Activists + > Music-Index

Interviews: Chrissie Hynde - a personal perspective
Posted by: Anonymous on Oct 06, 2002 -- Interview January 2007 

An Interview with Arkangel - First Published in Arkangel 25

R. Thanks very much for agreeing to this interview. Can I explain about the magazine? It was started in the late 80s by Ronnie Lee to provide a forum for people within the movement to voice their views. Were continuing with this tradition, but we'd also like to reach a wider audience. .

C. It's always frustrating when you're in animal rights. You end up talking to each other about it, you just feel like it's such a waste. It's like Hollywood films recouping the money to put it back into the industry. So for animal rights where's that going?

R. Exactly. There's no point in preaching to the converted. WE know what it's about; we need to reach the general public.

C. How do you get to them? My god! They really don't want you to get to them

R. Do you try to get the word out about animal rights when you're working with people in the entertainment industry? Are they open to ideas or are they quite negative?

C. I keep my eye open for people who seem sympatico to high profile groups like PETA, who I think are the real geniuses, and that's all down to Ingrid Newkirk who started the group. She is this English woman, who was raised in India, I personally think she's a genius- I mean she started with a typewriter in a basement, but there are no lengths that she wont go to, so I put it down to her.

R. Name calling is not the way of getting through to the general public. Do you feel that Peta campaigns would actually work in this country? Obviously Americans have a very different mind-set to the English.

C. I don't know if it would work in this country. The thing is in America they are so conservative, and they have no sense of irony at all and are so easily offended. So the fact that Peta uses the kind of tactics that they do, I think, is the reason that they get away with it. Why I use the term "get away with it", is because anyone else would be crucified; they're reviled. They do things like put a picture of New York's Mayor, who had prostate cancer, and say something like anyone for milk? whilst they are trying to publicise that dairy products have strong links to cancer. I mean they could've been lynched, but they don't care. Once in a while Ingrid Newkirk will issue a statement saying yeah, well that went a little too far and we apologise, but the reason we did it is...
And then she will underline all the points.

R. Do you feel that your celebrity status has given you the power to influence people?

C. Well of course it has, it would for anyone.  In our culture, celebrities have replaced God! Most people look up to celebrities and think I want her nose, I want her boobs or I want her hair. You know people are natural born followers and most of them don't have any sense of self, or a centre. So they have to copy someone else. Most of the celebrities I've met are ordinary people. You only once in a while find an extraordinary personality, particularly intelligent or conscious, but as you can expect most of them are dumb-asses! Believe me I've met them they're not the most animal friendly mob are they, actors?

R. I suppose it's a way of trying to get to people as effectively as possible whilst staying within the boundaries of the law - if you're that way inclined

C. Well you kind of have to stay within the law up to a point. If you've tried everything within the law and then you break the law there is nothing wrong with that because we are breaking laws that we think go against the natural law. If its not against the law to kill animals then we're gonna break the law that protects those who are killing animals! Who is making the laws here? To me, tampering with animals is against nature. You break the natural law then you deal with us.

R. Do you think there seems to be some embarrassment around the issue of meat eating: fewer people stating I eat meat, and I'm proud of it?

C. I think you're dreaming a little bit there. I talked to some people lately, because I was dusted off over this whole foot and mouth thing

R. What I meant about embarrassment is is there a different mindset here compared to America or Australia?

C. The young people in this country are trying to be non-PC; its kind of hip to be un-PC- if you are PC, its considered boring. I recently met some people when I talked on a programme for Channel 5. They were asking me about my views on animal rights and vegetarianism in general. I asked the guys if they were meat eaters. The cameraman was 27 and I'm always shocked to meet anyone who is a meat eater, especially when they are young, I think they'd know better. Anyhow, I realised that I was surrounded by meat eaters and they were all probably thinking that I was a bit of a joke! They were asking me what do you say to someone who claims well we've always done it this way and we like it. I said its the same thing I would say to a paedophile. And, y'know, they were all shocked. They may have thought I was saying that to get a response, but I was saying that because I believe that.

R. This thing about being PC the hunting fraternity and the countryside alliance claim a ban on country sports is against their civil liberties.

C. Maybe that's a freedom of choice thing, but as I said earlier, when it comes to killing then someone has to step in and put a stop to it. The hunting issue is not my big issue because I'm American, even though I've lived here almost thirty years. I'm aware of the fact that people are gonna say f..k off Yanko, y'know, Yankee go home. It's the same if I'm in Spain I don't really talk about bullfighting. Hunting is also a class issue here and I'm an outsider. I don't have to be involved in everything.

R. I totally agree. The hunting fraternity and the countryside alliance would say that the people who are against hunting in this country are townies, so if you came on the scene and said that you are against hunting, they would say what do you know about it you're an American.

