Ingrid Newkirk

Ingrid was born in Surrey, England, and lived in Europe until she was 7 years old, when she and her parents moved to New Delhi, where her father worked as a navigational engineer and her mother volunteered for Mother Teresa and various charities.

Ingrid’s early volunteer experiences—packing pills and rolling bandages for people who were suffering from leprosy, stuffing toys for orphans, and feeding stray animals—informed her view that anyone in need, including animals, is worthy of concern.

Until she was 21, Ingrid had given no thought to animal rights or even vegetarianism.

In 1970, however, when she and her husband were living in Maryland and she was studying to become a stockbroker, a neighbor abandoned some kittens and Ingrid decided to take them to an animal shelter.

This was a life changing-experience for Ingrid and led to her first job working in behalf of animals—cleaning kennels and investigating cruelty cases.

Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation and Ingrid’s experiences in that job and later on—including finding a fox and a squirrel caught in steel traps, finding a pig left to starve on a farm, and inspecting laboratories and circus acts for the government—made her realize that there needed to be an organization like PETA.

Since it was founded, PETA has exposed horrific animal abuse in laboratories, leading to many firsts, including canceled funding, closed facilities, seizure of animals, and charges filed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

PETA has also closed the largest horse-slaughter operation in North America, convinced dozens of major designers and hundreds of companies to stop using fur, ended all car-crash tests on animals, cleaned up wretched animal pounds, helped schools switch to alternatives to dissection, and provided millions of people with information on vegetarianism, companion animal care, and countless other issues.

Newkirk and Pacheco investigated the work of Edward Taub a psychologist who was conducting experiments on monkeys using electrical shocks and physical restraint.

They documented the monkeys’ horrific living conditions and alerted the police.

This controversy, known as the case of the Silver Spring monkeys led to an amendment to the 1985 Animal Welfare Act.

Her outspokenness—sometimes termed extremism or even fanaticism—is well known, and in 2003 she publicized (in advance) her own last will and testament to draw further attention to many of the practices she and PETA find abhorrent.

Among the final requests, according to press releases, were that part of her flesh be cooked in a “human barbecue” and distributed “to remind those who eat meat that it is flesh and that no one needs to eat it”; and that her feet be cut off and used as umbrella stands, “like those made from elephants’ feet, which she saw when she lived in Delhi as a child, to admonish against the use of animals as mere objects for human entertainment.”

She coordinated the first arrest in U.S. history of a scientist on animal cruelty charges and helped achieve the first anti-cruelty law in Taiwan.

She spearheaded the closure of Department of Defense underground “wound laboratories,” and has initiated many other campaigns against animal abuse, including ending General Motors’ crash tests on animals.