4 quotes from Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s founder, on domestic cats

It is useful to try and get inside the head of Ingrid Newkirk on the issue of domestic cats. Does she approve of them? The same question applies to dogs. Newkirk has one of the most persuasive voices in animal welfare worldwide. She is the co-founder of PETA with fellow animal rights activist Alex Pacheco in 1980. This is an organisation with real clout in animal welfare.

Ingrid Newkirk
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Ingrid Newkirk. Photo: Wikipedia (David Shankbone).

Here are 4 quotes from her with my comments and interpretations. I welcome your comments.

“I don’t use the word “pet.” I think it’s speciesist language. I prefer “companion animal.” For one thing, we would no longer allow breeding. People could not create different breeds. There would be no pet shops. If people had companion animals in their homes, those animals would have to be refugees from the animal shelters and the streets. You would have a protective relationship with them just as you would with an orphaned child. But as the surplus of cats and dogs (artificially engineered by centuries of forced breeding) declined, eventually companion animals would be phased out, and we would return to a more symbiotic relationship enjoyment at a distance.” Ingrid Newkirk, PETA vice-president, quoted in The Harper’s Forum Book, Jack Hitt, ed., 1989, p.223.

Comment: Most of the enlightened world on cat caregiving now prefer to use ‘companion animal’ or ‘cat companion’ over ‘pet’ as it is more respectful of the sentience of domestic cats. ‘Pet’ indicates human dominion over animals as per the bible which is outdated. I agree with Newkirk.

The breeding of cats still occurs around 130 years after it first started as part of the cat fancy. The Ancient Egyptians breed cat also but for the wrong reasons: for sacrifice to the gods.

Dog breeding has been around for thousands of years as working animals. Cat breeding’s presence in the modern world is dubious for the obvious reason that (1) it treats animals as objects (2) it adds numbers when there are ostensibly too many already judging by shelter numbers and killings (3) breeding per se is a dodgy hobby as it entails inbreeding for appearance in priority over health.

Too many cats and dogs inherit genetic diseases. The list is long. Breeders often bring animals into the world that are predisposed to suffer ill-health later in life. This is unethical. Many cat breeds are created from genetic mutations that render the cat less able to survive. They are unnatural e.g. the hairless cats.

Pet shops sell animals in the same way they sell bags of cat and dog food and cat collars etc.. This diminishes the value of animals and equates them with inanimate objects.

I agree with her last sentence about a symbiotic relationship. Everything she says is radical but possible in a better world in which humans had a greater respect for animals.

I agree with Newkirk.

“You don’t have to own squirrels and starlings to get enjoyment from them … One day, we would like an end to pet shops and the breeding of animals. [Dogs] would pursue their natural lives in the wild … they would have full lives, not wasting at home for someone to come home in the evening and pet them and then sit there and watch TV,” Ingrid Newkirk, national director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), Chicago Daily Herald, March 1, 1990.

Comment: this is an extension of the argument that there should be no place in the world for domestic animals or selling them in shops like inanimate objects. Domestic animals as ‘pets’ should only be rescue animals in a long-term phase out. I realise that this is regarded as extreme but I am with her on this. The domestication of the cat has arguably been a failure judging by the millions of unwanted cats and feral cats. They were not part of the deal when the wildcat was domesticated.

The bottom line is that people don’t have the right to manipulate or to breed dogs and cats … If people want toys, they should buy inanimate objects. If they want companionship, they should seek it with their own kind,” Ingrid Newkirk, founder, president and former national director, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA), Animals, May/June 1993.

Comment: this is a rejection of the way humans often treat companion animals as if they are not sentient.

“[A]s the surplus of cats and dogs {artificially engineered by centuries of forced breeding) declined, eventually companion animals would be phased out, and we
would return to a more symbiotic relationship–enjoyment at a distance.” Ingrid Newkirk, “Just Like Us? Toward a Notion of Animal Rights”, Harper’s, August 1988,
p. 50.

Comment: Newkirk wants to do away with ‘pets’ entirely. I believe that she wants all domestic cats and dogs to be phased out and that humans enjoy cats and dogs as wild animals living in the wild. It is a radical thought, but I agree. A lot of people regard it as too radical but if you analyse the domestication of the cat, you see failure. It is a failed enterprise. Time to give it up. Yes, my thoughts are radical too. But when you study cats as I do you see too much abuse. Abuse goes with domestication. It is unacceptable but it hardly changes.

My thanks to American Greyhound Council’s list of animal rights quotes. Here are some more pages on PETA. There are more on this site. Please search using the custom search.

Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.
Useful links
Anxiety - reduce it
FULL Maine Coon guide - lots of pages
Children and cats - important

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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