This profile was published as part of Gandhi’s Be Magazine’s #ProfilesofChangemakers series, uplifting the stories, lives, and work of Changemakers who are being the change they wish to see in the world.
Ingrid Newkirk grew up in New Delhi, India, where her father was an engineer and her mother worked under Mother Teresa. Her earliest volunteer work was spent caring for those with leprosy, orphans, and stray animals. Today she serves as Co-Founder and President of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
For more than 35 years now, Ingrid has led the world’s largest animal rights organization with a passion for making this world a better place for all living beings. Until she was 21, Ingrid had never given thought to animal rights, 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. Her life was changed as she began working on behalf of animals from cleaning kennels to investigating animal cruelty cases.
When PETA President Ingrid addressed the International Nonviolence Conference in Bethlehem in 2016, it was the first time that nonviolence toward animals had been formally included in what has always been a “humans-only” conference agenda.
She asked people to open their minds to the idea that the way we treat animals is a reflection of who we are as individuals and as a society. Are we able to grasp the most basic problems facing us as we attempt to resolve conflict? Facing our lack of empathy toward others who are not like us is an interesting exercise that requires us to confront our most ingrained prejudices—even as we challenge others to confront theirs.