Ingrid Newkirk is the co-founder and president of PETA, the world's largest animal-rights organization. She answers questions from Time magazine readers in this interview.
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitble for Advanced students.
In the course of the interview the name Michael Vick comes up. Michael Vick was a quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons football team, who was discovered to have a dog fighting ring with over seventy dogs, some of which showed signs of injuries. The case drew publicity to the issues of animal abuse and dog fighting. It also drew attention to unlawful gambling and drug activities which authorities claim often accompany dog fighting.
1 Our diet makes a great difference to animals.
2 PETA advocates for human milk to be used in the making of ice-cream.
3 Michael Vick feels sorry for what he did.
4 Ingrid claims that people at PETA have a good time doing their job.
5 Not all PETA members agree with the campaigns.
6 Baboons and pigs are still used by car manufacterers in car-crash tests.
7 PETA approves of both cloning animals for meat and using an in-vitro technique to get meat.
8 In-vitro meat is healthier.
9 Some people have a wrong idea about PETA.
I’m Albert Cruz here for Time.com and we’re here with Ingrid Newkirk, president and co-founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of animals, otherwise known as PETA. Ingrid has a new book coming out called One Can Make a Difference, and she’s here to answer questions from Time readers. Thank you for being with us today.
Our first questions is from James Dodds in Katonah, New York, and James asks, is there an effective, fairly simple way that people can help animals in their everyday lives?
Everybody can make a difference. If you just change to one vegetarian day a week, that’s a wonderful step that will save animals’ lives. If you just choose clothing that isn’t made from animals, that makes a difference. There are alternatives to dissection if you’re in school or you have a child in school, so yes, you can just choose one thing and that one thing means the world. It means you’ve chosen something kind instead of something cruel. That’s fanastic.
PETA recently tried to advocate for the use of human breast milk in Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream as opposed to cow milk, and Erica Cole from Westford, Massachusetts asks that… or she says that doesn’t seem very feasible. What was the point of this…?
It isn’t feasible at all, but it’s great fun to suggest that the Ben and Jerry’s, who also knew it was a joke. But the thing that was serious is that television stations listened to why we said that making anything out of cow’s milk is unkind, and that’s because they take the calves away from their loving mothers when they’re just a few hours old, winch them away with a chain and a tractor and put them in a stall for veal. We drink the milk that’s meant for those little calves and as a result those little calves suffer greatly. So we were very glad when people started to come to the website, watch the footage and actually show the footage on television.
Bobby Mullins from Norfolk, Virginia, asks if you think that the punishment that Michael Vick received was fair.
I can’t really comment on the punishment. I do… have spoken to Michael and I do know that he’s contrite. And I still talk to him. He came to our office, he didn’t have to, it wasn’t going to get him anywhere with the judge and I told him that and I told the judge that, and he attended an empathy class. And I do believe that he learned a lot about dogs and other animals that no one had ever shown him as he grew up. And his eyes were opened, and I believe when we see him emerge that he’s going to have strong message for inner city youth, for anyone who’s dog-fighting, that that was not the way to go.
Sidney Jorgenson from Ridgefield, Connecticut, has a question about fun versus seriousness. He wants to know if you ever have fun fighting for animals’ rights.
Oh, Sydney, come and look at our website, peta.org. At the moment, we are repositioning fish as sea kittens so that children will wonder why it’s all right to eat them. But, of course, at the heart of it, it’s a very sad situation for animals. But yes, we would all probably have jumped off a ledge if we hadn’t had fun along the way.
Max Wilson from Seattle has a question about some of the campaigns that you were on, and he wants to know if you think any of them have been counterproductive.
I don’t think so. Honestly, I think that they haven’t… they may have caused many of our members to leave us and they may have caused people to dislike us, but we’re not here to win a popularity contest. We’re here to get people to find out the facts about various ways in which animals suffer and the choices they have to make. Because when you rile people up, when you antagonise people, they have to come and look for more, and that’s when they think, oh, maybe these people have a point.
Laura Sanders from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and she wants to know what you would say has been PETA’s greatest victory for animals to date.
It’s probably the most intangible, which is changing people’s outlook and putting animals’ rights on the map. But really I look back on things like stopping car-crash tests on baboons and pigs. Whenever you see the mannequins on TV, think PETA. We stopped all the car companies in the world from car tests on animals. They were crude, they were cruel, didn’t need them.
We do have a question here from Eric Myers from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who wants to know what PETA standing on cloning animals for food or in-vitro meat is.
Well, cloning animals for meat is just rubbish. The animals suffer greatly in the cloning process and who wants it anyway? We’re all suspect of it. But we do… We have offered one-million-dollar reward for the first scientist to come up with in-vitro, which is tissue-culture meat. And that will mean you take just a couple of cells from animals and you grow meat in a laboratory. And that process has already begun. The first conference has taken place. And if someone can market it by 2012, the first in-vitro chicken, it will taste and look and have texture like chicken, then we’ll give them a million dollars.
So you would be able to grow a steak in a dish without having to kill an animal?
There will be lines and lines of dishes, and you can eliminate diseases like salmonella and campylobacter because you’re growing it in culture. You can make it clean meat. So there’s no suffering, no disease. You can even make sure that the cholesterol level is reduced.
Will in-vitro meat even come close to approximating the taste of a good sirloin or…?
There is no reason to believe that with our scientific prowess today, that we can’t a meat that if you want it to taste exactly like the decomposing corpse of a small tortured animal.
What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have about PETA?
I think they think that we want to give dogs the right to vote or giraffes the right to ride a car or something. I’m not really sure why they’re so upset when all we’re asking for is consideration for the basic interests of animals. Animals don’t need very much. They need a little air. They need fresh water. They need patience and understanding. They need some nutritious food. Well, they need to be left alone in peace. Is that really too much to ask?
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