#BookReview – The Animal’s Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age

A compelling argument that the time has come to use what we know about the fascinating and diverse inner lives of other animals on their behalf

Every day we are learning new and surprising facts about just how intelligent and emotional animals are—did you know rats like to play and laugh, and also display empathy, and the ears and noses of cows tell us how they’re feeling? At times, we humans translate that knowledge into compassion for other animals; think of the public outcry against the fates of Cecil the lion or the captive gorilla Harambe. But on the whole, our growing understanding of what animals feel is not resulting in more respectful treatment of them.

Renowned animal-behavior expert Marc Bekoff and leading bioethicist Jessica Pierce explore the real-world experiences of five categories of animals, beginning with those who suffer the greatest deprivations of freedoms and choice—chickens, pigs, and cows in industrial food systems—as well as animals used in testing and research, including mice, rats, cats, dogs, and chimpanzees. Next, Bekoff and Pierce consider animals for whom losses of freedoms are more ambiguous and controversial, namely, individuals held in zoos and aquaria and those kept as companions. Finally, they reveal the unexpected ways in which the freedoms of animals in the wild are constrained by human activities and argue for a more compassionate approach to conservation.

In each case, scientific studies combine with stories of individual animals to bring readers face-to-face with the wonder of our fellow beings, as well as the suffering they endure and the major paradigm shift that is needed to truly ensure their well-being.

The Animals’ Agenda will educate and inspire people to rethink how we affect other animals, and how we can evolve toward more peaceful and less violent ways of interacting with our animal kin in an increasingly human-dominated world.

Published: April 2017

Amazon / Amazon UK / Amazon CA


My Review

Anyone with a shred of compassion should be disturbed by the way animals are treated within the food, entertainment, and science industries. This book takes a look at all these areas, showing us the truth of what it means to these animals – and to us human animals – as we continue the cycle of abuse.

When welfare science bleeds into industry practices, money rules and animals suffer.

Most of the material here isn’t new, though it is presented in a new and unique way. We see that even those who claim to be studying and advocating animal welfare often come at the issue from a selfishly human perspective.

The section on companion animals is a nice addition not typically included in this type of book. The authors discuss issues such as whether to keep cats indoors or allow them outside. They also share some insightful, personal experiences. I was disappointed that this section didn’t include a discussion on the pervasive and horrible abuse within puppy mills, as well as the puppy mills’ connections to pet stores.

A very useful thought experiment for bridging the empathy gap is to ask, “Would I do it to my dog?” This question brings home not only what entertainment animals endure, but also how our companion animals, who aren’t any more sentient than the animals used in entertainment, nevertheless enjoy a higher status.

The writing style is a perfect combination of academic and conversational. I felt the emotion of the topic within the facts presented.

This is a fairly short book with a wide reach, and consequently much of the information is presented more as a brief overview than an in-depth study. The format works well in regards to keeping readers engaged, particularly for those new to the topic and/or those who don’t want to get bogged down with too much heavy content.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via LibraryThing, in exchange for my honest review.*


Thanks for reading. 🙂