BOOK REVIEW: Speaking Out for Animals: True Stories About People Who Rescue Animals

Speaking Out for Animals: True Stories About People Who Rescue Animals

Speaking Out for Animals is a collection of interviews and profiles from the sadly defunct magazine “The Animals’ Agenda.” It serves as both an inspiration to those already in the animal advocacy movement and an education for those who are not. As editor Kim Stallwood’s puts it in the Introduction:

Animal advocates come in all shapes and sizes, but the media’s portrayal of us does not reflect what I believe the vast majority of us are like: caring, compassionate, and thoughtful people who want passionately to make a difference fiord animals, people, and the environment. In contrast, animal activists are portrayed in popular culture as being either an emotional group of harmless eccentrics or dangerous fanatics who care more about animals than people.

Those simple stereotypes are demolished within the pages of this book, as we get to see animal protectors ranging from household name celebrities (Paul McCartney, Jane Goodall), to everyday individuals working for change.

McCartney, in these pages, gets to refute the contention made by a pro-vivisection lobbying group that he gave up his belief in animal rights after the death of his wife, Linda. The organization had penned a letter to USA Today in which they maintained Paul had expressed support for animal testing and turned against his and Linda’s former anti-vivisection campaigning. McCartney explains:

[W]hat I said in that interview was that in America, before any drug whatsoever can go on the market, there’s this statutory requirement for it to be tested on animals before humans. … Obviously I would prefer this wasn’t so.

Animal activists will probably enjoy the interviews with high-profile voices on the animal protection front. Author Peter Singer reflects on the fledgling animal rights movement: “

We took our opponents, to some extent, by surprise [in the 1980s]. At first they laughed at us. They didn’t take us seriously. That allowed us to get a sympathetic hearing with the media and made it relatively easy to get a lot of attention. It’s now become harder. Our opponents have cleverly exploited this idea that the movement is full of terrorists or fanatical extremists. There’s a real danger of the movement getting painted into that corner.

Wayne Pacelle, then the vice president of the HSUS, reflects upon the changing nature of our movement, from its vivisection-focused early days to today’s measured approach to factory farming:

One of the major changes that has occurred since 1987 is the diminishing of the historical dominance of the vivisection issue in the animal protection movement. In the early to mid-1980s, vivisection was a major issue, in part because of the publicity generated by the Silver Spring monkeys and the Gennarelli case. … At the same time, though, there’s been a fuller and broader examination of other issues. The animal agriculture issue, whish is ultimately the biggest of all animal issues in terms of units of animal suffering, has received greater attention.

We also see former flagship causes which eventually failed, such as the chapter on releasing Keiko the whale.

My favorite profiles were those of the unsung heroes, everyday people who happen to be involved in animal activism. The best story, IMO, profiled elderly couple Coby and Hans Siegenthaller, who escaped the Nazis and went on to become dedicated animal rescuers.

Of course, part of being an animal advocate is butting heads with the animal use contingent from time to time. Some of these stories took a humorous turn, such as in the case of Sally Mackler, fought prominently for a state ballot measure which outlawed bear baiting and the hounding of bears and cougars with dogs. Hunting interests sent out a flyer to all registered voters, warned voters that Mackler lived with many pets, avoided dairy products and had even protested the circus! Oh noes!! (The measure won.)

However, anti-animal sentiment doesn’t always take such a laughable guise. We read about Rick Bogle, a teacher who had been “ostracized, vilified, and forced to abandon his job by former friends and neighbors,” ostensibly after a parent raised a stink over the middle school teacher’s classroom policy of not stepping on spiders. And then there is Janet Halliburton, who worked to end cockfighting in Oklahoma and was pictured in the local newspaper holding a box of the sharp gaffs cockfighters tie to fighting roosters’ legs. Someone claiming to be a cockfighter called her home and announced that he too possessed knives and he really enjoyed using them. Thus began a campaign of intimidation and harassment from the folks who enjoy watching birds tear each other to ribbons.

(review originally appeared at


3 Comments (+add yours?)

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    Oct 24, 2011 @ 16:42:42

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    Nov 13, 2011 @ 22:13:16

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