BOOKS: LOSING PARADISE
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 2000:
LOSING PARADISE by Paul G. Irwin
Square One Publishers (16 1st St., Garden City Park, NY 11040), 2000.
224 pages, paperback. $14.95
Humane Society of the U.S. president
emeritus John A. Hoyt was a Baptist
minister who became a Presbyterian minister,
took over HSUS in 1970, and took home
more money in each of the next 25 years than
the total budgets of most humane societies
that actually save animals.
Hoyt in 1975 hired Methodist minister
Paul G. Irwin as his sidekick.
Succeeding Hoyt as HSUS president, Irwin
bagged $570,325 in 1998, including salary,
expense account, and retirement benefits.
Hoyt, just before retirement,
“ a u t h o r e d” Animals In Peril: How
“Sustainable Use” Is Wiping Out The
World’s Wildlife––an expose which could
even be called prophetic of the present threat
to wildlife, elephants in particular, resulting
from endemic corruption in Zimbabwe. Hoyt
acknowledged that other members of the
HSUS staff did much of the work.
Irwin, apparently soon to retire,
“authored” Losing Paradise. Irwin also
acknowledges the input of others. But there
the comparison ends.
Subtitled “The growing threat to our
animals, our environment, and ourselves,”
Losing Paradise reads like a B a r t l e t t ’ s
Familiar Quotations of remarks by other people
who mostly say the obvious.
Between the quotes come fragments
from old HSUS reports and appeals.
It could be called a Jeremiad, but
there is no one voice of Jeremiah. The tone
staggers from the New Age quasi-mysticism
of Michael Fox to the self-encapsuled sound
bytes of Wayne Pacelle to Christian religiosity
which may be the voice of Irwin himself.
They seek little of a specific nature
except, “a return to the traditional practices of
conscientious family farmers, who cared for
their animals and their land.”
Do they mean the goatherds who
turned much of the Middle East into a desert
before Noah? The slash-and-burn farmers
who replaced the ancient forests of Amazonia
with severe soil erosion and second growth
before Columbus? Or the pioneers who extirpated
most wildlife larger than a woodchuck
from east of the Mississippi and eradicated
wolves from the Lower 48 before Henry Ford
marketed the first affordable tractor?
Old MacDonald had a farm, all
right, but––as some of us with family farm
background remember––Old Mac also
drowned kittens, shot dogs, chopped the
heads off of chickens, slashed pigs’ throats,
flogged horses, beat his wife and children,
and tacked coyotes’ bullet-riddled hides to the
barn door, below the deer skulls. His favorite
sport was cockfighting.
When he finally ruined the place,
he left it to the Dustbowl and headed west.
His sons pushed calves into veal crates, or
contracted with a conglomerate to build a pig
or chicken factory.
Like indigenous hunters who only
occasionally killed off whole species before
they had guns, Old Mac did less harm to animals
and the earth than his current counterparts
only because he lacked the knowhow
and bank credit to work on a bigger scale.
The sentimentally remembered
earth-wisdom of bygone people and times is
in truth just a projection of our disenchantment
Paul G. Irwin should know that as
well as anyone.