National Catholic Reporter

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Bruce Friedrich, vice president of PETA

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Bruce Friedrich

Five years ago, Details magazine rated Bruce Friedrich one of the “50 Most Influential People Under 38.” Mr. Friedrich, now 39, is vice president of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), known for its often confrontational approach to animal rights. (In 2001, right before President Bush was to arrive for lunch he streaked Buckingham Palace with the words “goveg.com” on his body.) A convert to Catholicism, Mr. Friedrich has served time in prison for antiwar actions -- he took a hammer to a jet fighter -- and once ran the largest soup kitchen in Washington, D.C. His heroes are Gandhi, Tolstoy and Dorothy Day.

What was the rudest shock of growing up?
Learning about global poverty -- that one in five people aren’t taking in enough calories to function. I had a lot of trouble processing that. I still do.

Anything you once believed that you’ve done a 180 on?
For a long time I thought that eating other animals’ corpses was a reasonable way to sustain myself. Now I think it’s the height of immorality.

Why?
Isaac Bashevis Singer called speciesism the highest form of racism because among God’s community of beings, other animals are the least able to defend themselves.

What religious ritual is most meaningful for you?
Communion. And I like the Jesuit practice of ending your day with an evaluation of your day. You rededicate yourself.

Anything about conventional morality strike you as odd?
The idea that the suffering of women and children is worse than the suffering of anybody else is a curious construct.

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What do you regret most about yourself?
Vanity.

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
The advice my parents gave me was pretty picture-perfect: “If you’re not going to remember what’s bothering you in a week, it’s not worth getting angst-ridden about it.”

What gives you strength, sustains you through rough times?
My wife, Alka Chandna.

What’s the secret to a good marriage?
Honesty.

And the sign of a bad one?
Feeling like you need to hide something from your partner.

What would you want at your last meal?
Black French roast equal-exchange coffee or a pint of Hop Devil bitter beer. It’s an award-winning microbrew I’ve only found in a liquor store in Highland Park, N.J.

What makes you angry?
Progressives who quote Gandhi and Tolstoy and then pay people to abuse and kill animals. It’s so vastly inefficient to cycle crops through animals -- and it’s the No. 1 source of global warming -- and Al Gore doesn’t even mention it in his movie. He tells people to change their light bulbs, not the way they eat.

National Catholic Reporter September 5, 2008

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