BOOK REVIEW: Memoirs of a Compassionate Terrorist

Memoirs of a Compassionate Terrorist

This unfortunately-titled book (published in 1998) is actually a rather decent memoir of an old-school animal advocate. (She’s not a terrorist, of course, she’s simply mocking the inflated accusations of animal use industries about humane folks. Nevertheless, it’s not a word that can be used lightheartedly in today’s world.) This book could, in fact, be updated and retitled for a new era; I think up-and-coming activists should learn as much from the elders as possible.

The beginning of the book, just general this-is-me memoir stuff, is rather dull. However, things begin to pick up once Dixon’s life turns toward humane advocacy. As the first field officer for the Fund for Animals, Dixon was on the front lines for both the worst and the best in human behavior toward other creatures. Perhaps most telling are her various run-ins with the consumptive use industry. You’ll see how little has changed—they’re just as touchy today as they were decades ago (in 1975, hunting groups filed a federal lawsuit against CBS when they couldn’t stop them from showing “Guns of Autumn,” a documentary that included content critical of hunting).

One of Dixon’s lines in this book has become a mantra I repeat to this day: Animal abusers never give up. Truer words were never spoken. The animal use industries are willing to go through astonishing maneuvers to continue exploiting animals, especially if there’s a profit involved. Year after year, humane folks find ourselves fighting the same battles, none symbolized so eloquently as the baby harp seal on the book’s cover. Let’s learn from those who came before what works and what does not.

(review originally appeared at


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