BOOKS: Williams/DeMello, Smith/Dauncey, Mouras
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2008:
Animals Matter: the case for animal protection
by Erin E. Williams & Margo DeMello
Promytheus Books (59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228), 2007.
420 pages, paperback. $20.00.
Building An Ark: 101 solutions to animal suffering
by Ethan Smith with Guy Dauncey
New Society Publishers (P.O. Box 189, Gabriola Island, British
Columbia V0R 1X0, Canada),
2007. 270 pages, paperback, $24.95.
I Care About Animals by Belton P. Mouras * A.S. Barnes & Co.,
1977. 254 pages, paperback. Out of print.
Written as introductions to animal advocacy, Animals Matter
and Building An Ark will not contain much news for ANIMAL PEOPLE
readers; but they may be timely, useful, and appropriate gifts for
young friends who care about animals, and would like to become more
involved on their behalf. Either would be suitable for people from
high school age to recent university graduates.
Both address potential activists who prefer to become
well-informed before reacting, who think about tactics and try to be
effective. Unlike several superficially similar handbooks which are
published as recruiting tools for national animal advocacy
organizations, Animals Matter and Building An Ark are both
essentially nonpartisan, somewhat of a surprise in view that Animals
Matter co-authors Erin Williams and Margo DeMello are employees,
respectively, of the Humane Society of the U.S. and the House Rabbit
Though similar in content and purpose, Animals Matter and
Building An Ark are structured quite differently, with a different
Animals Matter is written in conventional chapters,
presenting the issues in seven topical clusters. People who like to
sit down and read a book will tend to favor Animals Matter, if not
overwhelmed by the content. Much more of Animals Matter is about
problems than about solutions, not because the authors are
deliberately negative but because the problems tend to be much more
complex than such possible responses as not eating meat, not wearing
fur, and sterilizing pets.
Building An Ark is solution-oriented. Issues are outlined
relatively briefly, with more emphasis on conservation and
endangered species than in Animals Matter, and possible responses
are presented at greater length, albeit still in short formats.
Building An Ark has the look and feel of a series of web pages,
meant for one-at-a-time reading, not necessarily in sequential order.
Unfortunately, while the factual content of Animals Matter
appears to be as sound and up-to-date as one could expect from a
book, Building An Ark includes significant errors, including an
assertion that the number of dogs and cats killed each year in U.S.
shelters is nearly three times higher than the actuality, which is
quite bad enough.
Building An Ark, produced in Canada by Canadian authors,
includes a note on the back of the title page that “New Society
Publishers acknowledges the support of the Government of Canada
through the Book Publishing Industry Development Program for our
Though other branches of the Canadian government continue to
defend and promote sealing and the fur trade, there are clearly
internal differences of opinion.
Veteran activists, and probably most observers over the age
of 30, might describe both Animals Matter and Building An Ark as
“animal rights” literature. The authors of both volumes are
certainly familiar with the metaphor and philosophy of “animal
rights,” and the approaches that both volumes emphasize are
consistent with the mainstream of “animal rights” philosophical
theory. Yet the phrase “animal rights” is not used prominently in
Animals Matter, and appears only twice in Building An Ark.
Perhaps this is simply to ease entry into school libraries.
Alternatively, one might view both books as essentially “post-animal
rights,” in that the authors waste little time and ink arguing that
animals should be recognized as sentient beings, deserving kind
treatment. Instead, taking the agreement of readers about this
point as a given, they rapidly move from abstract theory into
Paradoxically, this was also the approach of perhaps the
very first handbook for animal rights activists that actually used
the term “animal rights.” I Care About Animals, by Belton P.
Mouras, appeared in 1977, just one year after the late Henry
Spira’s successful demonstrations against cat experiments performed
at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City signaled
the rise of animal rights activism as a new chapter in animal
Mouras took note of the then young animal rights movement,
succinctly explained the differences between “animal rights” and
“animal welfare,” and seemed to take as a given that authentic
animal advocates would welcome the advent of “animal rights”
advocacy, as a more dynamic descendant of the “humane” and “animal
Mouras acknowledged that some aspects of “animal rights”
would challenge conventional and complacent “humane” and “animal
welfare” thinking, but believed that accepting and responding
positively to the challenge would help to demonstrate sincerity to
Mouras, now 84, was the son of a disabled sharecropper from
the Louisiana bayou country. As a boy he successfully raised
raccoons who had been orphaned by fur trappers and coonhunters. In
his teens, he built a local ice cream sales empire, and tried to
advance the ideas that later built the Dairy Queen chain, but lacked
the capital and credit needed to put them into effect.
