With more than two million members and supporters, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the world's largest animal-rights organization, and its founder and president, Ingrid Newkirk, is one of the most well-known and most effective activists in America. She has spearheaded worldwide efforts to improve the treatment of animals in manufacturing, entertainment, and elsewhere.
Every day, in laboratories, food factories, and other industries, animals by the millions are subjected to inhumane cruelty. In this accessible guide, Newkirk teaches readers hundreds of simple ways to stop thoughtless animal cruelty and make positive choices.
For each topic, Newkirk provides hard facts, personal insight, inspiration, ideas, and resources, including:
• How to eat healthfully and compassionately
• How to adopt animals rather than support puppy mills
• How to make their vote count and change public opinion
• How to switch to cruelty-free cosmetics and clothing
• How to choose amusements that protect rather than exploit animals.
With public concern for the well-being of animals greater than ever—particularly among young people—this timely, practical book offers exciting and easy ways to make a difference.
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About the Author
INGRID NEWKIRK has appeared on many national television radio shows, including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Nightline, and 20/20, among others; she was the subject of the HBO special, I Am an Animal.
Ingrid Newkirk is cofounder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the largest animal rights organization in the world. Her campaigns to save animal lives have made the front pages of The Washington Post and other national newspapers. She has appeared on many national television and radio shows, including The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Nightline, and 20/20, among others. She was the subject of the HBO special, I Am an Animal.
Read an Excerpt
The PETA Practical Guide To Animal Rights
By Ingrid Newkirk
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Ingrid Newkirk
All rights reserved.
Not "What" but Who Are Animals?
To comprehend the organs of the horse, is not to comprehend the horse himself.
— LIN YUTAN, CHINESE PHILOSOPHER
Let me start with a true story about a rhinoceros. These animals are hard for people to understand. They aren't furry or big-eyed or easy to pet, and a person might be forgiven for imagining that a charging rhino could flatten you like a locomotive.
Anna Merz, the founder of the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya, has lived with rhinos for many years. She now realizes that these enormous animals live in a completely different sphere from ours. They are the Mr. Magoos of the animal kingdom, barely able to see a thing, and their world is dominated by smell and hearing. Anna also realizes that "different" does not mean "stupid." In fact, the rhinos' communication system is quite complex. To communicate, they use body language, a wide variety of calls, and even urine or droppings as markers. Perhaps most interesting, they use a highly complicated method of regulating their breathing, a sort of Morse code, to talk to one another.
Rhinos are not alone here. Behavioral biologists have discovered "seismic communication" in elephants and mice. Male Malaysian tree frogs use their toes methodically to click out messages, and female frogs send electronic signals by vibrating the small saplings in which they live.
People may fear rhinos because they do not understand them, but Anna Merz says that fear is very much a two-way street, with most of the traffic coming from the opposite direction. "Most wild rhinos are obsessed by their terror of humans" because people have chased them, separated them from their calves, and slaughtered family members in front of them, cutting off their tusks for sale as aphrodisiacs.
The animals' fear makes close observation difficult. In the course of her work, however, Anna was lucky enough to raise and release a bull rhino called Makara, who had never witnessed an attack by hunters and so never learned to fear people. Over time, he actually came to regard Anna as a friend.
On one occasion, Anna was out with a tracker when the two of them saw a rhino moving very slowly toward them, looking very odd. When he got close, they saw it was Makara, and that he was completely entangled in barbed wire.
Barbed wire is terrifying to animals. When horses get tangled in even a little piece of the stuff, they invariably go wild with panic. Makara had recognized the sound of Anna's car engine and had come to her for help.
Anna got out of the car, and Makara, although trembling all over, gave her the greeting breathing. Somehow, Anna managed to get a handkerchief between Makara's eye and the jagged wire that was cutting into it, then took off her jacket and worked it under the wire that was cutting into his huge thigh. Anna and the tracker had no wire cutters with them, so the tracker used his cutlass and a flat stone to cut the wire while Anna disentangled it as it came free.
Anna talked reassuringly to the big bull rhino for the forty minutes or more it took to get the job done. The whole time Makara stood stock-still, except for the tremors that shook his body.
When the last bit of wire fell away, he breathed a grateful good-bye and moved slowly back into the bush.
