Ingrid Newkirk Age, Husband, Family, Biography & More

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Age: 73 Years
Religion: Atheism
Marital Status: Divorced

Ingrid Newkirk

Birth nameIngrid Elizabeth Ward [1]Google books – Ingrid Newkirk: A Biography of PETA’s Founder
ProfessionPresident of the animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
Physical Stats & More
Height (approx.)in centimeters- 165 cm
in meters- 1.65 m
in feet & inches- 5’ 5”
Eye ColourBlue
Hair ColourBlonde
Awards, Honours, Achievements • Washingtonian of the Year (1980)
• Courage of Conscience Award (1995)
• Shining World Compassion Award (2007)
• Ahimsa Award (2014)
• Peter Singer Prize for Strategies to Reduce the Suffering of Animals (2016)
Personal Life
Date of Birth11 June 1949 (Saturday)
Age (as of 2022) 73 Years
Birthplace• Kingston upon Thames, England (according to the book Voices from the Underground: For the Love of Animals by Michael Tobias)
• Denmark, Europe (according to a blog post on PETA’s website) [2]Google books – Ingrid Newkirk: A Biography of PETA’s Founder
Zodiac signGemini
School• The Convent of Jesus and Mary, Delhi, India
• Ware Grammar School for Girls (now known as Presdales School), Ware, England
Educational QualificationA course in stockbroking [3]Ingrid Newkirk

Note: In her HBO documentary ‘I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA,’ she declared,
"I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in God. I believe that the horrors in this world could not ever have been created by a loving God. I believe in kindness, I believe in personal responsibility, and I believe in being decent to people.”
Food HabitVegan

Note: Until the age of 21, she barely worked towards animal rights or abstained from consuming meat. She was a non-vegetarian. She became a vegetarian after witnessing animal cruelty in animal shelters and slaughterhouses. [4]Essential Surrey Later, Alex Pacheco convinced her to adopt veganism. [5]Google books – Ingrid Newkirk: A Biography of PETA’s Founder
HobbiesAuto Racing, Sumo Wrestling
ControversiesAnimal Euthanasia: Newkirk and PETA are often been criticized for euthanizing many of the animals which they take into their shelters, including healthy pets. In 1991, PETA allegedly euthanized 18 rabbits and 14 roosters that were rescued by it from a research facility. A veterinarian claimed that he naively gave PETA a mother cat and her two kittens, all perfectly healthy and adoptable and none in danger of being killed until they were given to PETA who reportedly euthanized them within minutes in the back of a van. Reportedly, PETA is known for spending donations entrusted to it on campaigns for attacking medical researchers, meat-eaters, and women wearing furs, instead of caring for homeless animals. [6]SFGATE

Arrested for Rescuing Pigeons From Hegins: In 1992, she was arrested for storming onto a field in Hegins, Pennsylvania, along with 40 activists, where an abhorrent annual pigeon shoot was being held. For the event, 5,000 birds were trapped and confined to tiny cages for two days without food or water. The activist halted the shooting by grabbing the boxes of birds before they could be released. Following their arrest, the activists decided that they would remain jailed instead of paying the fines to cost the town high maintenance charges. The goal was to make it too expensive for the city and state to pay for security and jail stints related to the pigeon shoot. As the pigeon shoot cost taxpayers $300,000, the event was cancelled. [7]PETA
Ingrid arrested after running in front of hunters to free pigeons before they were shot at the Hegins Pigeon Shoot
Relationships & More
Marital StatusMarried/Unmarried
Affairs/BoyfriendsKathy Snow Guillermo's book ‘Monkey Business: The Disturbing Case that Launched the Animal Rights Movement’ mentions a romantic relationship between the PETA founders, Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco. [8]Google books – Ingrid Newkirk: A Biography of PETA’s Founder The book reads,
When Pacheco [first] made it clear his feelings for her were growing stronger, Newkirk didn’t take it seriously. It was during those days lying on the hot sand and swimming along the reef that Newkirk found, to her surprise, that she had fallen in love.”
Alex Pacheco, co-founder of PETA
Marriage DateYear, 1968
Husband/SpouseSteve Newkirk (race car driver) (m.1968-div.1980)

