How long have you been vegan, and what originally led you to give up all
About 30 years now. Someone made fun of me for putting milk in my tea
in the morning. He said, "Do you eat veal?" I said, "Of course, not." He
then explained how the dairy industry created the veal industry and if
we weren't stealing the milk from the calves, the calves wouldn't be in
crates. I was mortified. Then I learned that if you pay for eggs, you
subsidize the chicken meat industry, and that the only difference
between the two is that egg-laying chickens suffer for longer. They all
end up hanging upside down by their legs, screaming.
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What led you to form PETA, and when was it founded?
I always cared about animals, but Peter Singer's book, Animal
Liberation, made me realize that I also believed animals should not only
be treated kindly within the context of using them, but that they are
not ours to use. As I learned more, I thought it would be useful to
share that information. PETA was founded in 1980.
How big is the paid staff, the volunteer staff, and the membership?
The paid staff numbers about 120; we have tons of respected volunteers,
and about 750,000 members and supporters internationally.
How do you decide what issues become PETA campaigns?
We choose the areas in which the largest numbers of animals suffer the
most; and where one action can have lasting impact. Everyone eats,
hence the veg campaign which involves billions upon billions of animals
in the US alone every year. Our other main focal points are the abuse
and exploitation of animals in vivisection, clothing, entertainment,
pest control, and domesticated animals.
What is your response to critics who think PETA is too radical or too
I think Chrissie Hynde said it best, "Rather go too far than not far
enough." We have to be aggressive when those we stick up for have no
voice. I don't consider it radical to say cruelty is wrong and that
animals should be respected. I consider it radical to eat corpses, put
electrodes in animals' heads, make elephants live in chains in the
circus, and poison animals we consider a nuisance. I would also say,
"Stop looking at what we're doing and just concentrate on what you are
doing. If you have a better idea, grand. More power to you."
What directions do you see the organization going in the near future?
What are your ultimate goals with PETA?
Our goals and direction remains true to our founding. We wish to raise
awareness, shake people out of their dirty, cruel habits, and facilitate
a change to a cruelty-free world.
What frustrates you most about your work, and what are the rewards?
Human beings. Too often they opt for convenience, can't be bothered to
extend themselves, don't care to learn and prefer to keep eating,
wearing and using animals rather than grow and be the thinking, kind
animal we tell people we are. The rewards are seeing so much has
changed over the years and watching people find creative ways to bring
animal rights ideas, vegan cooking, and so on into their homes, work
places, schools and communities. Individual activism is the best thing
in the world. All that matters is that each of us do as much as we can.
What are a couple of your favorite PETA success stories?
Stopping General Motors from performing crash tests on animals: It took
everything from polite letters to burning donated GM cars, before they'd
listen. But they did. Getting Burger King to offer a veggie burger to
mainstream America, so that ordinary meat eaters who would never go to a
veggie restaurant, actually see it on the menu and try it.
What is the one thing you wish everyone to know about animals and/or
That we may be big, but we are small compared to even one of our
enemies, so please join us, use our materials, use our videos, become
one of our activist contacts, be part of it our "Army of the Kind."
Do you have any advice for people who are concerned about the treatment of
I recommend people concentrate on the positive so as not to burn out or
get depressed: there is so much each of us can do, from putting
newsletters around town, to showing a video at a table at a mall, to
getting a bill introduced before our city council to ban chaining dogs
or having animal circuses. PETA has all the materials anyone could need,
and the advise. All we need is enough people to get busy for the