Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Becoming Sensitized to Animals in Books

I read a lot. A whole lot. Over the years, I've noticed that the role of animals jumps out at me in any book I read. It may be just a couple of pages or even a couple of sentences, but it's enough to make a lasting impression.

Here is one example. I read "Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World." It's a book by Tracy Kidder about Dr. Paul Farmer, an international health advocate who made his name from his work in Haiti and his fight against Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR). While his work is amazing, I personally believe he has a real martyr complex and a huge ego that is carefully hidden in the book, but that's another issue.

There were various brief descriptions of the poor animals of Haiti. How thin the donkeys were and how their backs were ravaged from the loads they carried. The cockfights that are so popular in Haiti. These brief descriptions are less than 1 percent of the book, but they meant something to me because I've become sensitized to them.

There was one story that took up less than one page that is the animal legacy of the book to me. When Paul Farmer was a medical student, he had to do a vivisection. He was disturbed by it. He had to take a life to save humans. He was staying with a Catholic priest who talked to him all night about it. The next morning the priest made a joke of the whole thing by waking Farmer up the next morning by pretending to be a dog and scratching at Farmer's door.

I thought that was a truly vile thing to have occurred. It wasn't funny and I was disappointed that the writer made no statement about that. It's stuck in my mind and tainted the book. But I wonder how many other readers would remember it, unless they are especially aware and concerned about animals themselves.


Bea Elliott said...

This is true... I think we become resensitized to animals in all ways, but books (especially kids books) intrique me.

I always like to see how they portray animals on farms... First as "friends" - or "pets". Then as the books aim for older kids - they start declaring things like: chickens give us eggs and cows give us milk and meat... etc. It's very subtle - but the attempt to indoctrinate is clearly noticable. Makes me wish I knew then... what I know now. I would have told them and all their animal killing ways, to go jump in a big lake! :)

Denbeath said...

I would have remembered that. I find it truly disturbing that anyone could make a joke about animal suffering. I find animals even more deserving of life than humans. Animals are not self-serving, greedy, barbaric, calculating sociopaths. I agree with Mark Twain: 'The more I know about people, the better I like my dog.'
The only thing that gives me hope are people like you who blog & fight for AR.
Many blessing to you.

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