C. I'm against killing animals for pleasure that's what I know about it. But then that's getting on to well what do we do with the hounds and it goes on and on and on. It's not one of the debates that I'll get drawn into, although I would do but top of the agenda to me is what you eat. That seems to me the number one fundamental thing and then under that comes fur and hunting and all those things. They're all part of the same thing, of course they are. But when people accost someone on the street for wearing a fur coat then obviously it's tempting and easy to do. But it would seem to me if you do that, you should be just charging into restaurants and insulting people. I mean I'm not really one to confront people in public as such because I don't want to embarrass people. I mean I know a lot of people who really do want to embarrass people but I'm not really sure that is the way forward. At least a fur coat is going to last fifty years whereas a steak dinner wont.

R. I suppose that's one way of looking at it.

C. You have to learn where you draw your own line.

R. Yes, sure, but each to their own in how we decide to campaign.

C. Yes, valid point. I like what you added. Each to their own- not when it comes to child abuse or battering, or killing animals you know all of these issues they're all part of it and I'm not saying ones more important than the other.

R. Yes animal abuse is animal abuse.

C. The interesting thing about animal rights people and people involved- what I call the animal people- they all have their own personal reasons why they're into it and what they thinks important about it and what they think its about. The one thing they all have in common in general (there are always exceptions to the rule) is they aren't racist, they're not homophobic, they're not sexist- you know they don't have all the other agendas which to me are a lot further out there- you know the real pinnacle of the issues and once they have that right everything else seems to follow suit. They don't have a problem with other things, though people will say well what about human rights?, as if we're not paying attention to these. This is the first rung of the ladder and if you don't get this right you're gonna f..k everything else up. My personal take on animal rights is it's not really about animals so much - its about people. It's about how human beings relate to their environment and the world they live in. Because the animals are not the problem - they're just fine - people are the ones that are fuc...g it up and it's peoples behaviour that has to be liberated, not the animals. So I do see it as: there are human issues - there are human rights issues, it's more like instead of human rights: Humans can you get it right? You know because you are really, really fu...d up if you're thinking these animals are there for you to exploit and to use, because when you kill them you kill yourself.

R. That's a good viewpoint to come at it. Do you actually ever feel daunted by the enormity of the task ahead? You've been vegetarian 30 years- have you seen peoples views changing?

C. Do I find it daunting? No I don't. I don't know- what's enormity? You know you just have your own philosophy, the way that you do things and your beliefs and then the rest of the world can be big or small around it, that's irrelevant.

R. In this country where do you start? Do you ever get depressed about the situation?

C. No never. I think it's up to the individual. You know anyone can put a dish of food on the table for a stray cat. Anyone can take an animal to be neutered, anyone can go to a rescue centre and give a dog a home, anyone can stop eating meat-there is a big list of things we can actively be doing and if you're actively doing something I find that you don't get depressed. There is no point getting depressed over things that just are - that's just being silly!

R. As regards the future, do you actually see the human species as being capable of living in harmony with other species?

C. Yes of course. I think that's their inherent standing. That's how it's meant to be that's how they are.

R. In a recent article in the Mail on Sunday, you talked about your reasons for becoming a vegetarian. You seemed passionate and angry at times. Do you think your own anger has increased over the years?

C. I'm not angry.

R. You're not?

C. Maybe I was. Maybe that's a thing of youth. Angry over what though? People eating meat?

R. Not necessarily people who eat meat. A few years back you mentioned the use of |Direct Action against the MacDonalds chain - that seemed angry - maybe angry is too strong a word, shall we say passionate.

C. It's all the same anger or passion. These fast food chains they are an environmental disaster. Ultimately it's not the fast food diet or the chemicals they use; it is the fact that they are making a profit out of killing animals. They all unconditionally have to go! MacDonalds and all of these fast food chains, I believe, in my lifetime they will all be out of business. I really do think that. For years I used to say it just to let people know that maybe it was possible even though in my heart I didn't think it was possible, but I do now.

R. Well sounds hopeful.

C. Yeah well I suppose. Hey you heard it here first!

R. You were recently arrested in New York at a demo against Gap stores.

C. Oh yes.

R. Against the use of leather of the sacred boneback cows of India. What were the motives behind you actions and what do you think was achieved?

