On Animal Sacrifice:

Similarly, ritual animal sacrifice, which may at first seem unrelated to interspecies sexual assault, is not unrelated. Ritual transference of transgressions to a sacrificial animal victim is, in my view, a kind of rape. Just as nonhuman animals are deemed fit receptacles for the depositing of human diseases in biomedical research’s quest for health, so they are deemed suitable receptacles for human sin in the quest for spiritual cleansing. In both cases, the animal victim is made to appear as an aspect of the victimizer’s identity, even a willing participant in being used as a depository for human diseases, sins and vices. Humans, by virtue of a shared verbal language, can challenge the profanation and misappropriation of their bodies, identity and will. A nonhuman animal, such as a hen, is powerless, short of human intercession, to protect herself from being besmirched, as when she is represented by her abusers as an “egg-laying machine” or as a symbolic uterus for the deposition of human spiritual filth.

Read the rest.

Book Review: Poetic Animals and Animal Souls

 

This book is a DNF for me and I’m sorry for it. It’s me. Not this book. Also, it’s an inter-library loan with a due date so I didn’t feel I could devote enough time to it.

I got about halfway through — and it is a skinny book — but realized I don’t have the mind enough to finish it. It is a struggle for me to digest most poetry, and being unfamiliar with a lot of the poets and poems Malamud highlights I just didn’t feel like I could critique this book properly.

Although, I did like what I did read — I did learn some things. I love Malamud’s approach and his observations.  Here’s some quotes that I took away from the book:

“As an example of how people relate to animals across this frontier, in which solely human consideration mediate the encounter, consider the logic underlying the exhibition of captive animals in zoos. Keepers remind spectators that many of the animals on display cannot survive in their native environments, which have been desecrated; thus zoos are supposed to testify to our society’s benevolent concern for these animals taken into protective custody in a small, artificial compound far from their natural habitat…How exactly did we the animals’ habitats get destroyed? What cultural dynamics connect the destruction of animal habitats and the enjoyment that we reap as we bring these animals…into our ken, surrounded by souvenirs, popcorn, parking lots…”

“The disinterest in looking at bugs is probably related to the interest in looking at lions: people flock to zoos to see what we shouldn’t see — see what we’re not meant to see in our own native habitats and environs. The corollary of the craving to know animals that don’t belong in our ken of perception is the resistance to knowing the animals that do belong around us. Bugs, squirrels, pigeons: dull, low-rent attractions.”

“The more determination we exert trying to get to know animals in the way that we know the tings in our world, heedless of their own independent existence and integrity and process, the more we are disappointed by the failure to achieve this. They will defy being known in that way — and so we can either “mis-know” them: capture them, punish them, tame them, put them in cages, humiliate them, marginalize them..or, as Heaney does here, we can confront the limits of our epistemologies: we can stop our heroic march toward omniscience and unbounded experiential conquest, and pause to reflect on what it means for us to know (or try to know) animals.”

 

BOOK REVIEW: American Zoo by David Grazian

This book was a DNF for me. I skimmed to what parts I thought might hold interest for me.

But just like the people who do go to zoos take a (what I call) shallow interest in the experience (the come, they see, they go on to the next exploitation), so too does Gazian state his observations of the human reasons zoos exist. This book more so answers “why do Americans still do that?” (ie put animals in zoos). But only for a modern context. It does not answer the question “why do Americans do that” in any historically sociological way.

There is no real exploration as to if it is good or bad that we “do that.” He states horrors inflicted upon zoo animals like someone observing birds flying in the sky. Well, isn’t that interesting? Because they aren’t horrors to him.

He talks about the fact that male pandas are given Viagra and forced to watch porn, never exploring if this is a moral thing to do to pandas. He even goes so far as to call them (either all pandas or zoo pandas specifically) sexually ‘incompetent’ – as if they can’t even do the one thing they are “good” for, for us humans (make more of themselves). This presupposes that pandas are our things and that they need us to help make them more competent — as if that’s their only problem and as if they hadn’t been thriving all on their own without our help until man started killing them off and destroying their habitats. Hell, are we even sure that we didn’t create the panda from nothing?  Grazian even talks about zookeeper’s masturbation aids with just a passing, subtle comment: that’s “exactly what it sounds like.” But what does it sound like? Because to some, that sounds like rape, not something funny.

Colonialism is never explored, as far as I could tell, which are the roots of all zoos. He ends on the note that zoos have their faults, but they aren’t morally bankrupt, ignoring the fact that their AZA accreditation is not the real beef some animal rights activists have with zoos. I’m sure there were good slave owners in America too that didn’t beat their slaves and didn’t sell slaves’ children off… It is the concept of slavery that is the topic. Just like the concept of zoos should be the topic. Not what zoos think or try to do in this modern age.

At the end he mentions a book called The Zookeeper’s Wife which is a story about how a zookeeper’s wife kept Jews safe in WWII in their zoo. The sad thing is that Grazian can’t see the irony in that. The very thing/concept that created hate for Jews was the self-same hate that sticks animals in cages: an attempt to “Other” and “conquer” and “control.” Where is the sociological exploration in that?

