Animal Rights Reading: A Top Ten Summer Book List
If you’ve been following the Care2 Animal Welfare blog and want to delve a little deeper into animal issues, these books are a great start. They’re enjoyable, informational, and might just inspire the activist in you. They’re also in no particular order.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
One of my all-time favorite books, Charlotte’s Web is the first time I, and I suspect many other children, were exposed to outright animal advocacy in literature. The first pages are both touching and harrowing. Young Fern convinces her farmer father to spare the life of a runt pig, declaring, “The pig couldn’t help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth would you have killed me?” Fern’s innocent wisdom points out something that the adults around her have become desensitized to — that an animal’s life, even a runt pig’s, has value.
Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals by Karen Dawn
There’s a reason everyone from Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Matthew Scully, presidential speech writer (and author of his own animal welfare book, Dominion) loves Dawn’s brilliant and well-researched look into all the ways humans use animals. Dawn thoroughly covers issues from eating animals to animal testing to animals in show business and manages to do so with a sense of humor. It’s not everyday I’d call a book on such heavy topics “fun to read” — but this one is. This is an animal welfare bible, with illustrations and cartoons throughout.
Many people enter the world of animals rights with one thought: “How can I love one animal and eat another?” Psychologist and educator Melanie Joy examines how humans can compartmentalize animals, caring so deeply for some species while completely disregarding the welfare of others.There’s no question that humans psychologically condition themselves to separate animals into categorical uses. Just think: if you found out that juicy “steak” you just bit into wasn’t cow but golden retriever, would it be as appetizing?
If Thanking the Monkey is the animal rights bible, this is the phonebook. Ingrid Newkirk (yes, that Ingrid Newkirk, the founder of PETA) will tell you how to advocate for animals in every aspect of your life, AND she lists companies to help you. Everything from how to kindly deal with home invaders to how to throw a cruelty-free party. This is a simple guide to animal-friendly living that proves even small acts can make a difference.
Animal Liberation: The Definitive Classic of the Animal Movement by Peter Singer
Some say the modern animal rights movement started right here, and it’s a must-read for anyone interested in animal issues and their history. Singer, a philosopher, isn’t always gentle with his arguments, but his manifesto, published in 1975, will have you looking at the world with new eyes.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Safran Foer is traditionally a novelist, so his examination of animal agriculture doesn’t read like most. He’s new into the world of animal welfare and his good-natured curiosity is charming and relatable. The combination of personal accounts from farmers and ranchers, scientific facts and stats, and the author’s innocent investigator role makes Eating Animals readable for everyone, no matter what their stance on [the act of] eating animals may be.
Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good by Jonathan Balcombe
A lot of books on animal issues focus on their mistreatment and suffering. But Balcombe, an animal behavior research consultant, writes about the joy that animals express. He reminds us that animals have a range of emotions and, when given the freedom, express complex personalities. He uses science and anecdotes to prove “that the animal kingdom is rich in pleasure.”
Baur is the founder of Farm Sanctuary, and this book chronicles his journey from rescuing a downed sheep he found in a stockyard’s dump heap to lobbying for animals in Washington and running one of the most well-known and successful animal advocacy groups and sanctuaries today. This book gives a compelling inside look into activism and advocacy, as well as individual portraits of Farm Sanctuary’s animals and their amazing, heartwarming journeys from slaughterhouse to animal utopia.
If you’re skeptical about the excruciating tales animal rights folks will tell you about today’s factory farms, then read this book and get the info first-hand, from none other than a cattle rancher. Lyman started looking into animal agriculture practices because of personal health problems and ended up a compelling animal rights advocate. After talking with the approachable, every-man Lyman, Oprah Winfrey declared that she’d never eat a hamburger again. You might do the same.
Irreconcilable Differences by Nathan J. Winograd
This book is recommended by my fellow blogger Sharon Seltzer, who says: “Winograd is the founder of the No Kill movement that advocates no adoptable pet needs to be euthanized in an animal shelter in the U.S. There are homes for all pets and the fault for not finding homes lies with animal shelter and how they operate. The book addresses the problems in animals shelters and why we continue to euthanize adoptable pets.”
Of course there are many other books that could have gone on this list — please let us know what you think! Have you read any of the above books? What was your experience? What other animal welfare books do you recommend?
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photo credit: istock