BOOKS: Animal Instinct
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2006:
Animal Instinct by Dorothy B. Hayes
Universe (2021 Pine Lake Rd., Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512), 2005.
234 pages, paperback. $15.95.
Animal Instinct author Dorothy B. Hayes was formerly known as
Dot Hayes, longtime staff writer and public relations director for
Friends of Animals. Earlier, Hayes covered animal issues for
several Connecticut newspapers.
Animal Instinct is an autobiographical novel describing just
over a year in the life of an advocacy group staff writer named
Eleanor Aquitane Green.
Structurally and thematically, Animal Instinct is a “working
girl story,” about coping with the pressures of a high-stress job
under a demanding and often capricious boss, in an all-female
environment where the rules of hierarchy are much more flexible–and
therefore treacherous–than in the male-dominated news business.
There is history in Animal Instinct, as characters inform
Green of background in summaries that are generally accurate in gist,
off by up to 10 years in detail–but the mistakes are not more
egregious than those made in the several formal histories that Hayes
lists as sources.
Hayes also tries to educate readers about the issues that
form the background to her plot, at times to the detriment of the
Readers who are not familiar with the internal politics of
national advocacy groups may be surprised at some of the goings-on,
as Green is.
Insiders may be surprised, however, that Hayes describes
mostly business-as-usual. Hayes’ tenure at FoA spanned high-level
opposition infiltration of three national animal rights groups,
several instances of animal rights groups attempting hostile
takeovers of each other, an explosive sexual harassment case at one
group, and several financial scandals, but none of this gets more
than a passing mention.
Hayes’ most successful accomplishment is melding aspects of
multiple real-life models into single characters. Longtime animal
advocacy insiders will enjoy trying to match the characters with
real-life counterparts, but will often find that there is no one
Green’s boss Honor Vine, for example, combines elements of
Friends of Animals’ president Priscilla Feral, FoA founder Alice
Herrington, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk, International Society
for Animal Rights founder Helen Jones, and perhaps Animal Welfare
Institute founder Christine Stevens.
Some of these also help to model other characters.
Relatively few, other than bit players, appear to be based on just
one person, and even then, one female minor character seems to be
modeled on a man.
Mild satire is tempered by Hayes’ still somewhat star-struck
regard for animal advocates and their work. Many accomplished but
rarely recognized street-level activists are saluted in passing
introductions of characters. Occasionally Hayes clutters a paragraph
with mentions of names, but at times she also memorably and
recognizably sketches people worthy of note in just a few lines.
Animal Instinct almost certainly will not amuse everyone who
helped to inspire it, but is an entertaining tribute to the people
behind the stars of the animal cause.