Many people have animal companions within their homes. In this latest edition to the Earth Series, the author explores the kinship and bonds that humans and animals share, and how our relationships with animals are multilayered. The book chapters include: Animals used for food, Animals in Captivity, Animals in Labs, Animals for Sport, Animals for Labor, and Animals we Revere.

Some people choose to follow a vegan lifestyle, but there are a lot of people who do not and animals are a source of food. No matter which path a person takes, there is a way of honoring animals that are used for food. The custom of thanking an animal for its sacrifice dates back thousands of years. The concept is to honor the animal whose life is sacrificed to feed the hungry and showing gratitude. The author heavily leans towards veganism and has the opinion it is hard to practice eco-spirituality while a person eats an animal. Not all have to agree on this point, but there is a focused chapter on this subject in the book.

The next section jumps to the subject of animals in captivity. Zoos are plentiful around the world and have been questioned between the whether they are more for entertainment or education. The argument does bring up the point that zoos offer the ability to see an animal that normally wouldn’t be available to most especially with the diminishing habitats. While many have mixed feelings on the subject, the focus of most zoos is based on education.

Animals that are kept for pure entertainment however is a different view. One such company that has been the center of controversy for many years would be Sea World. While the whales, dolphins and porpoises are able to be viewed up close for education purposes, they are also taught to perform shows several times a day. The habitats these marine animals are kept in are not anything close to what they would experience in the wild. Personally I am more interested in taking a boat tour with the chance of seeing wild dolphins or whales in the ocean than seeing one who has been captured and living in a concrete pool. There is nothing as magical as getting to see them swim free in the ocean. This chapter is an interesting one that explores the ethical side of captivity and animals.

The next chapter goes into discussions about research animals. These chapter dives deep into the subject however it is good to note that due to the concern for animal welfare, there are many countries the author mentions that have made reforms on product testing on animals (such as banning cosmetics testing on animals).

The Animals for Sport chapter is another hard chapter to read if you are an animal lover. The author describes these as humanity’s attempt to conquer or subdue animals for sport. Bullfighting, cock fighting, dog fights, recreational hunting all fall under this category. Lesser harmful activities such as horse/dog/pig racing is considered sport. Rodeos are also another example of sport with animals. While the focus may not be death, it is always possible for these animals to be injured when being chased, roped, etc. The author also explains these are detrimental activities that do not foster a human animal relationship in a positive way.

When it comes to labor animals, it depends on the human and how the animals are used. For example a sheep herding dog or herd guardian dog (like a great Pyrenees) do their ‘job’ but are also typically loved and still part of the family while harnessing the dog breeds inherit abilities. It depends on how the animals are treated by their humans whether it is a positive relationship or an exploited one.

The last section covers Animals we Revere. This is the category for our companion animals. Our household animals (or pets) include 2 rescue dogs, a Quaker parrot and a leopard gecko. All of the animals inside our house are well taken care of, spoiled, and each given lots of love and affection. I also love the wild birds that visit my feeders, the wild rabbits that frequent our neighborhood and stay cool in my flower garden. I am one of those people who would be called an animal lover and have a soft spot for all creatures.

In this section the author goes beyond those animals we have at our sides, but also looks at the ones in sanctuaries. These facilities often take in injured animals and help them recover so they can be released back into the wild. Most of the animals that arrive at such facilities is due to negligence of humans. (Turtles caught in fishing lines, birds hit by cars etc) Some of these sanctuaries however are also a safe space for the animals to live their lives in the event they cannot be released. Sometimes an animal has suffered such an injury that it would not survive in the wild, so they are cared for and can still have a good quality of life with minimal human intervention.

All in all the book visits all sorts of scenarios where animals and humans meet. Some are heartwarming, while others heartbreaking. The author asks the reader to explore their relationship with the animals and world around them and to help be part of the solution for a more harmonious living.

I recommend adding this book to your Earth Spirit Series, especially for those who feel that animal bond.

~review by Amber Barnes

Author: Mark Hawthorne
Moon Books, 2022
pp. 88, $10.95