Ingrid Newkirk Is Animal Rights’ Provocateur In Chief


“Never doubt that one person can make a difference.”

INGRID NEWKIRK


A true force of nature, today’s guest needs little introduction.

Meet Ingrid Newkirk.

The original doyenne of animal activism, Ingrid is the legendary and infamous co-founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a non-profit she personally shepherded into the largest animal rights organization in the world, currently boasting more than 6.5 million members and supporters.

Under Ingrid’s stewardship, PETA quite literally put animal welfare on the map. Operating under the principle that animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way, PETA has a storied and often controversial history of exposing countless acts of gruesome and horrifying animal abuse, with it’s media-savvy provocateur in chief grabbing headlines and creating significant awareness, policy changes and legal protections along the way.

Over the years Ingrid has lobbied for animal protection everywhere, from the Canadian Parliament to the streets of New Delhi. She’s behind the first arrest in U.S. history of a scientist on cruelty to animals charges and helped pass the first anti-cruelty law in Taiwan. She worked to end General Motors’ crash tests on animals. And she has persuaded countless fashion companies to drop fur — advancing the vegan cause to millions of people around the world.

Named a top businessperson of the year by Forbes, Ingrid has been profiled in countless publications — including twice by The New Yorker — and has appeared in seemingly every prominent media outlet including the Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King, Politically Incorrect, Crossfire, Nightline, and 60 Minutes.

Today Ingrid shares her story.

Irrespective of your opinions about PETA, one truth persists: without Ingrid’s relentless persistence, passion, and stewardship, the cultural, legal & regulatory landscape that dictates norms around how we think about and treat animals certainly would not be what it is today.

This is someone who has dedicated every breath to what she believes in. Combating injustice. Taking action to change what many of us simply want to deny or avoid. Looking suffering straight in the eye. And doing something about it. 

That level of purpose — the courage to speak truth to power, tenacity to weather persistent criticism and stay the course for change — is rare. It’s impressive and laudable.

Behind it all, there is an undeniable sincerity to Ingrid. A fascinating, complex, and charismatic character, she’s also deeply sensitive. Quite self-aware. And surprisingly funny.

Today’s conversation is about the genesis of animal rights activism and the early days of PETA. It’s also about the work that remains, including a deep dive into the particulars of animal lab testing — a subject I freely admit to not knowing as much about as I should.

This is also a rumination on Ingrid’s new book, Animalkinda beautiful primer on what can be learned from the intelligence and emotionally rich lives of our under-appreciated animal friends and why the beings with whom we share this planet deserve our respect.

But more than anything, this is a philosophical dissection of belief and values — and how Ingrid’s have indelibly shaped policy and culture around the globe.

Note: This conversation was recorded pre-pandemic on February 18, 2020. Therefore there is no coronavirus discussion. However, I think Ingrid’s message is profoundly of the moment given the undeniable role animal agriculture plays in fomenting disease.

The visually inclined can watch it all go down on YouTube. And as always, the audio version streams wild and free on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

In this moment of forced repose, my hope is that we reflect on humanity’s misguided entitlement to dominion over all things. Our intelligence is not the gauge of the animal kingdom. And our relationship with the living beings with whom we share this imperiled planet is broken.

Ingrid is here to recalibrate that relationship.

Peace + Plants,

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Show Notes

Pick up Ingrid’s new book, Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion*

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Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, audio engineering and show notes; Margo Lubin and Blake Curtis for video, editing and graphics; portraits by Ali Rogers; copywriting by Georgia Whaley; and theme music by Ana Leimma.

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.