C. We definitely achieved something

R. Was it because of your celebrity status?

C. Yes absolutely. I know its very silly, but thats how it works. Basically I lent myself to them. I was touring America and I had a couple of days off in Vancouver so I called Dan and said Hey, I'm gonna be in Vancouver so either come up and hang or think of something for us to do. So he came up and we organised an impromptu protest outside the Gap because they were using Indian leather from a black market trade. You can say any leather is objectionable, true, but if we're going to go legal and get people where it hurts we start at the place were its illegal. We did that protest and it got tons of publicity around Canada. So then we just started . Whenever we were in a place like Boston, Chicago, you know, somewhere where there was a big Gap, we did a protest that was all pretty low key and didnt get a lot of attention. So we planned a protest in New York. It was one of my last shows in America and I had a show the next day. Dan said Oh whatever happens, you're only be in the clinker for two hours, so dont worry about it. What we did was go in the store and buy a jacket that said Made in India then we would buy it with the Peta credit card, go out in the streets, do the protest, then take the jacket back and say we wanted our money back. We did it in nearly ever Gap store but this particular time when we returned the jacket, instead of leaving the shop we got into the window and stayed there until they arrested us. The manager of the Gap was not happy that the police were coming to arrest us because they really didnt want this publicity, so they kept holding the police back. So we had to start tearing stuff up and trashing their displays. The police finally said that they had to arrest us and they pushed the manager aside and said come on you're coming with us. Well it worked if you dont mind a bit of public humiliation. I was chained to a railing for 7 hours while they fingerprinted us and this that and the other then we had to go down town for the night. I didnt get out until 5 in the morning, still with a show to do, but I dont think anyone who saw the show knew any different.

R. And it certainly got good publicity for the animals.

C. Ingrid was thrilled beyond words, she said it could have taken them 3 years for Peta to get that far. Because the Gap finally conceded and said they were not using the leather anymore. So now Peta can start pressuring all the smaller companies and say You saw what we did with the Gap, you're next.

R. Which is a bit like the campaign that is going on in this country- Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty- and Shamrock farm- and Hillgrove- pin-pointing particular establishments as you did and working your way through.

C. You go to the top and you work your way down, you get the big boys and then the little ones, thats the way it has to be.

R. Are you actually a supporter of direct action or do you have certain reservations about some forms of direct action. Do you think it alienates the public?

C. I dont care if it alienates the public, this is war. How alienated do I feel when I'm the minority and the rest of the public are meat-eaters? Im already alienated from that - so they can be alienated from me! I think the best thing is not to polarise people but mobilise them. Its 2001 and people are still eating in Burger Chef so go f..k yourself pal and do it today! If you find that offensive, go f..k yourself twice!! Y'know I've spent thirty years trying to play Mr. Nice guy and no-ones buying it. They need to have the slaughter house right in their face before they even say Oh is that what goes on its the parents of my generation, they seem to have done the worst job of raising their kids, I'm so shocked and disappointed in the so-called 60's hippies. The radical generation- and now all their kids are meat-eaters!

R. So what do you feel about the people who eat meat, who say that bringing up a child vegetarian is brainwashing your child?

C. They're full of sh.t, thats what I think, they're not instructing their kids, they're not telling them the truth. Its just bad parenting and I regret that my kids ate dairy products but I made a conscious effort. Im not fundamentally against dairy products if the animals are treated properly, i.e. in certain places in India. That would be how I go about my diet, but you dont buy from the dairy industry-which is the meat industry. Because my kids were in a state school and hanging out with ordinary kids- they never went to my shows or anything-they just had their own life. I figured they were already going to be singled out and called tree huggers by their schoolmates. Again their parents didnt teach them anything, but at least y'know they werent vegan-and like I said I do regret this now-I wish they had been on a vegan diet all those years. I had thought that maybe to relax and make it not seem as radical and extreme to other kids at school. Because I didnt want my kids to start being y'know-being the odd one out is not nice for a child, so it means it can have an ice cream or a bar of milk chocolate.

R. Do you think animal rights people such as yourself are stereotyped by the media?

C. Yes of course! They're ignorant. Journalists and media people are really bad, because they recycle useless information thats swimming around their heads and y'know, theyre mesmerised by whats current.
   They're thinking about Geri Halliwell for chrissakes, or y'know they're thinking about stuff thats just so irrelevant and so not of any significance at all. They're so caught up in what people are wearing!

R. You obviously know from personal experience that what you see in the press is a load of rubbish.

C. Oh well yeah, I dont want to go out and do anything for the whole animal issue if I didnt think that its going to be effective. You cant do everything and you cant do it all the time, because it kind of waters it down. You do it when- for example, when I did that Peta thing in America. I was doing tours, so the reason I was there was bigger than little protests. Yet in the end the protest turned out to have a lot more publicity than the tour. There is a certain way that you do it to make it effective.

R. How do you reach a larger public audience, do you actually in you tours bring animal rights into your concerts?

C. Yeah, To the dismay of my band! My shock phrase of my last tour. I've gotta get over it. Its a sort of a form of tourettes syndrome- you get on stage and all of a sudden you can't stop yourself. I would just unconditionally tell any meat-eaters in the audience to go f..k themselves, and to do it today! I had to watch people in Texas heading for the exit. I would taunt the Texans, Id say If you dont want me to talk any more- you've all got guns- come on and shoot me. You want me to shut up, shoot me! and I could see my band going to the sides of the stage and as far from me as they could.

