A Plea for the Animals (★★★★★)

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Matthieu Ricard   *   Shambhala   *   October 4, 2016   *   352 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy provided through Amazon Vine.

According to author Ricard, this book is a “natural follow-up” to a book he published last year called Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World. In A Plea for the Animals, Ricard argues that altruism, mercy, compassion, and consideration should be extended to every sentient being (i.e., every living thing that is capable of feeling pleasure and pain). He says, “Every living being has the right to live and not be the victim of suffering imposed on it by others.”

The book is divided into 12 chapters. Here’s a short breakdown:

  • Chapter 1 gives a history of the relationship between humans and animals.
  • Chapter 2 talks about how the mistreatment of animals continues because we are completely separated from their suffering.
  • Chapter 3 shares the effects of breeding and eating meat on poverty, health, and the environment. (I never realized how much grain was produced in poor countries just to support the livestock in rich ones. Yikes.)
  • Chapter 4 describes what animals live through and how they die in slaughterhouses. This chapter was horrifying.
  • Chapter 5 lists the arguments people make to justify how animals are treated (and their counterarguments).
  • Chapter 6 discusses the ways animals and humans are not so different from each other.
  • Chapter 7 makes the argument that mass killings of animals are zoocide (comparable to genocide).
  • Chapter 8 is a short discussion of moral judgment.
  • Chapter 9 talks about animal experimentation.
  • Chapter 10 talks about illegal wildlife trading.
  • Chapter 11 talks about animal experimentation.
  • Chapter 12, the final chapter, gives one last, strong argument for the human obligation to support animal rights.

After finishing the book, I can say that two chapters stick out in my mind the most. Chapter 4 gives such a detailed account of how animals live and die in slaughterhouses. It was so awful to read–but also eye-opening. I can’t get the image of a cow being slaughtered while giving birth out of my head. Or the image of baby chicks being sent through what is essentially a wood-chipper-type machine. It’s just horrible, gut-wrenching stuff. Such a brutal way to live and die, and it happens to millions of animals each week (!).

And the last chapter, Chapter 12, really got to me, too, because after reading all of the chapters leading up to it, how can I not feel convinced that, yes, no living being deserves to be treated this way? The issue feels so massive to me, and I hardly have the first clue what I’m supposed to do to change things on a grander scale. But I know that I will be eating less meat from here on out. And so will my kids. I doubt I’ll get rid of it entirely (then again, who knows?), but we are going to cut back on animal products for sure.

Ultimately, this was a gut-punch of a read. I will be thinking about it for a long time (even if I don’t even really want to, yeesh).

3 thoughts

  1. I think most people don’t WANT to hurt animals, but when it’s all done out of sight, no one has to think about what is really happening. But then when you read about all the horrible things these animals have to go through, it’s hard to ignore. It’s just awful.

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