BOOK REVIEW: Capers in the Churchyard: Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror

Capers in the Churchyard:  Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror

Animal rights blogger Eric Prescott described this book as such:

Regrettably, “Capers in the Churchyard” sounds more like an old and, in all likelihood, mediocre British mystery novel found languishing at a used book store than an important work on animal rights.

But, as it is said, you can’t judge a book by its cover. The old adage holds true once again, for there is much between the covers to recommend “Capers in the Churchyard.” Despite the slim nature of this volume, which does fortunately lend itself to a quick reading (and even repeated reading), Hall goes big, asking timely questions that need to be pondered and discussed thoroughly by anyone who cares about the fate of animals and our planet.

“Capers in the Churchyard” is not a retread, nor a history lesson, but a call to focus the approach of animal rights advocacy to its fundamental level.

Lee writes a brief but devastating critique of the militant element that has cropped up in our movement. The book does contain some familiar arguments such as: militant action alienates the public; we can’t expect others to choose peace if we model violence and degradation; and violence causes the passage of draconian laws which repress all activists. Like fellow author Gary Francione, Lee also makes the argument that welfare campaigns don’t help advance rights—and also confuses the public about what “rights” really mean.

This book helped me think of familiar notions in a new way. Lee argues that modern animal exploitation is not similar to the Holocaust, as most people in other nations recognized that horror and injustice were being done. But because we all participate in the animal use industry to some degree or another there is no ‘outside looking in.’

Lee points out that many mainstream animal protection groups advocate free-range methods of animal farming as more humane, without favoring vegetarianism. Yet if Americans were to continue consuming animal foods at their present rate and just switched to “humanely raised,” all natural and open spaces would have to be destroyed for the free range rearing of animals.

Through this book I also learned some rather unpleasant aspects of familiar figures in activism. Lee hit the nail on the head when she wonders why those who model everything we should oppose—violence, bullying, domination—should still be championed at many of our conferences, speaking events, and websites.

Toward the end, Lee got a little too pie-eyed for me, advancing that a major change in society and government would be needed to truly advance a peaceful civilization which embraces the rights of other species. To me, this is even less realistic than imagining a future in which animals are respected instead of being used and abused by humans.

(review originally appeared at


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