I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA

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8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 19
HBO

Some people see Thanksgiving Day as a time for family, others as a time for football and nearly everyone as a time for great feasting. But not Ingrid Newkirk. To her, it is a day of intensive mourning, an annual turkey Holocaust -- winged genocide at the most cruel and unconscionable level.

This, as we learn in the absorbing but largely one-sided HBO documentary "I Am an Animal: The Story of Ingrid Newkirk and PETA," is the mind-set of the nation's most successful and certainly most radical animal rights organization in the known universe. While it plays a bit too often as an infomercial hawking People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and its agenda, the docu intersperses just enough scrutiny of the group to bring a measure of balance. But in the main, it works to foster understanding of PETA's singularly inflexible POV and the publicity-savvy grand dame of the movement: founder Newkirk.

The controversial organization is said to have attracted more than 1 million members, including Pamela Anderson, Alec Baldwin and Bill Maher, but also has accrued at least as many critics for its shock tactics and hard-core stand in the pursuit of "total animal liberation." That totality means no meat or dairy in people's diets, no aquariums, no circuses, no hunting or fishing and no fur or leather products -- and certainly no use of animals in research.

The 83-minute portrait of the enigmatic Newkirk and her group was made with PETA's cooperation, meaning access to its video archives (including ghastly footage of animal slaughter and cruelty), behind-the-scenes glimpses at PETA's strategy sessions and an interview with the soft-spoken Newkirk in which she calmly expresses her view that animals have feelings similar to those of humans.

There are, again, several voices of dissent scattered throughout, yet this is essentially a Thanksgiving Week embrace of a woman and her lightning rod of a movement.

Enjoy your Butterball, America!
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