NEWKIRK: Yes. I think it’s unfair to blame the shelters, because we see this ourselves. I mean, we will take in and euthanize animals that have no other chance. We won’t take in so-called “adoptable,” fluffy animals, we’ll only take in the dregs, which means those that aren’t housebroken, who’ve been on a chain their whole lives, who are diseased, pregnant, elderly, sick. There are so many people who take in animals frivolously and then throw them away. I mean, tens of thousands of dogs and cats, all wonderful, are thrown away in Hampton Roads every year. There simply aren’t enough good homes to put them in. It would be marvelous if there were. It would be marvelous if you could save a quarter of that number, but you cannot. People are not spaying and neutering, so there’s this constant flow of new animals coming into the population. People move away and abandon their animals. They dump them on the shelters as if they are turning them in to a recycling plant.
People should not buy from pet stores. That would help. If they’re going to take an animal, only take them from a shelter, because the shelters are desperate to find good homes. And people should not breed their animals as long as there are so many dogs and cats that are already born, waiting for homes, and have no homes to go to. And we really need higher license fees so people have to think twice before they casually acquire an animal, because that may stop many people from getting one and then tossing them out later. But I can’t condemn anyone who loves animals, cares for them, and performs the heartbreaking job of euthanasia, because it’s simply saying that, “There isn’t a place for you, my love, you need to go to sleep forever.”
REDWOOD: What about circuses?
NEWKIRK: [Laughter]. It’s all so cheery, isn’t it? Well, the animal circuses’ days are numbered. The Detroit Zoo, for example, just closed its elephant exhibit, for ethical reasons. The director of the Detroit Zoo made the decision that elephants do not belong on exhibit. And we now are seeing more non-animal circuses, like the magnificent Cirque d’Soleil, cropping up, where all the performers are paid, all the performers are there willingly, and all of the performers get to go home at night. Ringling, unfortunately, has a massive advertising budget but a terrible reputation, and three baby elephants have died of negligence in the past several years. One drowned, one fell off a training pedestal, and one was ill yet forced to go back three times into the ring and died without veterinary care. They’ve been fined by the government, they’ve been in terrible trouble over the deaths of lions, of horses, the shooting death of two tigers, you name it. The manner in which the animals are trained is by brute force. You cannot make an elephant perform what to them is a repetitious, unnatural trick, for a cookie. And chaining them up, separating the babies from the mothers when they would live their whole lives together in nature, is just plain barbaric. I am hopeful that more people will turn their backs on the circus.
REDWOOD: If a person is considering giving up some animal-based product like meat, dairy, leather or wool, where would you advise them to start? What are some resources that a person thinking about this could consult?
NEWKIRK: It’s a very exciting world. It doesn’t restrict you, really, it just opens up a new world of options. We have a website called petaeats.com, which is chock full of recipes which are all downloadable. And on peta.org there is a free vegetarian starter kit that you can have, or you can just call us up (757-622-PETA), and we’ll send you one. It has tips, resources and recipes. Questions about what to do if you’re pregnant, what your nutritional needs are if you’re an athlete, all written by people with expertise in those fields, and references to other books, pamphlets, and websites. I hope my book is a good resource. It should be in the library, too.