Book Review: We Animals by Jo-Anne McArthur

TBR: The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander

The Only Harmless Great Thing is a heart-wrenching alternative history by Brooke Bolander that imagines an intersection between the Radium Girls and noble, sentient elephants.

In the early years of the 20th century, a group of female factory workers in Newark, New Jersey slowly died of radiation poisoning. Around the same time, an Indian elephant was deliberately put to death by electricity in Coney Island.

These are the facts.

Now these two tragedies are intertwined in a dark alternate history of rage, radioactivity, and injustice crying out to be righted. Prepare yourself for a wrenching journey that crosses eras, chronicling histories of cruelty both grand and petty in search of meaning and justice.

This sounds amazing and I can’t wait to read it.

View more on Goodreads.

Book Review: Animal Liberation by Peter Singer

I read this book because it was mentioned in Sunaura Taylor’s Beasts of BurdenApparently this is classic animal liberation stuff that I had never heard of — it came out before The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990) and I could see, perhaps, the influence this book had on that one — the mentioning of Mary Wollstonecraft and Victorian veg writers and and and. Perhaps Singer was even mentioned in Politics but I just wasn’t in the right place of mind to notice it and care to dig in. This book was first published in 1975, apparently.  All the same, I think Politics took these observations to a different level that I liked better. This book came off as very dry at times. What I did find interesting is that the term “speciesist” or “speciesism” has been around for a while. I thought it was a more contemporary term for some reason. Not sure if Singer perhaps invented the term?

As Taylor warned in Beasts, Singer does sound very ableist at times in his arguments.  Example: “After all, most of us would agree that it would be wrong to bring a child into the world if we knew, before the child was conceived, that it would have a genetic defect that would make its life brief and miserable.” Many lives are brief and miserable without genetic defects, so to pinpoint a specific group of people, when all people could be lumped in as equally at risk of meeting such criteria, is a poor, ableist argument. And this is coming from an antinatalist.

Granted, this had to be pointed out to me by Sunaura Taylor, as I would not have noticed it on my own. I’m still unlearning and relearning.

What I noticed on my own, however, is that Singer starts out playing Devil’s advocate a few times — saying things like “We will pretend that meat eaters are right in this area X so I can make an argument with what’s left.” What I mean by that is he tries to be very clinical and very neutral but you can tell he’s just pretending. And I can see why he would approach it that way, based on the time period he was writing this in. But then it slowly unravels into emotion — spouting off platitudes like animals suffer and this is just plain wrong or humans are horrible at moments that I think would seem odd to a carnist reader. Not that he says those exact things, but that is how it feels.

Perhaps he thinks by that point, he has swayed the reader into agreement? What it actually feels like, though, is him no longer catering to the carnists and instead addressing us, the veg readers. Which is fine, but I’m still trying to figure out the target audience for this. I’m sure it’s changed over editions.

He does get very philosophical here and there, which I liked. I feel like I can argue the case for veganism better now. However, when he would sprinkle in facts about factory farms or vivisection, it did feel like some of it might be dated (though I know not much has changed) and I felt like the two approaches he was taking (philosophical and factsfactsfacts) didn’t mesh well together. Rather, he didn’t mesh them well together, as I’ve seen it done very well in the past. I much prefer the other two books I’ve mentioned here, simply because their focus is different — and, quite frankly, they’re more focused in general. This one does tackle a big topic, I guess. I did like it and got a lot of good quotes from it. But I feel like this is a book that is easier to be quoted from than read. So, vegan readers, don’t feel like you need to rush out and read this one. Maybe I started off with the wrong Singer book?

Some quotes I want to pin here:

“[Animal vivisectionists] cannot deny the animals’ suffering, because they need to stress the similarities between humans and other animals in order to claim their experiments may have some relevance for human purposes.”