Note: In an interview, she shared her view about having children and said,
I am not only uninterested in having children. I am opposed to having children. Having a purebred human baby is like having a purebred dog; it is nothing but vanity, human vanity."
ParentsFather- Noel Oswald Wodehouse Ward (navigational engineer)
Mother- Mary Patricia Ward (social worker)

Ingrid Newkirk, PETA's co-founder

Some Lesser Known Facts About Ingrid Newkirk

  • Ingrid Newkirk is a British-American animal activist who is known for founding the animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
  • Her parents, Noel and Mary, first met when Mary was serving in the British Land army during WWII.
  • Born to globetrotting parents, Newkirk spent her childhood in different places including Kingston upon Thames in England, Edinburgh in Scotland, and New Delhi in India.
  • At 7, she moved to New Delhi, India, where her father worked as a navigational engineer, and her mother volunteered for various charities, including Mother Teresa’s charity.
  • Upon her arrival in India, there were riots in Calcutta, following which numerous children were sent to orphanages in Delhi. Ingrid would play with these children, while her mother and nuns tended to their wounds.
  • Like her social worker mother, Ingrid too gained volunteer experience by packing pills and rolling bandages for people suffering from leprosy, stuffing toys for orphans, and feeding stray animals. Such experiences formed her perspective that anyone in need, even animals, must be provided aid.

    Ingrid with her dog as a child

    Ingrid with her dog as a child

  • Growing up in Delhi, she encountered various cases of animal cruelty. One day she saw a bullock being mistreated by its owner. She recalled the horrific incident in an interview and said,

    I was 7 or 8, new to India. I had a big plate glass window in front of my dining room, and I was drinking some soup. Back then, there were bullock carts coming along the road, and I was watching, and this man, he took his very thick wooden stick and smashed the bullock repeatedly. The bullock actually fell down. And he took the stick, lifted the bullock’s tail, and rammed the stick up inside the bullock. And I just dropped my spoon and ran up to the road. I was only a child, but I took his stick, and I probably would have tried to break his back or his head or something…”

    The incident marked her first activism gig. Once she witnessed the sale of elephant-foot umbrella stands and tiger rugs at Connaught Place, a frenetic business hub in Dehli.

  • While recalling her days at The Convent of Jesus and Mary, Delhi, in an interview, she said,

    It was the done thing for a British girl in India…But I was the only British girl in this school. I was hit constantly by nuns, starved by nuns. The whole God thing was shoved right down my throat.”

  • She attended the Ware Grammar School for Girls, now known as Presdales School, in Ware, England, for a few months in 1960. Soon, she returned to India.
  • When Vietnam War raged in 1967, Ingrid’s father was seconded to the United States Air Force. Hence, she and her father moved to Florida, where he designed bombing systems for aeroplanes and ships.
  • In Florida, she made an acquaintance with Steve Newkirk while pursuing her hobby of auto racing. It was Steve who introduced her to Formula One, an international racing event for open-wheel single-seater formula racing.
  • After her marriage in 1968, she moved to Poolesville in Maryland in 1970. There, she snapped after discovering that instead of finding homes for the kittens, the shelter had killed them. Consequently, she decided to pursue a job at the shelter to investigate the matter. She secured the job of cleaning kennels. On the job, she witnessed the nerve-racking ordeal of animal cruelty which affected her profoundly. Instead of seeing them suffer, Ingrid used to provide them with painless death herself. In an interview, she recalled the same and said,

    In the end, I’d go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself, because I couldn’t stand to let them go through that. I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day. Some of those people would take pleasure in making them suffer. Driving home every night, I would cry just thinking about it. And I just felt, to my bones, this cannot be right.” [9]The Guardian

