PETA president encourages people to fight for animal rights during talk at Del Mar Country Club


By Kristina Houck

Animals have a voice, but some people don’t listen. That’s why animal activists need to use their voice, said Ingrid Newkirk, co-founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals during “The Naked Truth: An Animal Rights Radical at Large” event Feb. 6 at the Del Mar Country Club in Rancho Santa Fe.

Newkirk shared a story about an elephant that derailed a train to defend his herd.

The train fatally struck the elephant Sept. 17, 1894 in Teluk Intan, a town in Malaysia. Some believe the elephant sought vengeance for a calf killed earlier by the same train, she said. A sign was erected at the site as a memorial to the elephant.

“We have to stick up for animals. Animals stick up for themselves and sometimes they even lose their lives sticking up for themselves,” Newkirk said. “We don’t have to step onto the track. We don’t have to lose our lives. We are privileged.”

PETA opposes the use of animals as food, clothing, entertainment and research subjects. Founded in 1980, the animal rights organization garnered public attention in 1981 during Silver Spring Monkeys, a case that sparked a national debate about the use of animals in medical research and triggered an amendment to the U.S. Animal Welfare Act.

Since then, PETA has spearheaded a variety of campaigns and consumer boycotts, often with support from celebrities. A campaign that receives a lot of attention is the “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign, which recruits celebrities to pose nude for billboard signs.

PETA has also been active in San Diego. The organization sued SeaWorld on behalf of the orcas at the parks, claiming the chain of theme parks was in violation of their 13th Amendment rights. A federal judge dismissed the case in 2012. PETA was also behind the Naval Medical Center San Diego’s decision to stop using cats for intubation training in favor of human simulators.

Newkirk urged attendees to join PETA in its fight for animal rights, whether they participate in a campaign or speak up when they see someone eat a chicken sandwich or wear a fur coat.

“I believe that the key to change is absolutely solidly in our hands,” Newkirk said.

“The most cherished right in the United States of America — something that people in the rest of the world would give their arm and leg for — is freedom of speech. We shouldn’t waste it on just complaining about the man in the Escalade who’s taken two parking spaces. We need to use it sensibly and well.”

For more information about PETA, visit