“It is at this point that the consequences of speciesism intrude directly into our lives, and we are forced to attest personally to the sincerity of our concern for nonhuman animals. Here we have an opportunity to do something, instead of merely talking and wishing the politicians would do something. It is easy to take a stand about a remote issue, but speciesist, like racists, reveal their true nature when the issue comes nearer home. To protest about bullfighting in Spain, the eating of dogs in South Korea, or the slaughter o f baby seals in Canada while continuing to eat eggs from hens…or veal from calves…is like denouncing apartheid in South Africa while asking your neighbors not to sell their houses to blacks.”

“American television broadcasts programs on animals in the wild (or supposedly in the wild — sometimes the animals have been captured and released in a more limited space to make filiming easier) almost every night of the week; but film of intensive farms is limited to the briefest of glimpses as part of infrequent ‘specials’ on agriculture or food production. The average viewer must know more about the lives of cheetahs and sharks than he or she knows about the lives of chickens or veal calves. The result is that most of the ‘information’ about farm animals to be gained from watching television is in the form of paid advertising, which ranges from ridiculous cartoons of pigs who want to be made into sausages and tuna trying to get themselves canned, to straightforward lies about the conditions in which broiler chickens are reared. The newspapers do little better. Their coverage of nonhuman animals is dominated by ‘human interest’ events like the birth of a baby gorilla at the zoo, or by threats to endangered species…”

“Nature may often ‘know best,’ but we must use or own judgement in deciding when to follow nature. For all I know, war is ‘natural’ to human beings — it certainly seems to have been a preoccupation for many societies, in very different circumstances, over a long period of history — but I have no intention of going to war to make sure that I act in accordance with nature. We have the capacity to reason about what it is best to do. We should use this capacity (and if you are really keen on appeals to ‘nature,’ you can say that it is natural for us to do so).”

“The point of altering one’s buying habits is not to keep oneself untouched by evil, but to reduce the economic support for the exploitation of animals, and to persuade others to do the same. So it is not a sin to continue to wear leather shoes you bought before you began to think about Animal Liberation. When your leather shoes wear out, but nonleather ones; but you will not reduce the profitability of killing animals by throwing out your present ones. With diet, too, it is more important to remember the major aims than to worry about such details as whether the cake you are offered at a party was made with a factory farm egg.”

“Whatever the theoretical possibilities of rearing animals may be, the fact is that the meat available from butchers and supermarkets comes from animals who were not treated with any real consideration at all while being reared. so we must ask ourselves, not: Is is ever right to eat meat? but: Is it right to eat this meat? Here I think that those who are opposed to the needless killing of animals and those who oppose only the infliction of suffering must join together and give the same, negative answer.”

“Would we be prepared to let thousands of humans die if they could be saved by a single experiment on a single animal?…This question is, of course, purely hypothetical. There has never been and never could be a single experiment that saved thousands of lives. The way to reply to this hypothetical question is to pose another: Would the experimenters be prepared to carry out their experiment on a human orphan under six months old if that were the only way to save thousands of lives?”

Book Review: Beasts of Burden by Sunaura Taylor

This book was an eye-opener. This is, so far, the only Disability Liberation work I’ve ever read. I brought a lot of biases and assumptions to the table and am leaving with a greater understanding of my ableism–including within how I conducted my animal rights advocacy. Ableism and carnism and patriarchy and racism and sexism and speciesism are linked. I knew that. But they are linked in such a way that even fighting against one can undermine the fight against another. It will take careful practice and awareness on my part moving forward.

I’ve already posted once about this book with some quotes I archived here so that I can refer back to them. Below are some more of my favorite quotes from this book.

One thing that Taylor did well–the main thing I got out of this book personally–is what ableism is and how to spot it in my actions and in the world around me. When she recounts her interaction with Peter Singer and he asks her (and others) “If you could take a pill that would cure you, wouldn’t you?” and how some disabled persons would say no… That shocked me. That made me stop and think. This book made me realize that the question itself is wrong to be asked. That’s like asking a black person “If you could turn white, would you?” Or homosexual person “If you could be turned straight, wouldn’t you want that?” Or a woman “Don’t you wish you had been born a man?” It assumes that there is a “perfect” state of existence. It assumes that there is something wrong with the individual, rather than the world and that there is something wrong with the person. A person should not have to change in order to fit in. The world should be accepting of the being as they already are. If a world cannot accept someone as they are, perhaps there is something wrong with the world (news flash: there is). That is what this book taught me–what I did not already understand about disability going into it.

