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Fear of the Animal Planet: The Hidden History of Animal Resistance (Counterpunch) Paperback – January 11, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"Animal fables, jungle books, Aesopian tales were the discursive evidence of cross-species interaction that survived into modernity as children’s literature. When the carceral replaced the domestic system, as the zoos, circuses, and laboratories became the primary site of interaction replacing the barnyard and the wild wood, the animals began to resist. Here are their hidden stories. Jason Hribal takes us behind the zoo scenes, the phoney exhibits, and cute displays to reveal an ugly economy of exploitation, international trafficking in exotic animals, over-work, cruelty in training, incessant and insolent teasing from the public. He chronicles the escapes, the assaults, the demand of food, and the refusals to reproduce that resulted. Here is animal resistance neither “wild” nor “instinctual” but responses to specific injustices. Single-minded, eccentric, and delightfully cranky, Hribal is the annalist non pareil of animal escape. With light but unforgiving misanthropy he carefully names the animals (the pachyderms – Jumbo and Tinkerbelle, the primates – Moe, Kumang, Little Joe, the sea lions, dolphins, and Orcas (Corky, Kasatka) while leaving the keepers, trainers, and showmen in shameful anonymity. From the escape of Tatiana, the Siberian tiger from the San Francisco zoo, to the latest orca killing Hribal relentlessly gathers the evidence to witness these risings of the creatures. "—Peter Linebaugh, author of The Magna Carta Manifesto and The London Hanged

"Jason Hribal stacks up the evidence, and the conclusions are inescapable. Zoos, circuses and theme parks are the strategic hamlets of American’s long war against nature itself." —Susan Davis, author Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience

"Jason Hribal's Fear of the Animal Planet does a great service in chronicling the resistance of nonhuman animals against the multiplicity of human institutions of exploitation and oppression. It is a timely and vitally important book that promises to dramatically reshape debates in science, law, philosophy, and the burgeoning -- but largely sterile -- field of animal studies. One radical upshot of the book is to extend the notion of agency to nonhuman animals and to show many of them -- such as elephants, tigers, and orcas -- to be political in their revolt against human oppression. Moreover, humanists and leftists of all stripes, cannot, without embarrassment, persist in reducing nonhuman animals to the status of objects while restricting the discourse of intentionality, rebellion, autonomy, and liberation to human actors only. In addition, "animal advocates" will have to check their own historical biases and speciesist distortions upon learning that moral progress and the animal ethics paradigm shift was not brought about solely through their own campaigns. Progressive change is also driven by nonhuman animals themselves in their revolt against their captors and in the evolving awareness in human society their resistance precipitates. Unfortunately, as fascinating and chronic as their self-liberation struggles have been throughout the world -- in zoos, circuses, and other exploitative institutions -- their defiance to human supremacism cannot amount to a revolution without the organized radical politics of enlightened and militant sectors of humanity. The fate of nonhuman animal species continues to hang on whether or not humans can overcome the violent proclivities of their own animality and dismantle the omnicidal machines of global capitalism. This book, however, takes us far in the right direction toward grasping the complexity of nonhuman animals' emotions, minds, and social life such that we can recognize them as political agents and shapers of history in their own right."—Dr. Steven Best, Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Texas, El Paso, co-editor of Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals

"Zoos, Circuses and Guantanamo Bay...Beatened, whiped and shot! Oh why?! Jason Hribal exposes the perverted species we really are. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is but a dream. Especially for our fellow beings."—Allison Lance, director Galapagos Preservation Society

From the Back Cover

A Siberian tiger at the San Francisco Zoo leaps a 12-foot high wall and mauls three visitors who had been tormenting her, killing one. A circus elephant tramples and gores a sadistic trainer, who had repeatedly fed her lit cigarettes. A pair of orangutans at the San Diego Zoo steal a crowbar and screwdriver and break-out of their enclosure. An orca at Sea World snatches his trainer into the pool and holds her underwater until she drowns. What's going on here? Are these mere accidents? Simply cases of animals acting on instinct? That's what the zoos and animal theme parks would have you believe. But historian Jason Hribal tells a different story. In the most provocative book on animal rights since Peter Singer's Animal Liberation, Hribal argues persuasively that these escapes and attacks are deliberate, that the animals are acting with intent, that they are asserting their own desires for freedom. Fear of the Animal Planet is a harrowing, and curiously uplifting, chronicle of resistance against the captivity and torture of animals.

