Malise Yun’s Book Critique

This book critique was written by Malise Yun for her History 147: U.S. History II course in Winter 2015.

Beers, Diane. For the Prevention of Cruelty: The History and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the United States. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press, 2006.

Should animals be anthropomorphized so they have human characteristics? According to animal right activists, they should have rights; Rights that protect them from cruelty. What once was a satirical subject begins to parallel the ambition of abolitionists. For the Prevention of Cruelty follows the growth of support for Animal Rights from philosopher, Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century to the heat of Animal Rights Activism in the middle of the 19th century, and concludes during the mid-20th century when medical technological advances began to complicate the ethics of using animals for research. The Animal Rights Movement occurred while railroads grew a bigger consumer market, the civil war brought up the abolition of slaves and women were participating in reforms; and all affected how the movement evolved.

Beers writes that the protection of animals became more than a physical concern; it became an ethical concern too. Although laws were passed to protect animals, they were hardly enforced until the development of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in 1866. Until the ASPCA, work animals (cattle, horses, sheep and mules) would be worked to death by their owner because they were considered property. The ASPCA became an organization that provided protection to animals and knowledge to people.

Beers strives to argue the question, “Should animals have rights?” while providing historical background to show how animals were thought about and cared for. Beers takes you on a journey through the 19th century with animal rights as the focus and shows how the matter has been shaped through historical events during the century.  It has become something incredibly diverse and new to the people, but was confidently supported.  Many of the advocates were ones who’ve been campaigning for other issues too, like abolition. They would be middle to upper class and reach out to educate the youth to promote compassion towards animals.

By looking in the past, Beers shares what she has found out about where the protections for animals has come from and extends from popular conceptions to academia. Within one chapter are different animal campaigns which Beers gives insight of how different types of animals were treated. Beers writes one about the masked secrets of Circuses in the 1800s which exploits the cruel treatment of performance animals. Beers goes in depth in specific animal cruelty cases. The following chapters are about how animal rights organizations reached out and tackled strenuous issues.

Diane Beers provides a wealth of information in a journalistic way and includes a noteworthy quote to begin each chapter which makes it appealing and quickly comprehensible. This book has been sufficiently researched and provides information from every major animal rights organization. The author begins to write from a modern and popular knowledge point of view; with the reader’s knowledge of there being organizations today that are established to protect and provide for animals. Beers provides an honest and unbiased account of the history for animal rights. She tells the readers of the rough starts and failures of the movement, along with the successes that led to the victorious protections animals get today.

Last Updated January 7, 2022