Why 67-year-old PETA President Ingrid Newkirk is getting naked for the cause
"Why are we so obsessed with bacon," the president of PETA asked, "and not obsessed with saving the lives of smart and sensitive animals?"
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is launching an eye-popping ad campaign against the Bacon and Beer Classic, which takes place on April 29 and 30 at Citi Field in Queens.
PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, 67, spoke to Metro about baring her body on billboards in an attempt to stop festival goers from eating pigs and to go vegan.
The billboards will appear in six phone kiosks in and around the Meatpacking District of Manhattan and PETA’s billboard truck will circle the Mets’ stadium on Saturday between noon and 4 p.m.
Metro: Tell us about the new ad campaign.
I.N.: I love pigs, not dead but alive. I’ve rescued many, many pigs here at PETA including helping somebody get pigs off a slaughter truck within minutes of them arriving at the slaughterhouse rescuing them and having them now jump and run in the fields, sleep under the stars, bathe in a pond and enjoy strawberries. (laughs)
I just wish people all knew that pigs are like us. They are flesh and blood, which is one of the reasons I thought, “I’ll strip and hang next to these pigs.” You can see my flesh is the same color and just like their flesh. We’re all flesh and blood. And we all value freedom. We all feel pain. We don’t want to die – we don’t want to die badly and I’ve stood in slaughterhouses and the way they die is very badly. They scream, the struggle, they try to turn around and go the other way. They know what is ahead of them because they have a keen sense of smell.
Metro: So the image is not Photoshopped?
I.N.: It’s not Photoshopped. This is in a meat market in London called Covent Garden and we paid a few pounds to the butcher to allow me to dangle from the hook which is very uncomfortable to do.
So, no I just took off all my clothes and hung from the hook. It was very cold and I’m sure the looks on the faces of some of the other butchers were quite incredulous (laughing) but it was over in a short amount of time and I have a photo that makes a point, I hope.
Metro: PETA has done other nude campaigns. Was this a natural progression for you to strip down?
I.N.: I’m pushing 70 now, when I was younger I used to do I’d Rather go Naked than Wear Fur” demonstrations all over the world, but I thought I would be important not to have this sexual in any way. And now, of course, there is nothing sexual about me (laughing) so I thought, “I want it to be a body. I want people to see the bodies and try to make the connection.”
We’ve done [ads] where you talk about the body parts – the loin and the chops, the shoulder of pork; I have a shoulder. I have loins. I have ribs. You have standing rib roast. I have those.
Please, if you’re shocked by this, be more shocked at what we put these wonderful individuals through just for fleeting taste of what? Bacon. Why are we so obsessed with bacon? And not obsessed with saving the lives of smart and sensitive animals that they’re like our dogs; they’re like our kids; they’re like people we know.
[Pigs] think things through, solve puzzles. They enjoy relaxing; they grieve; they fall in love. Why isn’t that our obsession? To close the slaughterhouses and not decide which bourbon to have when eating part of their rotting flesh?
Metro: Your will states that you want your body to be barbequed when you die, isn’t that right?
I.N.: Back when people didn’t even know what veggie dogs were, you couldn’t buy them in the store, we used to get veggie dogs and fry onions in a wok and people would love the smell and come over. Back in the old days, they would say, “What are they? What are they made of?” and we would say, “Oh they’re made of plants,” and people, especially men would go, “Ew, I don’t want to eat that. (laughing)
Well, the ones next door are made of the decomposing corpses of slaughtered animals! You want those instead?
But it taught me that if you cook onions, people come over (laughs) and I thought it would be really a hoot, because I have no use of my body when I’m dead. If we cooked that up with onions and garlic and people would come over and they’d say, “Oh what is that?” and [the cooks] would say, “It’s her!” And they’d think, “Ewww!” [The cooks] would say well, “What’s the difference? She’s a volunteer. The ones at the next door stand aren’t volunteers.” You get people thinking about things.
Metro: Is that something that can actually be done?
I.N.: Yes, I mean unless I die in some way that the body is gone, messed up. I have a pathothologist. I have a legal agreement. I have lawyers and it’s all bequeathed to PETA to use my body parts in that way and in other ways that they see fit at the time.
Metro: No offense, but I’m not coming to your barbeque.
I.N.: Well that’s good! That’s fine. (laughing) Part of my liver is going to France to protest foie gras because you know they force feed the ducks and the geese to get a swollen liver for foie gras and for pâté.
Metro: Any last thoughts for Metro readers?
I.N.: One thing we do is we do show people the gory bits because they’re reality, but then, we try to help make change easy so the whole theme is just try vegan, just go vegan. You may love it. Your arteries will love it. The animals will love it and you’ll have a clear conscious. Open up a whole world of save the planet, save the animals, save your heart and feel good.
For a vegan starter kit with vegan recipes and shopping tips, go to PETA.org.