3 books on animals

December 2, 2011

The recent movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” showcased the most convincing instance yet of a Hollywood actor playing an animal (with the help of computerization). The roster of animals brought into houses or yards as domestic pets has been adding new members, such as ferrets and Vietnamese pigs. The growth of vegetarianism and veganism may be harbingers of a revised human ethic toward animals. These new books cover various aspects of interspecies relationships in flux.

1 Part Wild: One Woman’s Journey with a Creature Caught Between the Worlds of Wolves and Dogs , by Ceiridwen Terrill (Scribner, $25). As a teacher of environmental journalism, Ceiridwen Terrill knew that domesticating a wolf-dog would be a complicated venture. But it was the very element of wildness that made her turn away from a 100-percent pooch. “Unlike dogs and unlike me,” she writes, “[wolf-dogs] couldn’t be charmed by some sweet-talking stranger. Their trust would have to be earned with patience and hard work, but in return I’d have a wolfdog’s loyalty and protection.” She would also have an agonizing decision to face: what to do when Inyo, as she named her half-breed, grew up to be more lupine than canine.

2 Loving Animals: Toward a New Animal Advocacy , by Kathy Rudy (Univ. of Minnesota, $24.95). Kathy Rudy argues that the many varieties of animal-rights defender should worry less about their individual agendas and more about persuading the wider public to love animals. She admits that “most of the important and successful relationships I’ve had in my life have been with nonhuman animals . . . without them around, I feel just a little bit invisible.” Appropriately, the author photo on the book’s dust jacket shows her getting a smooch from her dog.

3 No Animals Were Harmed: The Controversial Line Between Entertainment and Abuse , by Peter Laufer (Lyons, $22.95). Peter Laufer, too, brings personal experience to bear on his subject: an inquiry into the rights and wrongs of using animals for human enjoyment. On a family visit to Marine World, an amusement park near San Francisco, his wife, Sheila, enjoyed swimming with killer whales; not long afterward, however, one of the whales killed a trainer, and Sheila swore she would never do that again. After traveling widely in pursuit of his topic, Laufer complains, “We engage in capital punishment, confine others without due process, and we torture. . . . Can we be expected to treat other animals better than we treat ourselves?”

Dennis Drabelle

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