Anna knew she had witnessed an act of outstanding intelligence and courage. Wire is terrifying for animals to comprehend, yet Makara had known to come for help. Still more incredible was the control he had exercised over himself while he was being slowly extricated, although the process must have been painful to him. And, although Makara knew Anna's voice well, she had never before attempted to touch him.
Perhaps if we could sit rhino hunters down and get them to see that a rhino is not just an object to line up in their sights, not just a meal or trophy on the hoof, but a living, thinking, feeling player in what behaviorist Dr. Roger Fouts calls the "great symphony of life in which each of us is assigned a different instrument," it might be harder for them to raise their rifles to their shoulders and blow these magnificent beings to kingdom come. Perhaps not. But lightning-quick realizations do happen.
Take, for example, a case in upstate New York one winter when the lakes and rivers were frozen solid. Two hunters, a father and his son, were out looking for "game," when they came across a deer lying on the ice in the middle of a frozen river.
Seeing them, the deer struggled to get up, but the slippery surface prevented her from rising. Every time she struggled, she fell back hard on the ice, her legs splaying out from under her. The hunters stood back and watched her trying to right herself, each time without success, until she seemed too exhausted to try again.
The father and son skated cautiously up to the doe. Like most hunters, they had never been really close to a live deer before, except to deal a final blow to their prey. The son, a man in his twenties, said later that when he bent down and put out his hand, he was afraid she would bite him. He reached out slowly, and the deer leaned forward and gently smelled the back of his hand, then looked up at him with her big eyes. The younger man began petting her.
The hunters found themselves in a predicament. Things were different. Somehow, they could not bring themselves to shoot this animal who, lying at their feet, as the son said, "looked like a big, old, sweet dog!"
The father and son found a nylon rope in one of their backpacks, and to their surprise the deer let them put it under her rump. Then, working in tandem, they started pulling the deer carefully across the ice toward the bank. It was hard work, and about every ten minutes they collapsed to rest, the three of them sitting close together on the ice until the father and son caught their breath. Then they pulled again, and the deer sat there quietly and helplessly, knowing they were all in this together.
When they finally got to the shoreline, the deer put her hoofs on the snow-covered earth, balanced herself, and stood. But now she saw the men as friends, rescuers, and was reluctant to leave. The three just stood there together, stock-still except for their labored breathing until, eventually, the hunters decided they must shoo her away.
Later, the younger hunter appeared on television, showing his home video of the incident and saying nothing could ever be the same again. He can't hunt deer any longer because he sees them differently now.
If this wonderful sort of breakthrough happened every day to people actively engaged in harming and killing animals, we would have a peaceful revolution on our hands. Hunters and slaughterhouse workers and people who steal cats to sell them to schools for dissection would not see animals as inconsequential and unfeeling commodities or as enemies. Animals might come to be viewed in the way Henry Beston, an English philosopher, saw them — as members of "other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time."
Most of us can't imagine picking up a firearm to slaughter a deer or a rhino. We never meet or come to know the animals we ourselves harm, directly or, far more likely, through strangers. Because we haven't really thought much about it, or don't imagine there is a choice in the matter, we buy products and services that provide the funds to pay others to put harsh chemicals down beagles' throats, to castrate lambs without anesthetic, to shoot mother orangutans out of trees, and to build tiny cages in which foxes and lynx live until their necks are snapped and their pelts turned into the fur trim on winter jackets and gloves. These experiences are all very real to these animals, who aren't lulled into acceptance, as we are, by the myths about humane treatment and necessity, and who aren't distracted, as we are, by the pretty packaging, alluring descriptions, and upbeat marketing that surround almost everything we buy, from floor cleaner to circus tickets.
Although anyone who has taken Biology 101 would agree that animals are not inanimate objects, people often treat them as though they have no more feeling than a desk or a chair. Stop and look at the images of animals offered to us by fast-food companies. Animals are converted from flesh and blood into caricatures to make us feel comfortable about our complicity in their slaughter: happy chickens in little aprons dance their way merrily across the sign above the fast-food restaurant; a cute baby pig wearing a chef's hat stirs the pot. Similarly, to nip children's inquiries in the bud, the research industry sends colorful posters into schools, dishonestly depicting the rats it poisons and kills by the millions as cute cartoon creatures, snuggled up in cozy laboratory homes. And so it goes.
Walt Whitman saw things somewhat differently. He wrote:
I believe that a leaf of grass is no less than the
work of the stars,
And the ant is equally perfect, and a grain of
and the egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef d'oeuvre for the
And the running blackberry would adorn the
parlors of heaven. And the narrowest hinge
in my hand puts to scorn all machinery,
And the cow, crunching with depress'd head
surpasses any statue,
And a mouse is enough to stagger sextillions of
To the outside observer, the human race seems not to agree. It has separated the entire animal kingdom into two parts. Humans are given the status of gods. We can do anything we please. We can take baby orcas away from their loving families at sea and put them in a SeaWorld tank for visitors to gawk at, or we can destroy scores of animals' habitats to build a new driveway or roller rink. Quite separate from us are all the other animals, be they our closest living relatives on the phylogenetic tree, the great apes, with whom we share 98 percent of our DNA, or the tiniest beetle. We see them not as whole, complete, or important in their own right. In fact, they are viewed as inconsequential, allowed to live only if their existence serves some purpose to us, if they are pretty, amusing, tasty, or strong. We debase their nature, deny their needs, and consider them to be merely cheap burglar alarms, windup toys, hamburgers, or handbags.
Some people rationalize their abuse by saying that humans are the cleverest animals on Earth, the only ones to land on the moon or write a symphony. True, but humans are also the only animals to devise an atomic bomb, invent concentration camps, and kill hitchhikers for sexual gratification. So what does it mean?
Grand and pompous statements about human superiority are reminiscent of the claims we read in history books, made by white slaveholders to defend auctioning black children after taking them away from their mothers (for more than a century, many people actually thought that slaves were incapable of maternal love), and by powerful men determined to deny women any rights whatsoever ("You might as well give asses the vote," wrote one Boston editor).
No doubt human beings, or at least some of them, are clever in ways other animals are not, although cleverness is hardly the criterion by which we decide whom to treat decently. If we did, many humans would be in deep trouble.
The fact is that animals are often amazing and awe inspiring, and their intelligence often leaves us in the dust. Long before any human sailor made the discovery, albatrosses knew the world was round because they had circumnavigated it without benefit of even a compass. The tiny desert mouse is far superior at surviving in Death Valley than the people who travel there, usually equipped with all manner of helpful gear, to test themselves against nature. These tiny rodents construct piles of stones around their burrows to collect the dew so they can take a drink when morning comes.
Name any animal, and our silly prejudices fade in the face of their feats: male Emperor penguins go without food for up to 145 days while guarding their eggs in the frozen tundra. Fruit-eating bats act as midwives for bats who run into difficulty giving birth and have been known to bring food to ailing group members. Some birds, like indigo buntings, guide their long flights by learning the constellations; other birds fix their position by the height of the sun and, if blown off course by the wind, reset their path by the phases of the moon and the rising and setting of the stars. Turtles "read" Earth's magnetic field in order to navigate thousands of miles across vast, open oceans. Elephants mourn their relatives by cradling the bones of the dead animal in their trunks and rocking back and forth with them. Seals can absorb their own fetuses to prevent overpopulation during a time when food is scarce. Octopuses collect pretty objects and use them to decorate the walls of their subterranean caves. Chimpanzees seek out and use medicinal wild plants that have antibiotic properties. Birds make clay by mixing water and mud to harden nests or as casts for broken limbs. A type of Antarctic fish can feed under the ice because they have the highest known level of serum antifreeze in their blood; salmon know the taste of their ancestral rivers; whales sing their histories down through the generations, adding a "verse" every year; dolphins can "see" through the human body to detect cancers. Ants form living bridges to get their fellows across streams; orangutan babies use big leaves as umbrellas when it rains heavily, holding them over their heads to keep dry. And there are dogs who can warn of impending seizures and detect cancerous tumors in their human companions.
Some of these traits and accomplishments can be attributed to nature or instinct, but they are no less impressive because of it. After all, much of what we humans do is "natural" or "instinctive" too. Few people love their children or choose a mate based on careful calculation.