Enlisting in the U.S. Army two years before the U.S. entered
World War II, Mouras rose to the rank of master sergeant, retired
after 20 years in 1960, and found his real calling as national
director of livestock programs for the then young Humane Society of
Starting with admittedly almost no relevant knowledge
whatever, Mouras rapidly absorbed everything he could learn about
every phase of humane work, bringing to it the perspective of an
experienced outsider, and an entrepreneurial spirit that both
rapidly increased the revenue of every organization he worked with,
and attracted considerable suspicion from observers on all sides of
Splitting with HSUS after the death of founder Fred Myers,
Mouras in 1968 started the Animal Protection Institute with $5,000
borrowed from International Society for Animal Rights founder Helen
Jones. API under Mouras pioneered direct mail fundraising, made
aggressive use of newspaper ads to boost campaigns and attract new
donors, and weathered lawsuits from HSUS and several other
An internal coup d’etat eventually ousted Mouras and
effectively disabled API, which recently merged into Born Free USA
after 20-odd relatively undistinguished years under other leaders.
Mouras went on to found United Animal Nations and the annual Summit
for the Animals conference of animal advocacy group leaders. He was
also instrumental in the growth of Primarily Primates.
I Care About Animals mixed scraps of autobiography with
summaries of major animal issues as Mouras perceived them 30 years
ago, some overview of animal advocacy history, and a great deal of
tactical advice, split into three categories: strategic advice
about organizational relationships, technical advice about building
organizations and running campaigns, and general advice about
persuading the public.
Mouras also included profiles of three of his favorite
allies: the late actress Kim Novak, the late Velma “Wild Horse
Annie” Johnson, and the candy heiress Helen Brach, who bankrolled
many of Mouras’ campaigns, but disappeared shortly before I Care
About Animals went to press.
Mouras discussed Brach’s disappearance, wondering if she
might have been murdered by representatives of animal use industries,
but did not anticipate that the perpetrators would more than 20 years
later turn out to be a ring who killed expensive race horses and show
horses to collect insurance money.
There was at the time still hope that Brach had for some
reason vanished of her own volition. Mouras wrote of her as if still
alive, and made no mention of her estate, which was meant to
benefit animals but because of a badly written will ended up
benefiting many other causes that seem to have been of little
interest to Brach during her life.
I Care About Animals outlined most of the methods that the
animal rights movement has used ever since, often with diminishing
returns as the times have changed. The only major amendments in
animal advocacy tactics since Mouras wrote have involved the use of
technology such as videography and online communications that in 1977
Mouras spotlighted issues that are all still with us,
including sealing, whaling, the fur trade, dog and cat
overpopulation, wild horse removal from federal lands, and
laboratory use of animals. Williams and DeMello cover almost all of
the same topics, and Smith and Dauncy cover most. In each case,
though the issues remain, their shapes have evolved, and in only
one instance, the ongoing Atlantic Canadian seal hunt, has the
situation become demonstrably worse instead of better. In that
instance, the seal hunt was suspended for 10 years, 1984-1993,
before being revived and made bigger than before.
Despite some setbacks on almost every front, organized
animal advocacy has clearly had a positive impact, and most
negatives–such as that more animals than ever are being used in U.S.
labs–can be countered with context. For instance, that the
numbers of animals used in labs have increased because the volume of
scientific research now being done is as much as 100 times greater
than 30 years ago, offsetting the drastic reduction in typical
numbers of animals used per experiment.
The most remarkable aspect of I Care About Animals, in
hindsight, is that Mouras presciently anticipated the institutional
direction of the animals’ cause.
Mouras detailed a growth-by-division phase in which new
organizations would split off and grow from the trunks of those
already in existence. After that, Mouras expected an epoch in which
founders of strong personality would often speak of working together,
while usually failing even to collaborate on projects of mutual
concern. During this phase, Mouras anticipated, leaders would test
a variety of different issues, ideas, and approaches, each
attracting some public support, thereby building the cause. Only
after that, after the retirement of the most fractious founders,
and after many years of donor migration to the most successful
groups, did Mouras expect the merger phase now underway, in which
organizations of converging perspective would combine strengths.
Ironically, Mouras seems to have later ignored much of his
own advice. Mouras began United Animal Nations and the Summit for
the Animals as efforts to achieve the movement unity that in 1977 he
saw as unlikely and unnecessary until collaborations and mergers