The only thing I thought Sunaura Taylor didn’t argue well enough to my satisfaction is her critique of those who think that many domesticated animals simply should not exist (they are pro-extinction). I am one of those. Here is a quote for more context:

“The reasoning behind an abolitionist argument for extinction is on one level very simple: if we stop bringing domesticated animals into existence, then humans won’t be able to exploit them and make them suffer. This is pretty much the opposite of Temple Grandin’s argument. Where Grandin sees animals’ ongoing existence as enough of a justification to continue to use and kill them, many animal activists see the suffering and exploitation of domesticated animals as enough of a justification for their extinction. These animal advocates believe that we have a deep responsibility to treat the animals who currently exist with compassion and dignity while they are alive, as well as a responsibility to stop breeding millions of these animals every year—after all, so many animals exist only because humans breed them. Nonetheless, at a certain point a decision will have to be made about whether remaining animals are sterilized or kept from breeding on their own.”

She states the above, and then goes on to say that this is glazing over issues. But I cannot seem to put her official stance on it in my own words. At best I think she says that we cannot see it as so black and white, because this assumes that there is something wrong with the animals and therefore those with disability; that there is something wrong with dependence and co-dependence. She does make a good case for showing that dependence does not mean weakness, etc. But I don’t think that everyone who calls for farm animals’ immediate steps toward peaceful extinction actually argues from that “they’re dependent, so they must go” place as she seems to think. As an anti-natalist and supporter of VHEMT, I think that most living creatures are better off to never have lived–abled or disabled. I wish she had, maybe, used (what I will now call) her “co-evolution” argument  (that we are responsible for these domesticated animals but that calling for extinction is ableist) for something like…feral cats. Many feral cats are round up and killed because they are said to be a threat to wild bird populations, never mind that our buildings, pollution, and habitat destruction are the real threat. Instead we blame feral cats and so they are murdered. I wish she had used clearer examples like that–where we have caused a problem and are trying to fix it but fixing it in an evil way–to make her point. I can see it working better there than with the domesticated farm animals because I’m still unclear in how she thinks calling for farm animals’ peaceful extinction, at least for those animals who cannot even breed or give birth without us, is ableist. I can see how it would be for those farm animals that don’t require us for breeding. Or perhaps that is her point all along–that the definition of dependence shouldn’t encompass even those that don’t need us for breeding. As you can see, I wish she had expounded this point.

More quotes from Beasts of Burden are below.

“Dependency has been used to justify slavery, patriarchy, imperialism, colonization, and disability oppression. The language of dependency is a brilliant rhetorical tool, allowing those who use it to sound compassionate and caring while continuing to exploit those they are supposedly concerned about.

In many ways the thinking behind the humane meat movement is a philosophy built on the idea of independence. Domesticated animals and human being shave evolved together to be interdependent—animals help human beings, and we in turn help the animals—or so the argument goes… Instead a disability perspective on interdependence recognizes that we are all vulnerable and receive care (more often than not doing both at once) over meat conversation is a much-needed analysis of what it means to be accountable to beings who are vulnerable.”


“I agree with those who support sustainable animal farming about the horrors of factory farms snad the importance of environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. But commodifying and slaughtering animals for food is not natural or righteous—even if it’s done on a small family farm or in a factory system designed to minimize cruelty. There are better ways to be humane.”


“People also justify it through ableist conceptions of the natural and of dependency, which suggest that there is a depoliticized thing called ‘nature’ that determines what kinds of bodies and minds are exploitable and killable, and that excuses uses those who are weaker and dependent for our own benefit. When animal commodification and slaughter is justified through ableist positions, veganism becomes a radical anti-ableist position that corporeality—socially, politically, environmentally, and in what we consume. In other words, veganism is not just about food-it is an embodied practice of challenging ableism through what we eat, wear, and use and a political position that takes justice for animals as integral to justice for disabled people… Veganism is an embodied act of resistance to objectification and exploitation across difference—a corporeal way of enacting one’s political and ethical beliefs daily.”


