Newkirk (born June 11, 1949) is a British animal rights activist and the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the world's largest animal rights organization.
She is the author of several books, including Making Kind Choices (2005) and The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights: Simple Acts of Kindness to Help Animals in Trouble (2009).
Newkirk has worked for the animal-protection movement since 1972.
Under her leadership in the 1970s as the District of Columbia's first female poundmaster, legislation was passed to create the first spay/neuter clinic in Washington, D.C., as well as an adoption program and the public funding of veterinary services, leading her to be among those chosen in 1980 as Washingtonians of the Year.Newkirk founded PETA in March 1980 with fellow animal rights activist Alex Pacheco.
They came to public attention in 1981, during what became known as the Silver Spring monkeys case, when Pacheco photographed 17 macaque monkeys being experimented on inside the Institute of Behavioral Research in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The case led to the first police raid in the United States on an animal research laboratory and to an amendment in 1985 to the Animal Welfare Act.
Since then, Newkirk has led campaigns to stop the use of animals in crash tests, convinced companies to stop testing cosmetics on animals, pressed for higher welfare standards from the meat industry, and organized undercover investigations that have led to government sanctions against companies, universities, and entertainers who use animals.
She is known, in particular, for the media stunts that she organizes to draw attention to animal-protection issues.
In her will, for example, she has asked that her skin be turned into wallets, her feet into umbrella stands, and her flesh into "Newkirk Nuggets", then grilled on a barbecue.
"We are complete press sluts", she told The New Yorker in 2003: "It is our obligation.
We would be worthless if we were just polite and didn't make any waves."Although PETA takes a gradualist approach to improving animal welfare, Newkirk remains committed to ending animal use and the idea that, as PETA's slogan says, "animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment".
Some animal rights abolitionists, most notably Gary Francione, have criticized PETA, calling it and other groups "the new welfarists".
Some members of the animal advocacy movement have responded that Francione's position is unnecessarily divisive.
Newkirk has also been criticized for her support of actions carried out in the name of the Animal Liberation Front.
Newkirk's position is that the animal rights movement is a revolutionary one and that "[t]hinkers may prepare revolutions, but bandits must carry them out".
PETA itself, however, "maintains a creed of nonviolence and does not advocate actions in which anyone, human or nonhuman, is injured".
Newkirk and PETA have also been criticized for euthanizing many of the animals taken into PETA's shelters, including healthy pets, and opposition to the whole notion of pets, and her position that "There's no rational basis for saying that a human being has special rights.
A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy," as well as seemingly seeing eradication as a goal.