Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them by Wayne Pacelle

I've always loved animals.  When I was in elementary school,  I had hoped to work at a zoo or be a vet.  My mother tried to warn me that a vet's life isn't all that easy and to prove her point, she suggested that I volunteer for the vet near our home in the Philippines.  Though I ended up becoming a lawyer,  I still love animals.

So, when offered the chance to review a book by the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States,  I signed up.

The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them
The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them by Wayne Pacelle
The blurb:
A landmark work, The Bond is the passionate, insightful, and comprehensive examination of our special connection to all creatures, written by one of America's most important champions of animal welfare.  Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society of the United States, unveils the deep links of the human-animal bond, as well as the conflicting impulses that have led us to betray this bond through widespread and systematic cruelty to animals.

Pacelle begins by exploring the biological and historical underpinnings of the human-animal bond and reveals our new found understanding of animals, including their remarkable emotional and cognitive capabilities.  In the book's second section, Pacelle shows how the bond has been broken.  He takes readers to a slaughter plant shuttered for inhumane practices, as well as the enormous egg factory farms of California.  We visit Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas to speak with NFL star Michael Vick, then serving his sentence for dogfighting.  Pacelle paints a portrait of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and highlights the heroic actions of residents and volunteer to reunited pets with their owners.  Pacelle's narrative also leads the reader to remote locations in which conflicts over the killing of wildlife continue to play out - from the fields of Yellowstone National Park where bison are slaughtered with the encouragement of federal authorities to the ice floe of Atlantic Canada where seal nurseries turn into killing fields.

In its final section, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them takes on the arguments of opponents and critics of animal protection and spotlights the groups and industries standing in the way of progress -- from the National Rifle Association and such agribusiness organizations as the American Farm Bureau, to surprising adversaries like the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Kennel Club.  Ultimately, Pacelle points the way to a new, humane economy - one not built on extraction, suffering, and killing but on the celebration, stewardship, and care of animals.

In  The Bond, Wayne Pacelle delivers a systematic analysis of our treatment of animals from those that we keep as pets, those that are raised for food, service animals, and those that live in the wild. 

Pacelle touches on the disturbingly cruel behavior of Michael Vicks and his dog fighting friends.  Pacelle interviews Vicks and we learn how the athlete became so deeply involved in dog fighting and the manner and nature of his "conversion" to an advocate for animal rights.   The sincerity of his conversion is hard to evaluate but Pacelle testified to the power of Vicks' influence especially on young men.   Vicks makes a difference each time he speaks to a room full of children and teens about how much he regrets the pain that he'd caused and his advocacy for a kind and humane way to treat animals.

I expected to be upset by the descriptions of dog fighting, cockfighting, animal blood sports and hunting but I was particularly disturbed by the description of puppy mills.   I never liked how pet stores keep for puppies in small cages, but Pacelle's account of the breeders' premises was worse than anything that I'd imagined.  Pacelle systematically attacks many of the myths that I'd believed about purebred dogs and their breeders and sellers.   While the genetic defects and vulnerabilities of purebred dogs are well recognized, it's hard to imagine that dogs are kept in such close confinement without exercise, fresh air or proper socialization.  The breeding dogs and their offspring are often kept in cramped, unsanitary, and dangerous conditions.

Pacelle examines the raising and slaughtering of animals. His account of the "agro-industrial complex" is much like that described by Jonathan Safran Foer in Eating Animals.  Reading both books within months of each other makes me think twice about my consumption of meat and dairy products.

If you have wondered about how we treat the animals around us, The Bond will give you a comprehensive and detailed account.  It has led me to examine my behavior more carefully.  I'm grateful for the work that activists have done to draw attention to animal suffering.

ISBN-10: 0061969788 - Hardcover $26.99
Publisher: William Morrow (April 5, 2011), 448 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
During his seventeen years with the Humane Society of the United States, including seven years as president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle has played a leading role in making HSUS, the nation's largest animal protection charity, into a dynamic public force and voice for animals.  Taking a special interest in law reform, he has been the leading strategist in getting animal protection laws enacted by direct action of the electorate , designing winning campaigns in a dozen states for ballot initiatives that outlawed cockfighting, factory farming practices, bear baiting, and a host of other inhumane practices.  He has become the voice and face of the humane movement in this country.  Pacelle was named one of Non Profit Time's "Executives of the Year" for his leadership in responding to the Hurricane Katrina crisis.  A graduate of Yale University, Pacelle lives in Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1954,  The Humane Society of the United States is dedicated to confronting cruelty through public education, enforcement of humane laws, support of local humane organizations, investigations and litigation, and reform of public and corporate policies.  The HSUS and its affiliates also provide veterinary services to remote areas, come to the aid of animals in natural disasters and incidents of large-scale cruelty, and operate a network of sanctuaries and rescue centers that directly care for thousands of animals each year.  Learn more at

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