“Domesticated animals are similarly understood as utterly dependent, and unfit for the wild. Environmentalists, animal welfarists, and animal advocates have all portrayed domesticated animals as tragically, even grotesquely, dependent. Disabled people and domesticated animals are among those who have to content with society’s stereotypes about what it is to be unnatural and abnormal, as well as assumptions about the indignity of dependency. In many ways we have been presented as beasts and as burdens.”

My favorite quotes from Sunaura Taylor’s Beasts of Burden so far:

“As UC Berkley gender and women’s studies professor and linguistics scholar Mel Y. Chen explains, ” Linguistic criteria are established prominently and immutably in humans’ terms, establishing human preeminence before the debates about linguistic placement of humans’ animal subordinates even begin.” The view that language is uniquely human is of course to our advantage.

Ableism allows us to view human abilities as unquestionably superior to animal abilities; it propels our assumptions that our own human movements, thought processes, and ways of being are always not only more sophisticated than animals’ but in fact give us value. Animals, in their inferior bestial state, can be used by us without moral concern, and those humans who have been associated with animals (people of color, women, queer people, poor people, and disabled people, among others) are also seen as less sophisticated, as having less value, and sometimes even as being less or non-human. In fact, certain abilities and capabilities are central to definitions of the human; they are thought to mark the boundaries between humanity and the rest of the animal world. In this way ableism gives shape to what and who we think of as human versus animal.

Animals consistently voice preferences and ask for freedom. They speak to us every day when they cry out in pain or try to move away from our prods, electrodes, knives, and stun guns. Animals tell us constantly that they want out of their cages, that they want to be reunited with their families, or that they don’t want to walk down the kill chute. Animals express themselves all the time, and many of us know it. If we didn’t, factory farms and slaughterhouses would not be designed to constrain any choices an animal might have. We deliberately have to choose not to hear when the lobster bangs on the walls from inside a pot of boiling water or when the hen who is past her egg-laying prime struggles against the human hands that enclose her legs around her neck. We have to choose not to recognize the preference expressed when the fish spasms and gasps for oxygen in her last few minutes alive. Considering animals voiceless betrays an ableist assumption of what counts as having a voice–an assumption that many disabled and nondisabled people alike often make about animals…

Denying someone [else] justice just because you do not yet have your own is never a good idea. I am also convinced we cannot have disability liberation without animal liberation–they are intimately tied together. What if, rather than dismissing or disassociating for the struggle of animals, we embraced what political theorist Claire Jean Kim calls an ‘ethics of avowal,’ a recognition that oppressions are linked, and that we can be ‘open in meaningful and sustained way to the suffering and claims of other subordinated groups, even or perhaps especially in the course of political battle’? Compassion is not a limited resource

It is difficult to ascertain what role these articles play in marginalizing the vegetarian experience when there are so many more pressing issues that confront individuals who might otherwise choose to try to become vegetarian or vegan, such as the lack of healthy affordable food in low-income neighborhoods, often largely inhabited by people of color, and a government that subsidizes and promotes animal and sugar-heavy diets over ones with vegetables and fruits. yet rather than focus on these series structural barriers, many articles on vegetarianism and veganism often present the challenge of avoiding meat and animal products as challenge to one’s very own normalcy and acceptability…

It’s not that there are no challenges to becoming a vegetarian or vegan, but in the media, including authors of popular books on food and food politics, contribute to the ‘enfreakment’ of what is so often patronizingly referred to as the vegan or vegetarian ‘lifestyle.’ But again, the marginalization of those who care about animals is nothing new. Diane Beers writes in her book For the Prevention of Cruelty: The History and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the United States that ‘several late nineteenth-century physicians concocted a diagnosable for of mental illness to explain such bizarre behavior. Sadly, they pronounced these misguided souls suffered from “zoophilpsychosis.”‘ As Beers describes, zoophilpsychosis (an excessive concern for animals) was more likely to be diagnosed in women, who were understood to be ‘particularly susceptible to the malady.’ As the early animal advocacy movement in Britain and the United States was largely made up of women, such charges worked to uphold the subjugation both of women and of nonhuman animals.”

Book Review: Poetic Animals and Animal Souls


This book is a DNF for me and I’m sorry for it. It’s me. Not this book. Also, it’s an inter-library loan with a due date so I didn’t feel I could devote enough time to it.

I got about halfway through — and it is a skinny book — but realized I don’t have the mind enough to finish it. It is a struggle for me to digest most poetry, and being unfamiliar with a lot of the poets and poems Malamud highlights I just didn’t feel like I could critique this book properly.

Although, I did like what I did read — I did learn some things. I love Malamud’s approach and his observations.  Here’s some quotes that I took away from the book:

“As an example of how people relate to animals across this frontier, in which solely human consideration mediate the encounter, consider the logic underlying the exhibition of captive animals in zoos. Keepers remind spectators that many of the animals on display cannot survive in their native environments, which have been desecrated; thus zoos are supposed to testify to our society’s benevolent concern for these animals taken into protective custody in a small, artificial compound far from their natural habitat…How exactly did we the animals’ habitats get destroyed? What cultural dynamics connect the destruction of animal habitats and the enjoyment that we reap as we bring these animals…into our ken, surrounded by souvenirs, popcorn, parking lots…”

“The disinterest in looking at bugs is probably related to the interest in looking at lions: people flock to zoos to see what we shouldn’t see — see what we’re not meant to see in our own native habitats and environs. The corollary of the craving to know animals that don’t belong in our ken of perception is the resistance to knowing the animals that do belong around us. Bugs, squirrels, pigeons: dull, low-rent attractions.”

“The more determination we exert trying to get to know animals in the way that we know the tings in our world, heedless of their own independent existence and integrity and process, the more we are disappointed by the failure to achieve this. They will defy being known in that way — and so we can either “mis-know” them: capture them, punish them, tame them, put them in cages, humiliate them, marginalize them..or, as Heaney does here, we can confront the limits of our epistemologies: we can stop our heroic march toward omniscience and unbounded experiential conquest, and pause to reflect on what it means for us to know (or try to know) animals.”


TBR: The Vegan Cookbook: 497 Recipes by Jack Truman

As a vegan, I loved getting the heads up about this book.

Find it on Smaswords.

A plant-based diet:

Is good for you
Is good for the animals
Is good for the planet

THE VEGAN COOKBOOK: 497 RECIPES is a collection of 497 healthy, mouth-watering plant based recipes free from any animal products. Author Jack Truman, a lifetime vegan and animal rights activist, has compiled a collection of his favorite family plant-based recipes over a lifetime.

Obesity is a growing problem in America. According to science, Animal Agriculture is the leading primary source to Climate Change. Millions of animals are slaughtered by the hour for human consumption. And a meat-centered diet is a major factor in Heart Disease, Cancer, Diabetes and all major diseases.

By adopting a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle, individuals can save the lives of animals, save their own lives from obesity and disease, and end Global warming. THE VEGAN COOKBOOK : 497 RECIPES is a healthy, nutritious resource of great recipes, free from any animal products.


I Do Not Care



Judgmental cats sees all. (Photo by Casey Post) Judgmental cat sees all. (Photo by Casey Post)

A shelter’s job is to shelter animals.

Animals have a right to live.

These two things trump all the excuses offered by killing apologists.

Therefore, I have zero fucks to give about the following:

  • An owner didn’t microchip a lost pet.
  • An owner didn’t see his lost pet’s photo on the shelter’s website as soon as it was posted.
  • An owner let a cat outside.
  • An owner accidentally left a gate open, had a hole in the fence, whatever.
  • An owner couldn’t come up with the cash to pay the shelter’s ransom for a lost pet.
  • An owner didn’t neuter and/or vaccinate a lost pet.
  • An owner didn’t have a collar and/or ID tag on a lost pet.
  • An owner was unable to physically visit the shelter during its open hours throughout the holding period to look for a lost…

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