June 2, 2011
Excerpt from Wayne Pacelle's 'The Bond': Innovation and the Spark of Life
View video message from Pacelle; book reviews; and an exclusive excerpt from Wayne's book, "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them"
From reviews of "The Bond":
“Every now and again a book appears that truly has the potential to change the ways in which we view and interact with animals.” — Psychology Today
“'The Bond' is an important read for anyone concerned about our responsibility as humans to all animals.” — Christianity Today
“A revolutionary book ..." — Denver Post
“A new and important book. It will resonate with many.” — Washington Post More reviews »
Read the latest excerpt:
Innovation and the Spark of Life
People can surprise you, and I’ve learned over the years that sometimes the best allies can be your former adversaries. It’s a rare thing to meet someone who doesn’t feel some measure of concern or sympathy for animals, or at least the occasional moment of doubt about the cruelties committed at their expense. We’re a cause made up of converts; the doors of this movement are open to anyone whose heart and mind leads them inside.
And sometimes the least likely people take you up on the invitation. Such is the pull of our bond with animals that now and then you come across someone who has every reason to turn away from the cause, yet somehow still answers the call. I think of Chuck Anderson, a fellow you wouldn’t expect to care much for wildlife and for sharks in particular. If anyone is entitled to despise these creatures, or even to wish them misfortune, it would be Chuck, who encountered a shark in June of 2000.
He was swimming in the warm waters off the coast of Alabama in the Gulf of Mexico when a bull shark suddenly attacked. No dolphins around this time: it was just Chuck and the shark. He tried to fend off the animal, but its first bite took off four of his fingers. The shark then spun around and aimed for Chuck’s midsection—this time doing little damage. The third and final bite was the worst, severing Chuck’s arm below the elbow. The shark then retreated and disappeared, and Chuck struggled to shore, grievously wounded. Bleeding profusely, he went into shock. He was saved only by some fast-working medics, and in the end he felt lucky that he lost only a limb.
Nine years after the attack, in July 2009, Chuck and eight other shark attack victims made the unlikeliest trek. They went to Capitol Hill to ask Congress to halt the needless killing of sharks. Specifically, they made the case for a ban on shark finning—the practice of catching sharks, cutting off their dorsal fins, and then dumping their bleeding bodies in the ocean. All of this to make shark fin soup, considered a delicacy by tens of millions of Chinese. Every year close to a hundred million sharks are killed for their fins, causing untold cruelty and devastation to the many species worldwide.
If it takes a big man to lose an arm to a shark and still rise in opposition to the wrongs done to these creatures, what are we to say of people who perpetuate such cruelties, all for a bowl of soup? I wouldn’t necessarily quarrel with people harboring ill will toward animals who had attacked them. But the sight of these men and women championing the cause of animals, in spite of bitter experiences, is an exceptional expression of human altruism. They didn’t blame sharks for the harm they suffered; they traveled the path from forgiveness to advocacy. And their example is more than a witness to Congress, it is a witness to all of us?showing the human capacity to look beyond ourselves and find goodness in all creatures.
This story is unusual in degree, but I’ve seen the same spirit in action all my adult life, in the company of people who take up the cause of the defenseless. And though the issues and arguments have changed over the years, the basic convictions have endured. At its best, the cause of animal protection is one of the more altruistic concerns you’ll find. It’s a cause that arises from some of the best instincts of humanity. It reminds us that animals have claims of their own in the world. They are not just here to be used and killed. They are not just things, or resources, or commodities, or targets, or economic opportunities in the waiting. Animals have the same spark of life that we have, formed from the same dust of the earth. They want to live just a badly as we do. Often, they experience life as we do. They can feel playful or angry, affectionate or afraid, sad or joyful.
In the end, the case for animals arises from the recognition of these qualities, and from the sense of kinship they instill. The case stands on its merits and needs no other concerns or connections to give it importance. Yet today, more than ever, there is indeed a close connection between cruelty and other pressing social concerns, and that reinforces the case for animal protection in the modern era and makes it relevant to everyone of us.
Published by William Morrow/Harper Collins, "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them" is the product of HSUS President & CEO Wayne Pacelle’s more than two decades as a national leader on animal welfare issues.
Wayne Pacelle's The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them is for sale now in both paperback and hardcover. The Humane Society of the United States receives a portion of the advances paid by the publisher, and possible future royalties.
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