The PETA Founder - I Am An Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA

I just finished watching the documentary about Ingrid Newkirk, the co-founder of PETA. I really did not know much about her or her organization before this except for the various news stories that crop up here and there in the media. I have seen a few documentaries about animal rights and about 4 years ago Peaceable Kingdom: A Tribe of Heart Documentary was the final push I needed to become a vegetarian.

 I was on my way, but the poignant video about how animals are treated in animal processing plants was horrifying. The film contained a lot of secret footage showing how animals are treated as they are processed for food. All of the documentaries that I have seen have taught me something and made me think.

So, what did I think of "I Am An Animal"? I disagree with some of PETA's tactics, and I don't agree with ever breaking the law to prove a point. But, I have a lot of respect for Ingrid Newkirk and her passion. It showed some of the history of the organization, her dedication to living simply, as well as some of the demonstrations and strategy sessions. I always love to see how ideas get formulated and put out there for the world to see.

One aspect of the movie is that it made me think about my use of animal meat as treats and food for my dogs. I struggle with some of my day-to-day discrepancies. I am a vegetarian, but I feed my dogs the raw diet and have a freezer full of cut up chicken. I only buy free-range, antibiotic free chicken, but still it bothers me. I use and recommend a variety of meat treats for my dogs and my client's dogs. I know there are vegetarian diets for dogs, but the fact that they are so different from us makes it difficult for me to force a vegetarian diet on them if there is a chance that they need more than what that diet offers.

I am not fundamentally opposed to animals (including humans) eating other animals, but I think we can all be more responsible about how we raise and consume meat. I still get blank looks when I tell people that I don't eat meat. "What do you eat?" is the common question. There is a huge misconception that vegetarians only eat salads. People can get protein from a variety of foods including nuts and tofu, without eating meat.

The movie also gave me hope that some day all animals will be treated better. I spend a great deal of my waking hours working to understand dogs and helping others do the same. Most people feel a strong love and devotion to dogs and animals of all kinds, but there are those that think that animals don't deserve the respect and care that responsible guardians provide. I want to make sure that you know that it is okay to treat your dogs as members of the family. It is okay to allow them to sleep on your bed if you want, it is okay that you spend a lot of money to buy them a comfortable bed to sleep on, or to keep them healthy by taking them to the vet, it is okay that you buy them premium dog food to give them the best diet possible.

The movie also made me think about different styles of training. I only use positive reinforcement training, but there are still huge numbers of people that use the "jerk and pull" or "traditional" training methods. I see it as my responsibility, as someone that has trained over 2000 dogs, to make sure people know about positive reinforcement training. I want to make sure that people realize that you can use positive reinforcement training and have a well behaved dog.

A lot of people think that dog training consists of "Being tough" or "Being the alpha". Countless times I have heard clients say that their dog isn't well trained because "they are too soft" to use discipline. You don't need to be mean, tough, yell or use metal collars or shock collars to train a dog.
That is my goal in life is to get that last point across to everyone. Let me say it again: You don't need to be mean, tough, yell or use metal collars or shock collars to train a dog. If your dog isn't well-trained, it isn't because you weren't tough enough and weren't the "alpha". It means that you need to learn more about training a dog! I interchange training and teaching when I talk about working with a dog. If done correctly, that is what you should be doing.

What can you do to make the lives of animals better? You can treat your animals with the profound respect they deserve, you can get rid of the choke, prong or shock collar that you are using and tell your friends to do the same. You can make sure your dogs are getting the best positive reinforcement training that you can find. If your dog is an outcast because he isn't well trained, train him. Spend the time to teach him not to jump, teach him not to bark, work with him, not against him.

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