Skip to content
Who's in the Video
Ingrid Newkirk is an animal rights activist, an author, and the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). She is best known for the animal rights awareness[…]

Was the Underground Railroad acceptable?

Question: Is breaking the law in service of a cause acceptable?


Ingrid Newkirk: In every social movement throughout history, people have broken the law. Some people who freed the slaves, who got them across the river to Ohio, they were breaking the law. In the women’s movement there have been people who have broken the law – the suffragettes chaining themselves to the gates and the railings outside Parliament to demand the vote.

In fur protests, there are people in our movement in animal rights who break the law by going into a laboratory and bringing animals out who are about to be killed, or who are being experimented on. It’s not really for me to say what is right for an individual to do, because they know in their heart that if it were their child; if it were their husband; if it were their dog, what they would do, how far they would go. My worry is with complacency, human complacency; not with the fact that sometimes when pushed, someone will make the moral decision that there is something more important to do than to stick to the letter of the law.

And that can even be you break a window in order to get a dog out who is dying in a hot car in a parking lot. The things like that that have to be done. But PETA as an organization must always abide by the law because we’re required to. What individuals do, it’s in their own conscience, and in their own heart. But I will think that there will always be times when the laws should be broken, because there’s a moral imperative to break a law.


Recorded on: November 12, 2007