  • In Maryland, one day her neighbour abandoned some kittens, whom Ingrid decided to take to an animal shelter.
  • Later, she became a deputy sheriff and focussed on animal-cruelty cases for Montgomery County.
  • Her experiences in the animal shelter and later on, like finding a fox and a squirrel caught in steel traps, finding a pig left to starve on a farm, and inspecting laboratories and circus acts for the government, intrigued her to launch an animal-protection movement.
  • In 1976, she was given the charge of the animal-disease-control division of the District of Columbia Commission on Public Health in Washington, D.C.
  • She became the first female poundmaster of Washington D.C. in 1978 following which she controlled the sale of animals to vivisectionists. [10]Google books – Ingrid Newkirk: A Biography of PETA’s Founder
  • Soon after, she became the director of cruelty investigations for the Washington Humane Society in the U.S.
  • In March 1980, Newkirk founded PETA with fellow animal rights activist Alex Pacheco in her suburban Maryland home. It was Pacheco who introduced her to the concept of animal rights via the book Animal Liberation (1975) by Australian ethicist  Peter Singer.
  • In 1981, PETA gained international notability for the Silver Spring Monkeys Case in which 17 wild-born macaque monkeys who were kept in the Institute for Behavioral Research (IBR) in Silver Spring, Maryland, were discovered after a sting operation by Ingrid Newkirk and Alex Pacheco. In May 1981, Alex Pacheco got inside IBR as a volunteer and discovered that it was set up in a warehouse by psychologist and animal experimenter Edward Taub, with no medical training or veterinarian to tend to the severe wounds. The monkeys were being used for experiments into neuroplasticity. Alex secretly photographed the crippled monkeys and their horrendous living conditions and alerted the police about what was happening inside IBR. She coordinated the first arrest of a laboratory animal experimenter on cruelty charges in the history of the US and closed down IBR.

    Ingrid Newkirk campaigning for rescuing The Silver Spring Monkeys in 1981

    Ingrid Newkirk campaigning for rescuing The Silver Spring Monkeys in 1981

  • In 1983, PETA’s efforts led to the closure of a U.S. Department of Defense underground “wound lab” with a permanent ban levied on shooting dogs and cats in military wound laboratories.
  • Under Ingrid’s leadership, the law to create the first-ever spay-and-neuter clinic was passed in Washington, D.C.
  • In September 1991, PETA launched the campaign “Heartbreak of America” against General Motors Corporation (GM), which used animals like mice, rats, and pigs for auto safety tests. Hard-hitting PETA demonstrations included smashing GM cars outside auto shows while wearing animal mascot outfits and blocking GM’s float during the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, wearing colourful animal outfits. Later, GM officially ended the use of animals in car-crash tests.
  • In 1996, Newkirk moved PETA from the Maryland suburbs to Norfolk, Virginia.
  • In 2012, PETA released video footage that recorded the barbaric process of producing foie gras, known as Gavage. The video recorded farms that supplied foie gras to Fortnum & Mason. In the process, geese were forced fed shoving metal pipes down their throats for pumping massive amounts of grain and fat into their stomachs several times a day.

    Ingrid Newkirk demonstrating force feeding outside the entrance of the Queen’s grocer to protest the production of Fortnum & Mason’s foie gras

    Ingrid Newkirk demonstrating force feeding outside the entrance of the Queen’s grocer to protest the production of Fortnum & Mason’s foie gras

  • Apart from that, PETA has closed the horse-slaughter operations in North America, convinced dozens of designers to stop using fur and testing cosmetics on animals, helped schools switch to innovative animal-free dissection tools, and promoted Veganism.
  • Ingrid often makes headlines with her publicity stunts that she pulls off to draw attention to her animal protection campaigns. She released her will in which she sarcastically stated the instructions to dispose off her body after her death. It read that the meat of her body be used for a human barbecue, her skin be turned into leather products, her feet be removed and turned into umbrella stands, etc. [11]PETA On numerous occasions, she has posed naked for protesting against wearing fur, using animal skin for leather, meat, and more.

    PETA’s campaign banner featuring Ingrid Newkirk hung topless from a butcher’s hook beside headless pigs in 2017 protesting the consumption of meat

    PETA’s campaign banner featuring Ingrid Newkirk hung topless from a butcher’s hook beside headless pigs in 2017 protesting the consumption of meat

  • She has authored several books, including The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights: Simple Acts of Kindness to Help Animals in Trouble (2009) and Animalkind: Remarkable Discoveries About Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion (2020).