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The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint
New World Library, 272 pp., 2010; $14.95

I see The Animal Manifesto as a must-read for all high school students, especially in the social sciences and ethics, and for all who keep animals and work with them. It is also a book to be treasured by animal lovers and those concerned about animal suffering and social justice. I know readers of The Bark will love this book since, like the magazine, it embraces the vision of a deeper and more mutually enhancing relationship between humans and other animals. I’d even go so far as to suggest that they buy extra copies to give to those who do not understand how we dog lovers grieve so deeply when we lose a beloved animal because they have not yet experienced the blessing of animal communion. Those who have had such communion with animals wild and tame will enjoy the affirmation of kindred spirits cited in this book—people whose lives were changed, enriched, inspired, by a being other than a human.

Bekoff, a self-proclaimed optimist, lays out with convincing clarity why it is ultimately in our best self-interest to treat all animals, especially those raised for our consumption, with compassion. As a realist (some would say pessimist), I believe that people will not change after being shown the “big picture” of climate change, species extinction, and the suffering of farmed, circus, zoo and laboratory animals until they understand the deep links between action and consequence.

How well we treat animals and the living Earth determines, ultimately, how well we are in body, mind and spirit. This book tackles the task of breaking through anthropocentrism—with its attendant arrogance, ignorance, denial, rationalizations and pathology—to enable us to see that the way of compassion, rather than the way of domination and exploitation, is the only route to a viable future and a sane society. Enlightened dog trainers have, of course, known this for decades; in applying the rule of love over the rule of law, they teach people how to best communicate and achieve a mutually enhancing, interspecies symbiosis. At the other extreme is the invasive research being done in Tanzania on wild dogs, who are fitted with radio collars, given vaccinations that have killed them, and even captured and translocated. Such activities, undertaken by scientists claiming to be conservation- oriented and working on behalf of the animals, are in reality ways to advance their careers at the expense of one more endangered species. This is a book for them!

Bekoff ’s book is, in many ways, a synthesis of some of his earlier publications, combining scientific data with his vivid personal observations of animal consciousness, empathy and intelligence; accounts of how animals continue to be misunderstood and mistreated; and why and how we can make changes for the good of animals, both domesticated and wild. You will read of battles in which he has engaged to help protect the last of the wild, and you’ll enjoy insights into his life with the late Jethro, a dog who participated in his metamorphosis from a scientist into a philosopher-activist—a transformation so clearly reflected in this easy to- read, important book.


Michael W. Fox, PhD, BVet Med, is the author of Not Fit for a Dog and Dog Body, Dog Mind, among numerous other books.


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