BOOK REVIEW: Animal Rights (Your Environment)

Animal Rights (Your Environment)

With animal issues frequently in the news, it’s no surprise that animal rights is a frequent topic of classroom essays and debates for even grade school- age children. Unfortunately, few materials present themselves in a way that is appropriate and accessible for the younger set. Finally, a book that gets it (almost) right.

With no graphic pictures or descriptions, the authors manage to advance the fact that many animals aren’t treated too nicely in our society, and some people want to see that change. Even sensitive young readers should feel informed rather than upset.

The section on animal experimentation is possibly the best I’ve seen in a book geared toward young people. Most materials either gloss over the issue or frame it in a simplistic “Grandma-vs.-the-rat” way. Instead, this book takes four pages to sensitively address the debates surrounding this emotionally charged issue. The authors highlight alternative technologies that are being developed to replace lab animals, an angle many others ignore. Animal Rights is also one of the few books, for children or adults, to discuss the issue of “me too” drugs, which are put on the market more for the benefit of pharmaceutical companies’ profits than to cure diseases:

Most people would prefer to have medicines available when they’re ill. However, many products are very similar. Do we really need, or want, ten types of cough medicine or cold remedy to choose from?

Clearly, much animal testing could be avoided altogether if it weren’t for the “me too” profit mentality.

The hunting section focuses on safari-style trophy hunting of lions, rhinos, and the like. While this is a very important issue, it’s not the form of hunting most youngsters are likely to encounter. The book doesn’t really equip youngsters for classroom discussions of American-style hunting of squirrels, deer, doves, and other native wildlife.

Ironically, the weakest section is that which discusses the issue affecting by far the largest number of beings: “Animals and Food.” Although the book asks the prescient question: “What is the difference between eating a cow and eating a horse?” the rest of the section offers a confusing and muddled thought process. For example, the author writes that organic chicken has “less added water, and the meat tastes better.” I fail to see how this would impress someone concerned for animal rights. Perhaps to make readers who still eat meat more comfortable, the author also overstates the influence of the organic and free-range industries in America:

On other farms pigs can roam freely. The piglets can even stay with their mother and live a natural life. …
People are now very concerned about the way farm animals are treated. …. More and more farmers, therefore, are changing to natural, traditional methods of farming.

In actuality, the free-range meat market in America remains a tiny fraction of that which is factory- farm produced. Simply put, small farms cannot produce the current astronomical amount of animal products consumed by Americans. As the food industry site Food Navigator points out: “Small-scale production and undersupply have made organic meats in US and Canada some of the most expensive in the world; organic beef and pork products are priced up to three times as much as conventional meat products.

The author also seems to present salmon faming as a better alternative to catching wild fish. However, environmentalists agree that these “feedlots of the sea” are nothing short of a nightmare—realising unfiltered pollution directly into the ocean while spreading parasites and disease into the local sea life population.

On one hand, I understand the author’s reluctance to discuss the meat issue, as this is a book geared toward an audience with very little say about what’s put on their plates. On the other, I still don’t think that warrants obfuscation of the facts.

There are some segments in which better editing was in order. Some of the sentences are rather awkward. The book discusses decimation of the chiru antelope to produce luxury clothing. However, the photograph accompanying the text is not of a Tibetan chiru, but rather an African giant eland.

Despite the few shortcomings, Animal Rights is still an excellent and inclusive book that will provoke thought and discussion among young readers. It would be an excellent resource for a humane educator’s bookshelf, or as source material for a youngster writing an essay on the subject. Recommended.

(review originally appeared at


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: I Am Vegetarian so I Need to Promote Cruelty-Free among Animals. Here’s How

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: