Reading List October 2006

Zoologically Correct

A wisecracking playboy gets friendly with bunnies, birds, even dogs

Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, by Matthew Scully (2002). A searing look at the way we treat animals, by a former speechwriter for George W. Bush. Think of that anti-big-gummint mantra “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and then go with Scully to a factory farm and see what you see: BDSM of the concentration-camp variety. A principled vegetarian and a Roman Catholic, Scully also profiles hunters and experimenters so callous they could land above-the-title roles in a terrorist training video.

Making Kind Choices: Everyday Ways to Enhance Your Life Through Earth- and Animal-Friendly Living, by Ingrid Newkirk (2005). Newkirk, the president of PETA, is perhaps the only author who could discuss both Black Forest cake and fishing lures, tell you what’s wrong with arachidyl propionate, instruct on the art of animal-friendly bathrooms, and wind up quoting Spike Milligan: “Money can’t buy you friends, but you do get a better class of enemy.” Being humane has never been so easy—or so entertaining.

Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer (1975). As worthwhile today as it was three decades ago. If only politicians would read it—they might be sensible enough to introduce a bill outlawing consumer-product testing on animals rather than fussing over graphic video games. Which is more repugnant, a cartoon image of violence or white-coated technicians pouring a quart of floor cleaner down a dog’s throat? Talk about chuck-wagon (and chucking isn’t the half of it).

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy (1995). Hey, animals have feelings! Yeah? Try to convince a real scientist. The charge of anthropomorphism is so threatening to some white coats that, like unreconstructed Cartesians (or the current administration), they have to ignore all relevant facts to stay on course. Read it and let the rotten foundations of traditional animal science crumble.

Enslaved by Ducks: How One Man Went From Head of the Household to Bottom of the Pecking Order, by Bob Tarte (2003). A wry memoir by a Midwest-based reviewer of world music who naively buys a rabbit and eventually finds himself playing hand servant to a collection of emotionally damaged parrots, geese, turkeys, and other birds. Try living with a parrot—you might wind up on Zoloft, too. Tarte unwittingly makes a convincing, funny case for avoiding pet stores, exotic birds, and unscrupulous therapists.

Bill Maher is the host of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, the former host of Politically Incorrect, and the author of several books, including When You Ride Alone You Ride With bin Laden.
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