There were many fine books about animal rights and related matters published in 2013. So many, in fact, that I’ve had to devise two lists: my five favourites and four noble mentions. So, let’s deal with the latter group first. I’m cheating a bit with the noble mentions. I’m reading them or they’re on my to read pile tottering by my side of the bed.
The Cry of Nature: Art and the Making of Animal Rights by Stephen F. Eisenman (Reaktion Books)
The impact of art on animal rights fascinates me. Just started this book and can’t wait to read his study of my favourite living artist Sue Coe.
Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict by David Nibert (Columbia University Press)
This progressive perspective is refreshing in the era of blandness. It will be like a breath of fresh air albeit a strong wind that will knock my thinking sideways—no bad thing.
Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat edited by Kara Davis, Wendy Lee, with a Foreword by Carol J. Adams (Lantern Books)
Carol J. Adams and her books have earned themselves a place in my life in which they have significantly shaped my thinking. Discovering her impact on the lives of others will be interesting.
Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus by Susan Nance (Johns Hopkins University Press)
One unfinished project is to write a contemplation about the life of Topsy, the elephant electrocuted to death in Coney Island, NY in 1903. Susan Nance’s book is part of my research.
Onto my top five animal rights books of 2013.
Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans (Faber & Faber)
During the 1980s when I organised the campaigns of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and U.K. animal rights movement came into its own with many actions of different kinds, I suspected there were undercover police, agents provocateurs, and corporate spies in our midst but never had the evidence to prove it. At the end of one national demonstration I organised which attracted thousands of protestors, I went to the local police station to check on some activists who had been arrested, and witnessed demonstrators emerge as on-duty police officers as they walked past me standing at the counter, started chatting with their colleagues in uniform, and take off badges from their coats and drop placards onto the floor. Researched and written by two Guardian journalists, Undercover documents Britain’s secret police forces and how they infiltrate and influence not only legitimate social movements like ours but also act morally reprehensibly by initiating long-standing, intimate relationship with activists, including fathering children. Every activist has to read this book and understand that much worse goes on around and among us.
Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne (Changemakers Books)
Mark Hawthorne is a writer of integrity. If he says it, you can trust it. This is why Bleating Hearts is so important and deserves a place on every animal activist’s bookshelf. It’s encyclopaedic in its summary description of all the different ways in which we treat animals. An important resource.
A Theory of Justice for Animals: Animal Rights in a Nonideal World by Robert Garner (Oxford University Press)
Living in an imperfect world, how do we go from moral rights to legal rights for animals? This is the question that Robert Garner, professor of politics at the University of Leicester, seeks to answer. Not everyone will agree with his conclusions and that, I think, doesn’t matter, as we have to have this debate. For example, he writes: “[i]t is my contention that moral obligations regarded as being outside of the sphere of justice collapse, in practice, into the realm of charity and voluntarism precisely because there is a much weaker link with legal compulsion.” (8) (emphasis in original)
This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology by Will Anderson (Earth Books)
The big picture view of animal rights and veganism and their relationship to environmental protection are the issues explored by Will Anderson, a long-standing social justice campaigner. There is so much to learn from this well-researched book. One of its special attributes that I appreciate is that it presents the problem as well as the solution.
Polar Bear in the Zoo: A Speculation by Martin Rowe (Lantern Books)
Martin Rowe, who is my editor at Lantern Books, is such a thoughtful and provocative writer that I would want to read anything he writes. I read The Polar Bear in the Zoo as an ebook but its richness deserves another read in the flesh, as it were, as a paperback. Prompted by the evocative photography of Jo-Anne McArthur and one in particular of a polar bear in a zoo, Martin Rowe embarks on a journey of contemplation and questioning as to what it means to care and act for animals as well as the relationship between us. “Do we open our eyes and stare or do we look away?” he asks.
Changing the Game: Why the Battle for Animal Liberation Is So Hard and How We Can Win It by Norm Phelps (Lantern Books — ebook only)
This book deserves a wider readership than I fear it has received so far. With precision and insight, Norm Phelps takes a cold hard look at the animal rights movement and our strategies and tactics. His analysis is always insightful and, when necessary, challenging. This is one of those rare books about animal rights strategy that reaches beyond cliches and stereotypes. It breathes wisdom into the discussion that preoccupies activists of all sorts. He concludes with a seven point program to change the game of animal rights advocacy. “And because neither animal rights nor human rights can be achieved alone,” he writes, “we need to set about building a universal rights movement that will win both together.”