PETA: Bring On Foot-and-Mouth Disease

ByABC News
April 2, 2001, 4:02 PM

N O R F O L K, Va., April 2 -- While U.S. authorities take precautions to prevent foot-and-mouth from entering the country, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, possibly the world's most influential animal rights organization, openly hopes the disease crosses the Atlantic.

"If that hideousness came here, it wouldn't be any more hideous for the animals they are all bound for a ghastly death anyway. But it would wake up consumers," said PETA co-founder and president Ingrid Newkirk.

Interviewed on Friday in the office she shares with four cats, Newkirk said: "I openly hope that it comes here. It will bring economic harm only for those who profit from giving people heart attacks and giving animals a concentration camp-like existence. It would be good for animals, good for human health and good for the environment."

Border officials, zoos and theme parks have been taking precautions to prevent the disease, which is raging in Britain and has spread to several other European countries, from entering the United States, which has not seen an outbreak since 1929. Last week, pigs suspected of carrying the disease on a North Carolina hog farm tested negative.

Vegetarian Starter Kits

Meanwhile PETA workers report vastly increased demand for its "vegetarian starter kits" from worried meat eaters. That number would no doubt rocket higher if either foot-and-mouth or "Mad Cow" disease reached American shores.

Since its founding in 1980, PETA has emerged as a powerful force, campaigning on the principle that animals should not be eaten, worn, experimented on or used for entertainment.

The organization, founded in Newkirk's basement in a suburb of Washington, D.C., now occupies several stories of a headquarters in Norfolk, Va. It employs 130 people, has 700,000 members, revenues of $17 million and has opened small branch offices in Britain, Germany, Italy and India.

The PETA building looks and feels much like any corporate headquarters except for the dozens of dogs wandering around and sitting on special mattresses. Employees are encouraged to bring their pets to work. Many also take part in civil disobedience campaigns and boast long arrest records.