Happy World Animal Day!
World Animal Day has been celebrated around the globe for many years, initially believed to have started in Florence, Italy in 1931 at a convention of ecologists. October 4 was chosen as a tribute to St. Francis of Assisi, seen by many as the patron saint of animals and the environment. Churches around the world observe World Animal Day on the Sunday closest to October 4 with a Blessing of the Animals, while secular celebrations occur throughout that week; the theme always relates to celebrating animal life.
Animal shelters also use the day or week to hold fundraising and adoption events for homeless cats and dogs; wildlife groups organize promotional displays or school visits; and individuals can donate to animal charities or sponsor a shelter animal. Some organizations use the week around World Animal Day to focus on related – and more troubling – aspects of our relationship with animals; for example, World Vegetarian Day is October 2, inviting people to consider the animals on our plates.
What are you doing to celebrate World Animal Day? Consider adopting...Toronto’s shelters and animal rescue organizations are always looking for new adoptive homes – find your new family member at the Toronto Humane Society, Toronto Cat Rescue, Toronto Animal Services... sadly, there is no shortage of organizations working to deal with our pet over-population problem. Petfinder.com is a good place to start to get a sense of who’s available... please don’t buy animals from pet stores (unless they’re working with a rescue group) or breeders – you may be inadvertently supporting puppy mills. More importantly, when you buy from a breeder, that’s one more animal in a shelter who won’t be adopted and may end up being killed.
As always, the library has lots of books which explore our relationship with the furred, feathered and finned animals with whom we share the planet. Books about cats (covered recently by one of our guest contributors to Who’s Reading What?) and dogs galore, but also books and DVDs about the other ways in which animals are used and abused in factory farming, for fur, in experimentation and for entertainment. Only a few of my favs are below but check out the full list on our Recommended Reading page or suggest your own below.
No Shelter Here: Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs
Rob Laidlaw, 2011
Local animal advocate and chartered biologist Rob Laidlaw explores the world of homeless, free-ranging, mistreated and exploited dogs, and the challenges they face. But he also focuses on the people he calls "dog champions" – those who dedicate their lives to helping dogs. Enhanced with photos, informational sidebars and inspiring good-news stories, this book is good for the younger dog champions in your family and life.
Peter Singer, 1990
The first edition of this book has been described as the ‘book that started a revolution’. A bit grandiose perhaps but Singer, a renowned philosopher and bioethicist, was one of the first to raise questions about our relationship with animals that made many squirm. Luckily he also offers solutions to those weighty social and moral questions.
The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals
Jenny Brown, 2012
After spending her childhood fighting bone cancer, the author did a lot of soul-searching and exploring before connecting with farm animals. She questioned her Southern Baptist upbringing as she learned about slaughterhouse abuses – and then changed her life for the better.
Upton Sinclair, 2003
It’s hard to believe that this exposé of the meat industry is more than 100 years old but so much of Sinclair’s criticism still rings true. This Pulitzer Prize winning novelist explores the exploitation of the working class and animal cruelty in industrial Chicago through the eyes of his character, Jurgis Rudkus. Rudkus, an immigrant, sees his life fall apart losing his family, his health and his home. He becomes a labour organizer, a socialist and a vegetarian. Sinclair’s novel led to public outcry and moderate changes to laws regarding meat production. Sinclair himself spoke of his book’s success saying, “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.”
Jim Clark, Louie Psihoyos 2009 DVD
A small, deceptively beautiful ocean-side cove in Japan is the real-life site of untold dolphin suffering and cruelty. An elite team of filmmakers, free divers and activists embark on a mission to get video footage and photographs surreptitiously – they are able to shine a light on this deadly secret.
Forks Over Knives: The Plant-based Way to Health
Pamela Popper, Gene Stone 2011
The research is in – a plant-based diet is kinder to the animals, kinder to the environment and much kinder to you, both body and soul.