Ironically, animals are kind to us. Pigs have pulled children from ponds; canaries have flown into rooms where their guardians were sleeping, frantically warning them of fire; beavers have kept lost trekkers alive in the freezing forest by pressing their warm bodies against the hikers; dolphins have kept sailors afloat in shark-infested waters; and Binti, a mother gorilla, and Jambo, a giant, silverback male, both won international admiration when they guarded and protected human children who, in separate incidents, fell into concrete enclosures at a zoo. Fearing the worst, keepers ran to get tranquilizer guns with which to subdue the apes, but the apes recognized that these children needed their help and simply offered it, at personal risk.
Of course, dogs and cats, the animals we interact with perhaps more than any others, have saved our skins from everything from frozen lakes to armed attackers. They look after their own kind too. The mothers of cats and dogs will suffer burned faces and paws, crawling back into buildings to rescue their young. Take Sheba, a mother Rottweiler in Florida, who watched helplessly from her chain as her owner dug a two-foot-deep hole in the backyard, dropped her live puppies into a paper bag, and buried them. Neighbors reported that they heard the heartbroken dog howl mournfully and strain at her chain all that day and night.
Almost twenty-four hours later, Sheba managed to snap her chain, break free, and dig the pups out of their grave. Some survived, and the owner was charged with animal abuse.
Why is it then that some people still refuse to attribute feelings and emotions to animals? It is very ignorant of anyone to think that love, loneliness, grief, joy, jealousy, or the desire to cling to life are singularly human traits.
Gus, a polar bear in a New York zoo, exhibited such misery from his confinement, including swimming endless laps in his pathetic cement pool, that he was prescribed antidepressants. Other animals in zoos are not so lucky. Wendy Wood, one of the first Jane Goodall Fellows at the University of Southern California, describes how chimpanzees develop autistic characteristics when denied opportunities to perform natural activities, like playing, fighting, and looking for food, which they cannot do in a laboratory cage or inside a trailer in a traveling sideshow. The distressed primates pull their hair out and rock endlessly, day after day.
Even octopuses, casually dismissed as "stupid invertebrates" by those who know no better, show their feelings. These mysterious sea creatures demonstrate their intelligence by learning how to unscrew a jar top to remove food, simply by watching the procedure. When given electric shocks, they show their desperation by biting into their own tentacles. Other cephalopods, including cuttlefish, can not only disguise themselves as plants on the ocean floor to avoid a prowling predatory fish, but can also fascinate a female with their displays of attractive colors and patterns on one side of their bodies while, on the other side, facing away from the female, simultaneously warning off a competitor male by showing colors and patterns that indicate aggression. Pretty fancy shooting!
Excerpted from The PETA Practical Guide To Animal Rights by Ingrid Newkirk. Copyright © 2009 Ingrid Newkirk. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Foreword by Bill Maher,
PETA: How It All Began,
Author's Note: Join the Army of the Kind,
PART ONE: THE ISSUES,
1 Not "What" but Who Are Animals? What You Can Do: Respect Animals,
2 How Animals End Up as Dinner What You Can Do: Help Animals Used for Food,
3 Those Incredibly Amusing Animals What You Can Do: Animals in Entertainments,
4 Blood Sports: Hunting and Fishing What You Can Do: Hunting and Fishing,
5 Cute "Pet" or Complex Individual and Friend for Life? What You Can Do: Companion Animals,
6 What's Really Going on in Laboratories What You Can Do: Help Get Animals Out of Laboratories,
7 Fur, Feathers, Baubles, Bits, and Bones ... What You Can Do: Make Your Closet Cruelty-Free,
8 Dissection Must Go What You Can Do: Stop Dissection in Your School Science Labs,
9 Dealing Ethically with "Pests" What You Can Do: Wildlife,
10 Choosing a Health Charity What You Can Do: Ask Questions Before You Donate,
PART TWO: RESOURCES,
11 Health Charities,
12 Recommended Books and Videos,
13 Organizations That Promote Animal Welfare,
14 Helpful Businesses,
15 Companies That Do Not Use Animals to Test Their Companion-Animal Food,
16 How to Make Cruelty-Free Products at Home,
17 Contacting the Media and the Government,