Book Review : ANIMAL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
ANIMAL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA
By Michele Pickover
(Double Storey) R150
This pioneering introduction to the subject of animal rights in South Africa is set to become an influential work as well as being the definitive book of its kind.
Globally, animal rights and -liberation is emerging as a crucial part of the wave of social movements challenging the status quo and Michele Pickover, an archivist at the University of the Witwatersrand and an animal rights activist of long standing, reveals how South Africans treat and view animals that are not human, and shows how these ideas and practices link into exploitation and oppression more generally.
Growing up in a patriarchal South African society during the Apartheid years, Michele Pickover was a mere child when she first made the connection between the suffering of slaughter animals and the meat on the dinner table. By the age of sixteen she had converted to vegetarianism. She started to question the moral schizophrenia of loving our pets while eating other animals, not classified as such. She came to realise that animal exploitation was linked to other forms of exploitation and oppression - that of the human animal. These were not only inextricably linked but sprang from the same source. Becoming increasingly aware of the pervasiveness of injustice, she found herself 'a stranger in a strange land.'
Her book sets out to inform the reader of this point of view and in the process, like Francione's book Rain Without Thunder, defines the difference between the animal welfare- and animal rights/liberation movements, the latter being described by Maneka Ghandi as "perhaps the most altruistic freedom struggle in history since those engaged in it do what they do without any expectation of returns, recognition or reward - people who have taken up the fight for living beings that have neither voice, nor choice, in our human-centric world."
Michele's approach is to examine four examples of institutionalised animal-use industries in South Africa - trophy hunting, the trade in wild life, vivisection and animals as food. She uncovers what is happening beyond the public eye and examines how the various actors and interest groups, including the government and animal protection groups are responding, in order to tease out the issues involved. We come to see how animal rights are intertwined with human rights and how our freedom is linked to theirs.
In Michele's words, "The idea for the book was two-fold. Firstly, to give a voice to other beings with whom we share the world and expose what they're subjected to and, secondly, to inform. You can't make a difference if you don't know what's going on."
The transition from animal welfare to animal rights is a journey of sensitisation to injustices, the all-pervasive pain of which can only be understood by those who have made this transition. In a broader context, therefore, Michele's journey comes to describe those of animal rights activists world-wide who, like her, come to find themselves 'strangers in a strange land.'
Well written and well researched, sales of the book are doing extremely well.
Michele with Alfie, the traumatised baby chimp described on the last page of her book.
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