Anjelica Huston Hosts PETA Founder's Birthday Party

Courtesy of Peta
Anjelica Houston (left) and Charo

Ingrid Newkirk’s 70th birthday served as an afternoon fundraiser for the animal rights organization.

Even her 70th birthday couldn’t lure People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals founder Ingrid E. Newkirk away from championing the animal rights causes she spearheaded nearly four decades ago. Instead, her septuagenarian celebration dovetailed with a fundraising soiree hosted by her friend and fellow animal activist Anjelica Huston.

“As long as it helps animals, I'm there,” Newkirk told THR. “There's no point in toasting me. You can toast our work, though, because today we'll be telling our members and others about some of the victories.”

Newkirk’s milestone birthday party, held Sunday afternoon in the sunny courtyard of Plant Food and Wine restaurant on Venice’s Abbot Kinney Boulevard (“This is my old neighborhood — I lived in Venice for 17 years,” Huston noted. “It's a mad place, but a wonderful place”), drew a casual-chic contingent of passionate PETA supporters, including health and fitness guru Jillian Michaels, actress Renee Russo and the still-shimmying Charo, to pay tribute to Newkirk, the former Washington, D.C., dog pound master and reformer who 39 years ago cashed in her government pension to found PETA and pursue a course against animal abuses. 

“It's an organization that I think is really wonderful,” Huston, who serves as an honorary director of PETA, told THR. “Everyone who's involved in it has, I think, taken a step in the right direction for the protection of animals. I've always been on the side of animals.”

Huston said she still sees a too-pervasive disregard for animal life. “I was watching a woman interviewed on CNN the other day — she was a big game hunter, and at one point she posed with her rifle next to a magnificent great giraffe that she'd gunned down,” she said. “Her voiceover said, ‘Animals were put on Earth for us.’ What in God's name brought her to that conclusion? No, we're put on Earth for them. I'm here as part of this organization to try to persuade people to see it at least in both directions.”

Today Huston lends her voice to PETA’s causes, figuratively and literally. “She has been helping us,” Newkirk told THR. “The prime minister of Ireland just introduced a bill to ban fur farming in Ireland, and Anjelica has been part of that push because of, of course, her Irish roots and her father's Irish roots. She's helped us with our horse-drawn carriage campaign to get them off the streets because they suffer so much in the heat— especially with the growing heat, which causes them to collapse."

Throughout the program, many of PETA’s early and lasting triumphs were recounted.

Newkirk added that PETA continues to focus on the entertainment industry as well, though she said PETA has encountered an increased sensitivity toward and willingness to act on animal issues in production. “When we first began, it was an odd request that you not use an exotic animal, and there were no alternatives in the beginning,” she said. “[Now] we do find a great reception when we show the alternatives to directors and producers.”

As she took the podium to wish Newkirk a happy birthday, Huston expressed her admiration for what her friend had accomplished. “You spent your life as a maverick, inspiring people the world over to defend the most vulnerable. You've worked to shut down animal laboratories, you sent circuses into bankruptcy, you started a vegan revolution, caused fashion houses to abandon the use of fur, and the list goes on.”