Zoos can try and kid themselves that they are protecting animals, just like the Zookeeper’s wife can repurpose an evil concept to save Jews. But there wouldn’t be a need to repurpose anything if “the evil concept” hadn’t messed things up to begin with. That’s what animal rights activists are targeting. The concept itself.

But I guess I shouldn’t have expected that deep of an exploration, what with the subtitle of this book being “A Sociological Safari.” Safari? Because what humans do to animals is just as interesting as going on a safari? Safaris show you animals in their natural habitat. And it doesn’t seem “natural” what we’ve done to animals.

Or, if it is natural for humans to do this, I don’t think I like being human.

Book Review: Night of the Animals by Bill Broun

In this imaginative debut, the tale of Noah’s Ark is brilliantly recast as a story of fate and family, set in a near-future London.

Over the course of a single night in 2052, a homeless man named Cuthbert Handley sets out on an astonishing quest: to release the animals of the London Zoo. As a young boy, Cuthbert’s grandmother had told him he inherited a magical ability to communicate with the animal world—a gift she called the Wonderments. Ever since his older brother’s death in childhood, Cuthbert has heard voices. These maddening whispers must be the Wonderments, he believes, and recently they have promised to reunite him with his lost brother and bring about the coming of a Lord of Animals . . . if he fulfills this curious request.

Cuthbert flickers in and out of awareness throughout his desperate pursuit. But his grand plan is not the only thing that threatens to disturb the collective unease of the city. Around him is greater turmoil, as the rest of the world anxiously anticipates the rise of a suicide cult set on destroying the world’s animals along with themselves. Meanwhile, Cuthbert doggedly roams the zoo, cutting open the enclosures, while pressing the animals for information about his brother.

Just as this unlikely yet loveable hero begins to release the animals, the cult’s members flood the city’s streets. Has Cuthbert succeeded in harnessing the power of the Wonderments, or has he only added to the chaos—and sealed these innocent animals’ fates? Night of the Animals is an enchanting and inventive tale that explores the boundaries of reality, the ghosts of love and trauma, and the power of redemption.

This is the last time I listen to a Library Journal book review. I regret paying so much for this book. This is technically a DNF, though I did skim every page. I think skimming it made it make just as much sense as it would wasting 100+ more hours on this story.

Basically the plot is: Old drug-addict man hears “voices” of animals and wants to let them out of the last zoo on earth. Sad, right? Except these are basically the last animals on earth too. Sadder, right? He is going to let them out and justice will be served? Meh.

That’s hard to tell. You don’t really understand  what the heck is going on in this version of the world. The world building is never fully realized. It’s dangerous but not dangerous. It’s weird but not weird. It’s real but not real. This story is just about as incoherent as the drug-addicted MC. And I don’t mean the accents the characters “speak” in. I have no complaint in that. But the flow and train of thought is so slapdash and unispired I wanted to fall asleep every five pages or so.

But back to the zoo.

That last zoo, of course, is in London. How more imperial can you get? How more Anglocentric can you get? How much more colonial could you get? Well, let me tell you, Broun could have gotten a lot more all of the above and still had a better story. He doesn’t use these opportunities to any satisfying degree. If at all (I don’t know, I was skimming. If YOU know, give me page numbers, maybe?).

In fact, he seems to ignore colonialism, the ripest fruit ready to be picked apart by an examination of The Zoo Mentality.

Dear God am I angry. Not only is this a 500-page debut of a novel which makes me question how the hell it was published when no minority author would likely get the same deal, but the story is terrible. This is now my number one example of White Male Mediocrity. This is the kind of book that gets labeled “magical realism” to make it seem more literary when really it is just genre fiction wrapped around a lazy deus ex machina.

I’m so freaking angry.

“Finally, as animals begin to escape the zoo and wreak havoc on London, we enter a realm of pure pulp. Cuthbert’s Doctor Doolittle powers begin to seem more and more real. The Christ of the Otters shows up. Cults infiltrate the government. We find out that Prince Harry killed his older brother William and is now ruling England with an iron fist. Aliens arrive. Strangers turn out to be long-lost relatives. A lady turns into a tree. Prince Harry — now Harry9 — has a death ray that bends the very fabric of time. It’s all presented very matter-of-factly: Yes, of course there are aliens. What kind of book did you think you were reading?

Then the animals are recaptured. And just as suddenly, the chaos subsides and all the conventions of pulp fade away. Those long-lost relatives turn out not to be genetically related after all. The animals stop talking. The aliens disappear.

Are we meant to understand that it all literally happened — that there were aliens and talking animals and ladies turning into trees? Or was it all in Cuthbert’s addled brain?

It’s not clear, but the richness of the ambiguity just adds to the book’s sense of sweeping melancholy. What Cuthbert wants, more than anything, is to return to the English forest of legend, and for just one night, it might have happened. Or then again, it might not have.”

