BOOKS: Animal Rights In South Africa

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2005:

Animal Rights In South Africa by Michele Pickover
Double Storey Books (Mercury Crescent, Wetton, Cape Town 7880,
South Africa), 2005. 209 pages, paperback. 154 rand (about $22.00
U.S. .)

Pickover is a well-known and respected member of the
pitifully small South African animal rights community. In a country
where hunting cage-reared lions has become a significant rural
industry, her book is an important contribution to the causes of
both animal welfare and animal rights, between which she draws a
sharp distinction.
Early chapters describe the harm done to wild animals by
hunters, and analyse the so-called game industry, which facilitates
the slaughter. Pickover then summarizes the 1998-1999 Tuli elephant
scandal, involving the illegal capture of baby elephants in Botswana
whose subsequent abuse in South Africa was finally brought to a
semblance of courtroom justice in 2003.
Chapter 4 is a shocking expose of commercial exploitation of
wildlife in Kruger National Park. Pickover exposes the South African
National Parks Board as in essence a game farming operation, using
the national wildlife heritage as a private stock-in-trade.

Pickover then discusses the growing South African vivisection
industry and the lingering legacy within it of apartheid. She
describes gruesome apartheid-era experiments upon primates, mainly
wild-caught baboons, designed to test weapons for use against
apartheid opponents.
A chapter on animals as food explains how South African
agribusiness has shifted to factory farming.
Pickover stresses in conclusion her effort to show that the
root cause of oppression–whether of humans or other animals– is
treating sentient beings as objects.
Pickover is at her best in researching and chronicling the
exploitation of animals, cutting through propaganda to get at
reality. She is somewhat less convincing when expounding philosophy,
particularly where she draws an uncompromising line between animal
welfare and animal rights.
Both the animal use industries and some prominent animal
rights activists have tried to drive an ideological wedge between the
concepts for more than 20 years, as if improving conditions for
animals here and now might preclude ending exploitation of animals at
some time in the future. Yet for most people, one leads toward the
It is certainly true to say that there is a vast theoretical
difference between the animal rights ideal of empty cages, as
opposed to more comfortable cages, a typical short-term animal
welfare goal. But in practice, campaigns for either goal consist of
exposing cruelty, seeking to end it. The argument that animals
should have more comfortable cages leads to asking whether no cages
might be preferable, and only in a world where that question is
asked is the ideal of no cages within reach.
–Chris Mercer & Bev Pervan
[Mercer & Pervan are authors of For The Love of Wildlife and Canned
Lion Hunting: A National Disgrace, available from

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