Fear of the Animal Planet: The Hidden History of Animal Resistance By Jason Hribal
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Author: Jason Hribal
Reviewed by: Jeffrey St. Clair

Publisher: AK Press

Jason Hribal
CounterPunch
ISBN13: 9781849350266)

Review:

Jeffrey St. Clair, Editor, CounterPunch

In Fear of the Animal Planet, historian Jason Hribal takes a radical, but logical, step beyond Singer. Hribal reverses the perspective and tells the story of liberation from the animalsí points-of-view.

This is history written from the end of the chain, from inside the cage, from the depths of the tank. Hribalís chilling investigation travels much further than Singer dared to go. For Hribal, the issue isnít merely harm and pain, but consent. The confined animals havenít given their permission to be held captive, forced to work, fondled or publicly displayed for profit.

Hribal skillfully excavates the hidden history of captive animals as active agents in their own liberation. His book is a harrowing, and curiously uplifting, chronicle of resistance against some of the cruelest forms of torture and oppression this side of Abu Ghraib prison.

Hribal takes us behind the scenes of circus and the animal park, exposing methods of training involving sadistic forms of discipline and punishment, where elephants and chimps are routinely beaten and terrorized into submission.

We witness from the animalsí perspective the tyrannical trainers, creepy dealers in exotic species, arrogant zookeepers and sinister hunters, who slaughtered the parents of young elephants and apes in front of their young before they captured them. We are taken inside the cages, tents and tanks, where captive elephants, apes and sea mammals are confined in wretched conditions with little medical care.

All of this is big business, naturally. Each performing dolphin can generate more than a million dollars a year in revenue, while orcas can produce twenty times that much.

This is a history of violent resistance to such abuses. Here are stories of escapes, subterfuges, work stoppages, gorings, rampages, bitings, and, yes, revenge killings. Each trampling of a brutal handler with a bull-hook, each mauling of a taunting visitor, each drowning of a tormenting trainer is a crack in the old order that treats animals as property, as engines of profit, as mindless objects of exploitation and abuse. The animal rebels are making their own history and Jason Hribal serves as their Michelet.

Hribalís heroic profiles in animal courage show how most of these violent acts of resistance were motivated by their abusive treatment and the miserable conditions of their confinement. These animals are far from mindless. Their actions reveal memory not mere conditioning, contemplation not instinct, and, most compellingly, discrimination not blind rage. Again and again, the animals are shown to target only their abusers, often taking pains to avoid trampling bystanders. Animals, in other words, acting with a moral conscience.


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