Jason Hribal is an historian and educator. He is the contemporary editor of John Oswald’s 1791 classic, The Cry of Nature.

Jeffrey St. Clair is co-editor of CounterPunch and author of Born Under a Bad Sky.

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Product Details

  • Series: Counterpunch
  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: AK Press (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849350264
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849350266
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,556,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Voltairine Michel on January 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm one of those people who has agreed with Hribal's opinions on animal revolt long before this book came out. So, perhaps I am a bit partial. But, this is the first work of nonfiction in a while that I have been excited to pick up. It's well written, flows really well, and the material inside it is fascinating. It's sure to excite and educate even the most well read on animal liberation issues and is sure to make anyone (pro-animal lib or not) think very hard about their own perceptions of other animals. I definitely recommend that everyone read it and I think it can be interesting and exciting for people of all interests and backgrounds- not just animal liberationists or anti-authoritarians.

My main criticism is that I wish it was longer. It's only about 160 short pages and it feels a little unfinished. There were also some typos as others have said, but I'm of the radical belief that if we understand each other, there isn't much need to focus on grammatical or spelling errors (and also it is often a way for people to try to criticize something they have no other way to criticize). It's a great first run for this author and I am sure future printings will be cleaned up. I hope Hribal will write more books on this and other related topics.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Kimba W. Lion VINE VOICE on January 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book tries to make a valuable point, something that is sorely lacking in our societal consciousness but that anyone who actually pays attention to animals knows: That they are as intellectual and emotional in their own ways as any human.

I could not and would not try to deny that basic point. But this book is not recommendable to the public at large. To get John Q. to get that point requires altering the basic way our society trains us to think about animals from the time we're born. That is a huge undertaking, and one cannot afford to undermine the effort because change will naturally be resisted anyway. Unfortunately, there are several aspects of this book that do undermine its effort.

The most detailed example of animal activism in the book is that of Tatiana, the tiger who, according to Hribal, was tormented by three people and who then escaped from her zoo enclosure to go after those three people and ONLY those three people, in a purposeful and planned act. She did not act at random, she did not harm anyone else. She targeted her tormentors. While in my heart I believe that is the way the situation happened, there are a lot of conflicting reports and testimony about the incident. Hribal needed to provide definite sources and evidence, and he does not. This hurts his effort a great deal.

Animal attacks make news. The idea that the animal was acting in self-defense or was goaded into such action does not make the news. Bringing the idea of animals as intelligent emotional creatures to the forefront of our societal knowledge is a very vital necessity for them and for us.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By ghost ornamental on January 22, 2011
Format: Paperback
This was an excellent book, concisely illustrating in case after case the self-evident facts of animal agency, culture, and avid emotional life. In this it is an extremely valuable work and a much-needed contribution to animal liberation theory. It combines optimistic tales such as those of Moe, an escaped chimpanzee who eventually evaded recapture permanently, or elephants whose dogged resistance finally forced zoos to capitulate, with many more terrible cases in which these animals die in captivity at their torturers' hands. Overall, eye-opening, harrowing, and important.

I must echo a previous reviewer and say I wish it had been longer, and I also hope this is only one of many from this author. I should like, for example, a book about similar resistance found among inmates of the other great gulag archipelago to which our cruel culture consigns animals: factory farms, milk-extraction facilities, ranches, etc.

My greatest criticism is the proofreading. Whomever was responsible for it completely failed. There are frequently two typos to a page, or sometimes one per page for six, seven pages consecutively. It culminates in the epilogue, every page of which is headed with the embarrassing nonsense fragment "When Orca's Resist." Really? Nobody noticed that on the way to print thousands of copies? The manuscript was clearly just run through a spellcheck; the errors are all omitted, misplaced, or incorrect words. My advice: go to any university, find an English undergrad, and pay her/him $100 to red-pen the thing. Problem solved. Here's hoping the second edition's proofreader actually reads it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. Haeckler on March 23, 2011
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All the hype falls away once you read this book. Zoos are killing animals more than preserving them. Dolphins hate their trainers and try to kill them. Orangutans are brilliant in their efforts to escape an imprisonment they didn't deserve. Chimps and circus elephants are abused. Yet the horror you feel at the way these intelligent animals are treated is offset by awe at their amazing escapes and the way they do manage to get their revenge against those who have tormented them. After reading this book I never want to go to a zoo, circus, or dolphin show again.
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