My favorite story about Ingrid Newkirk, the founder and head of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), the animal-rights organization, involves her storming the dining room of the Four Seasons hotel in New York, depositing a dead raccoon on Anna Wintour’s dinner plate and calling the veteran editor of American Vogue a “fur hag.” Wintour, a long-time PETA hate figure for her support of the fur industry, calmly covered it with a napkin and then ordered coffee.

There are no raccoons — living or dead — when I meet Newkirk in her office in Washington, though her evangelical zeal doesn’t seem to have dimmed. At times it feels less like interviewing the CEO of a $30 million-a-year-foundation, one which boasts 360 employees and thousands of volunteers, than arguing the toss in the school common room.

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