Beyond the purple prose and “telling, not showing,”  the false advertising of this book leaves me angry. Noah’s Ark is mentioned in relation to the Zoo-as-Concept, but there is nothing profound that comes of it. I have read the story of Noah’s Ark. I do not see the similarities beyond Zoo-as-Ark. Thus, the synopsis should not say ” In this imaginative debut, the tale of Noah’s Ark is brilliantly recast as a story of fate and family, set in a near-future London.

I am so, so freaking angry.

Like, I get it. I do. The whole “fading” culture and dialect thing can be paralleled to the fading species on the earth. Except why the crap are they fading? What is your statement on this? WHAT. That it’s sad? That’s it? That’s all you got?

OF COURSE a book sold as a serious story about animals is given to the white man. Of course. Of course this thick pile of poo is the best they could publish. Nothing really about animal rights, about how zoos are a colonialist construct, about how we can better treat them now in the present. Nothing. The zoo animals are just puppets that have no voice, despite the author trying his best to convince us that on some level they do speak. I feel cheated as a reader. Falsely-advertised to.

The cover has a bear. I don’t even remember a f*cking bear.

Here’s some other thoughts I had: The cult people seemed like dark versions of Gnostics. Perhaps, at a stretch, they’re a statement on PETA (who has been known to kill animals they cannot find homes for, just like the ASPCA, but on another level). Dr. Bajwa could have been cut entirely from the book. This novel could have been edited down to half its size. The story could have used more world building. The story could have used more continuity. The book was more “telling” than “showing.” Broun mentions so many plant varieties that I started to wonder if he liked plants more than animals. This book is not one I’d recommend. But I recommend reading the Vox article linked to above about it. That is all.

TBR: The Vegan Cookbook: 497 Recipes by Jack Truman

As a vegan, I loved getting the heads up about this book.

Find it on Smaswords.

A plant-based diet:

Is good for you
Is good for the animals
Is good for the planet

THE VEGAN COOKBOOK: 497 RECIPES is a collection of 497 healthy, mouth-watering plant based recipes free from any animal products. Author Jack Truman, a lifetime vegan and animal rights activist, has compiled a collection of his favorite family plant-based recipes over a lifetime.

Obesity is a growing problem in America. According to science, Animal Agriculture is the leading primary source to Climate Change. Millions of animals are slaughtered by the hour for human consumption. And a meat-centered diet is a major factor in Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes and all major diseases.

By adopting a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle, individuals can save the lives of animals, save their own lives from obesity and disease, and end Global warming. THE VEGAN COOKBOOK : 497 RECIPES is a healthy, nutritious resource of great recipes, free from any animal products.

 

Even raising the mere question of animal awareness was once enough to potentially ruin a career…

‘Even raising the mere question of animal awareness was once enough to potentially ruin a career. In the 1970s, the biologist Donald Griffin published a book that did almost exactly that: Question of Animal Awareness. Griffin at this point was a well-respected scientist who had recently made the discovery that bats use echolocation, or sonar, to navigate their surroundings. But after the publication of his book, his professional reputation was largely ruined. Even Jane Goodall caught some flak for going so far as to “humanize” her chimp research subjects by giving them names, and as recently as the 1990s, a writer in the prestigious journal Science advised that research concerning animal cognition “isn’t a project I’d recommend to anyone without tenure.”

Better data, including advances in neuroimaging technology and videos from scientists doing fieldwork, is now forcing many to reconsider some very basic questions of animal cognition. Today it sometimes seems like barely a week goes by without the publication of some new study that shows evidence of one species or another demonstrating what might’ve once been considered a strictly “human” ability or emotion.’

Read the rest.

I Do Not Care

Amen.

YesBiscuit!

Judgmental cats sees all. (Photo by Casey Post) Judgmental cat sees all. (Photo by Casey Post)

A shelter’s job is to shelter animals.

Animals have a right to live.

These two things trump all the excuses offered by killing apologists.

Therefore, I have zero fucks to give about the following:

  • An owner didn’t microchip a lost pet.
  • An owner didn’t see his lost pet’s photo on the shelter’s website as soon as it was posted.
  • An owner let a cat outside.
  • An owner accidentally left a gate open, had a hole in the fence, whatever.
  • An owner couldn’t come up with the cash to pay the shelter’s ransom for a lost pet.
  • An owner didn’t neuter and/or vaccinate a lost pet.
  • An owner didn’t have a collar and/or ID tag on a lost pet.
  • An owner was unable to physically visit the shelter during its open hours throughout the holding period to look for a lost…

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I published an opinion piece on The Dodo

“But animals need to be in homes, not running wild!” To this I say, they have a greater chance of finding homes if they are in our faces and not out of sight. When Americans watched the Olympics in Sochi and saw all the stray dogs, we were forced to deal with the fact that humans don’t take care of the problems they’ve created—but don’t think we’re any better than the Russians. In the U.S. we merely sweep the pet “homelessness” problem under the rug by stuffing the animals in shelters and killing them when no one is watching. Our system is much crueler, in my opinion. It is because there aren’t dogs running down the street or begging at door steps that allows us to pretend there isn’t a problem.

Read the article here.

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