

    I was taught not to rock the boat. Never stand up in the crowd. Don’t make waves. I regret that my parents didn’t think more about teaching me and my siblings what it really means to be a successful person. Someone who stands up for what’s right and cares about others, even if they are not human,.

    • Kandy Krusher Kandy Krusher says:

      Start somewhere, anywhere!

      Figure out what issues mean something to you. If getting involved with an organized movement isn’t your thing, then work on your own toward change. Saying that you do nothing because you don’t know what to do is lame. I mean, at least you know you’re not doing all you could. I think if more people lived a life that was less selfish, we’d see a changed world in no time,

    • Avatar confused on SI says:

      Are you Janie or Kathy?????

      • Avatar Denzel is NOT my real name says:

        Umm…I’d guess it’s neither. I strongly doubt most users use their real names if it’s not attached to FB or Twitter.

        It gives more freedom, but it also lets people hide behind their screens. I guess there’s a downside to everything. I prefer it this way. Staten Island is too small. If you want to come on here with your real name, more power to you. But I see you actually did NOT! Your using a screen name, too.

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