R. Probably a dangerous thing to do in America!

C. Oh f..k it! If they want you they want you. And yeah there were definitely some times where I would say: I want to thank the defenders of farm animals for helping us tonight and I'm not talking about some of the ladies in the front of the audience here and that really jumped the audience. But you know, I'm on stage, I'm in a rock band, I'm paid to be obnoxious - I can't help myself. But I'm also aware that you have them. I always got an arm around my shoulder saying, You're alienating people you know, I've heard that for many years.

R. Do you think you are?

C. I get more people coming up to me in the parking lot saying, Too right, nice one.

R. You're not going too ever please everyone all of the time are you.

C. No, you're not. Absolutely not. But the message is one of compassion, one of peace, you know the message is a good message. Nobody wants the message, so thats why you have to kick it a little forcefully. Because we're not asking for people for their opinions or paid for their input. This is a war. You're gonna kill animals, we're gonna stop you. There's certain principles here and we're trying to maintain our principles and we're going way, way, way against the tide here. So you know you're always gonna get people saying, How could they blow up that laboratory? People got hurt. It's very easy to push back the whole movement with one little incident. It broke my heart when I saw that David Bailey had said in a recent magazine how pathetic the animal rights people are and how appalling the pressure groups are. And you know that just leaves me so sad because I've always seen David Bailey as- he did that fantastic fur ad for Lynx . You know this is one of the original bad boy photographers. He's very droll, he's got a real laddish sense of humour and reputation and I looked up to him a lot. I think he's like a really great personality, I mean when he said that, it pierced my heart. I said to myself come on Dave, we love you. We want you. Come back. And I thought someone like that would have found time for anyone who was going up against the establishment. But I think that whats happened is that being politically correct has become so boring and so unattractive that it's actually made people go that way. And that's the thing, political correctness. Fashion dictates everything these days. Like suddenly it's fashionable to wear fur. Go shop in the right places, if you dont have the right thing. Its all about image. Its become so all about image that fashion has become a dictatorship.

R Do you think its always been like that to a certain extent?

C. Not like it is now.

R. Do you think it's worse now?

C. Absolutely. Now there used to be other things like you might be in a favourable position and successful for a variety of reasons- one might be because of your talents, in other words you might be a spectacular singer, or you might be a great actor- these days no one gives a f..k about any of that. They only care about your image. Why else would we be losing endlessly at the Spice Girls after all this time? And what they're wearing and when they walk down the street or if they have fake boobs or not? Why on gods green earth would it be of interest to anybody?

R. Again its who makes that happen. People are being manipulated by the media.

C. People are manipulated by their own ignorance. I dont just think they're manipulated by the media, its just people. Women will say Oh the record company told me to stick my tits out; Bullshit I don't believe that for one moment. Tell your record company to go f..k themselves, I've been doing this for thirty years, no one ever suggested anything like that to me.

R. Do you have friends that are meat-eaters?

C. Kind of.

R. Would you say close, close friends.

C. I would say probably not. I mean I have a few people that I love dearly, you know that I really look up to what are meat-eaters and it's just one of those. I think for the most part they're always older than me and there're from a generation of hippies. I dont know what happened. Maybe they're smothered an area of their consciousness which cant get any air now, I dont know what it is. I've heard people be just so boastful about I like my meat, you'll never change me. Theyre really proud of it because they're kinda going against the grain; there being a little naughty and a little bit dangerous now because, well we know its dangerous but we'll do it anyway, theres that.
   Thats what its become like. Its like, Oh I know its dangerous but you know f..k it. If you've got a life die young and leave a beautiful corpse, whatever. And thats how the meat things got. Most people do not want to be affiliated with cat lovers etc you see I love the image of animal rights because when I think of it I think of people in balaclavas storming laboratories.

R. Yes. Though the image doesnt go down quite so well with the general public!

C. No. But thats what appeals to me. I think thats the beautiful side of it. And you know little old girls who run a donkey sanctuary. You can always do your little bit and your little bit is as big as a big bit. Because every little bit is significant. Its all part of it. So that thing of being overwhelmed: it doesnt matter if 500,000 animals have just been cremated and they got a bolt in the head before they were cut up and the rest of their bodies were exploited and used for leather and meat, because they were all gonna get killed anyway. Whats really important is that you can extend yourself and show something. Today. Just do it today, even if its just a little thing. As long as youre actively part of it.

R. Its nice that you're so down to earth about it all and not thinking: is what I'm doing ever going to change anything.

C. Well go pet your cat. And when you feel your cat purring then you'll know that you're changing something.

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin, [email protected]