While in the process of going vegan, I tore through several vegan-themed books within a couple weeks. Among them: Vegan Freak by Bob and Jenna Torres, Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, and, of course, The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams, a book which has profoundly changed my life in more ways than I can count (see: Defiant Daughters).
I read these volumes because each offered various insights to aid my transition to veganism. In 2005, the year I went vegan, there weren’t as many resources available online and as an eighteen-year-old, I didn’t know many peers who were vegan. Books provided information, motivation, and a plan for me to eschew animal products as well as arm myself with language to share my transition with others.
As I approach my eight-year vegan anniversary, I’ll admit I’ve really lagged when it comes to reading animal rights books. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose of vegan books for already-vegan audiences. The value of vegan cookbooks for vegans is pretty obvious–who isn’t a fan of new recipe collections? But what about animal rights books for those of us who have already committed to fighting animal welfare injustices? I thought that since I didn’t need to watch Meat Your Meat ever again in order to know why I wouldn’t want to use animal products, there may not be a strong need for me to continue to read vegan books post-transition. After all, didn’t I already “know the deal”?
After reading Animal Camp: Reflections On A Decade of Love, Hope and Veganism at Catskill Animal Sanctuary by Kathy Stevens, I’ve realized why it’s still important for longstanding (ish?) vegans like myself to continue to educate ourselves about animal welfare concerns through vegan books and media. Stevens’ book is beautifully written, filled with stories and anecdotes about what life is really like working at Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS), and it has helped me see that there’s still so much I can learn as a vegan about animal welfare issues.
Before reading Animal Camp, I had no idea that animal hoarding cases were some of the top sources of abused animals in need of rescue at places like CAS. I believed animal hoarding was rare and properly addressed under our legal system, but the truth is that the problem is much more prevalent in the United States than I could have imagined, and through archaic laws, animal hoarders are often able to get off with probation and nearly always quickly become repeat offenders. Another shocking fact: many hoarders are even able to receive “animal sanctuary” designations to mask their actions. Stevens describes a chilling seizure of abused animals from another so-called animal sanctuary where starving dogs were literally eating lamas alive. Truly awful to read, yes, but even more awful that it goes on. I hope to continue to learn more about animal hoarding so that I can become a more informed animal welfare advocate.
Another amazing aspect of Animal Camp is that it is filled with heartwarming stories that reveal the diversity of personalities and habits of various animal species at CAS without a trace of anthropomorphism. Think stories of chickens nuzzling up to goats, an abused, malnourished horse and a quadruplet of Giardia-ridden baby cows making complete recoveries due to excellent round-the-clock sanctuary care and their remarkable resilience. Stevens reminds us that every animal is an individual, and that the best thing animal advocates can do is truly to go vegan. Worse than animal hoarding (as bad as it is) is the systematic cruelty inherent to animal agriculture industries.
The depth of information and inspiring stories contained in Animal Camp has renewed my vegan spirit. I know it has and will continue to allow me to be a better vegan advocate and continues to inspire me to be a lifelong vegan. I think it would appeal as easily to a non-vegan as a vegan, but am grateful that as a vegan I have had the opportunity to read it. I can’t wait to read another vegan book soon! Grab your copy of Animal Camp here.