Why Animals Matter Book Review
Most people would agree that animal cruelty is wrong, but how many people in the general public comprehend how cruel the meat, fur industry, animal experimentation, pet, entertainment, and hunting industries can really be? For most Americans, it is easier to turn a blind eye to animal cruelty than take some simple steps to eradicate it.
It was with a great deal of trepidation that I undertook Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection, by Erin E. Wells and Margo DeMello. I am notoriously soft hearted when it comes to animals—companion, farmed, or wild—but like many people in this country, I often turn a blind eye to the aforementioned industries in favor of convenience. While I certainly realize that the juicy steak I ate last week came from a living breathing cow, to this point I have managed to detach myself enough to focus on the end result as opposed to the process by which the meat found its way to my plate.
I can no longer plead ignorance of animal cruelty no matter the realm in which it occurs. Of the various industries that Wells and DeMello write about, the meat industry stands out as the most striking and troubling. For instance, cows, pigs, chickens–and any other variety of animal that comes of age on a factory farm–live a ridiculously miserable life. For me, it is near impossible to ruminate at length on a crate crammed full of sick and injured animals with open sores, broken limbs, often resorting to cannibalism to stay alive for one more miserable day. Underfed and lacking water, medical attention, and living a strikingly abbreviated life, the plight of an animal at the mercy of the meat industry is a horrible one. However, it is increasingly important—for animals and the environment at large—to think over issues of animal cruelty and the accompanying ripple effect of pollution, violence, and injustice.
“Perhaps the biggest reason why society tolerates routine abuse of animals is that for the most part, these abuses are hidden.”
Besides the obvious animal cruelty, Wells and DeMello make a compelling case for sweeping changes in the meat industry to positively impact the environment. For example, the meat industry is one of the largest causes of deforestation and water pollution in the world. As the meat industry reaches into the depths of South America, for example, millions of acres of rainforest are stripped to make room for factory farms.
My initial fear in reading and reviewing this book was the emotional impact it would have on me. Admittedly, the section on the pet industry brought me to tears, and I had to hug my dog for a good bit afterwards. To counteract the overwhelming nature of their subject Wells and DeMello wisely include success stories about animals saved from lives of cruelty. For example, in 2000, a retired greyhound named Fever was adopted by a neglectful owner. After aging beyond her racing career her first adopter allowed her to dwindle to a startling 28 pounds. Luckily for Fever, a second adopter took over her care, got immediate veterinary attention, and Fever lived a life of love and fulfillment until her death in 2004.
Many such happy stories populate the pages of Why Animals Matter, giving the reader a sense of the goodness that exists in the world and the overwhelming amount of people who are willing to go the distance to make an animal’s life luxurious and fulfilling. I am extremely pleased to have tackled this book as it was richly educational and I dare say life-changing. I plan to be much more diligent about issues of animal cruelty including seeking out options besides factory farmed meat, I would love to join the ASPCA, and volunteer at a local animal aid organization.
“While we can purchase cheaper meat from animals who never experienced sun or air,” they venture (and by using the pronoun “who” in reference to nonhumans they make a deliberate political choice), “while we can buy virtually any animal we want as a pet, while scientists can create mice with human genes and even with human tissue, and while rich hunters can pay thousands of dollars to shoot an endangered, tranquilized animal, most of us, if we knew the realities behind those choices, would take a step back and reconsider … just because we can do all these things, should we?”
Reviewed by Andi Miller
Why Animals Matter Link to order a copy of the book via Amazon is an ad but our review is not influenced by this ad link.
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