The Bookworm Sez

Review: The Bond

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Real AspenMay 16, 2011

Those big brown eyes can't fool you.

You know exactly what your pet is thinking. The wag of the tail, the flick of an ear, a well-placed paw or nose tells you everything you need to know.

You've been an animal lover since you can remember, a trait you share with humans reaching back millennia. But the way we treat animals now is not the way it's always been. In the new book “The Bond” by Wayne Pacelle, you'll find out why.

In one way or another, we've all grown up with animals. Research shows that 90 percent of the characters in children's picture books are animals. And who can forget the television shows we watched and the toys we played with?

“The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them” by Wayne Pacelle c.2011, William Morrow $26.99 / $29.99 Canada 423 pages

While it's uncertain when animals were first welcomed to ancient hearths, humans seem to be biologically wired to live with them. Hormones that bond people together also serve to bond us with our furry friends. Studies show that having animals around is good for us, and vice versa.

But it hasn't always been like that.

Animals needed advocates, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was founded just after the Civil War. Just decades later, Henry Salt “laid the groundwork for the modern approach to animal rights” with a paper he wrote on the subject. Charles Darwin weighed in, arguing that there was little difference between human and animal. Science is just now beginning to agree.

In his work with the Humane Society of the United States, Pacelle has seen some things that shocked him and some that give him hope. He writes of “the rising political strength of HSUS” and the work done to change California's slaughterhouses. He says the organization was never meant to limit itself to companion animals and that the “concern reaches to all animals” that are being exploited or mistreated.

Though controversy seems to follow author Wayne Pacelle everywhere, it's hard to argue with many aspects of this book. Nobody, for instance, wants to see animals suffer, and action to prevent it would seem prudent to the vast majority of people. That emphasis here – and especially, the hopeful and heartwarming chapter on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – is very much worth reading.

But still, and despite that Pacelle often seems to choose his words carefully, there's contention all over “The Bond”, no matter which side of the animal rights fence you're on.

In this book, Pacelle takes on farmers and hunters, zoo-goers and meat-eaters, the government, gun owners, Canadians, homeowners, scientists, and some veterinarians. He has much to say about dolphins, “downer” cattle, dog breeders, and elephant “trainers”. And, by dealing with the Elephant in the Room, he challenges football-minded animal lovers by discussing his contentious work with Michael Vick.

If you decide to read this book, do so with curiosity about our human-animal bond and the understanding that what's in here probably isn't going to change anybody's mind - though, for sure, in disputative circles, “The Bond” is going to make the fur fly.

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