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Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals [Paperback]

Karen Dawn
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 29, 2008

The animal rights movement has reached a tipping point. No longer a fringe extremist cause, it has become a social concern that leading members of society endorse and young people embrace. From Michael Vick's dog fighting scandal to CNN’s airing of the eye-opening film Blackfish, animal rights issues have hit the headlines—and are being championed by students and senators, pop stars and producers, and actors and activists.

Don't you want to be part of the conversation? In Thanking the Monkey, Karen Dawn covers pets, fur, fashion, food, animal testing, activism, and more. But as the title playfully suggests, this isn't like any previous animal rights book. Thanking the Monkey is light on lectures meant to make you feel guilty if you're not yet a leather-eschewing vegan. It lets you have fun as you learn why so many of your favorite actors and musicians won't eat or wear animals. And you'll laugh over scores of cartoons by Dan Piraro'sBizzaro and other animal-friendly comics.

This fun primer for a smart and socially committed generation delivers some serious surprises in the form of facts and figures about the treatment of animals. Yes, it will shock you with tales of primates still used in animal testing on nicotine or killed for oven cleaner. But it will also let you lighten up and laugh a little as we work out how to do a better job of thanking the monkey.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Animal rights activist Dawn is familiar to readers of her memorable opinion pieces for the Washington Post as well as her daily e-newsletter DawnWatch, but her first book should gain her a wider audience. This is a cogent and thoroughly researched overview of all the major issues in animal rights, past and present, She defines animal rights more loosely than some would like, focusing on the general movement to advance the interest of animals and discourage the use of animals as objects of commerce. Her goal is to tell you everything you wanted to know about animal rights—but were afraid to get into a fight about—and to let you weigh that information against your own values, and she succeeds admirably. Often supplying hilarious but pointed illustrations and quotes from well-known animal lovers such as Bill Maher and Natalie Portman, she illuminates the use of animals as pets, entertainment, food, in scientific testing and the Green movement. This has the potential to become a big hit for a general reading audience that wants to know what the fuss is about animal rights, as well as the many college students at the forefront of animal rights activism. (Feb. 26)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Witty and well-researched . . . Despite the gravity of the subject, Dawn is mercifully un-didactic throughout, cutting grim facts with whimsical cartoons, celebrity cameos and feel-good stories. A-” (Washington Post)

“Sensitive and informative . . . Dawn’s view is not only uniquely free of overt sensationalism but factual . . . . Dawn manages, despite the seriousness of the subject matter, to intersperse bits of humor throughout, primarily through cartoons. A riveting text you’ll be sure to want to read.” (Library Journal)

“[A]n easily digested, sound-bite-laden primer to all sides and gradations of the crusade for animal rights . . . An excellent introduction.” (Booklist)

“[C]ogent and thoroughly researched...[Dawn’s] goal is ‘to tell you everything you wanted to know about animal rights—but were afraid to get into a fight about -- and to let you weigh that information against your own values,’ and she succeeds admirably.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Karen Dawn discusses how people from all standpoints on animal rights can find common ground. Dawn, who writes the daily e-newsletter DawnWatch (, covers cultural differences, historical practices and a range of divergent views on the ways animals are raised and used.” (Daily News)

“[Karen Dawn is] logical. She’s levelheaded. She’s funny. That’s why her message is so . . . darn . . . persuasive. THANKING THE MONKEY is a glossy, nearly 400-page, eminently readable book.” (Washington Post)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; First Edition edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061351857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061351853
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #340,485 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's all the Fuss about Animal Rights? April 30, 2008
What brilliance! It is by far the best, most practical, balanced, logical, and well written book on animal rights and animal welfare I have ever come across. I have read many. Karen Dawn writes that it's not "all or nothing" that there are compassionate steps we all can make -- every one of us. It answered all my questions about many areas of animal abuse I wasn't aware of. It's important to know what your money supports when you patron places like Sea World or the Circus. How about that fur collar? It might come from a dog or cat. It might be labeled fake, but really be from a domesticated animal. What about the horse meat industry? Cattle ranching supports horse slaughter. Love horses? Don't eat cows. Seriously. It's all connected.

All people, meat eaters too, can take steps to help animals live better. You learn about this in a very, very insightful way with humor and compassion. There's no name calling or holier than thou in this book. Karen rocks!

It's not about perfection, it's about progression.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars highly recommended! May 11, 2008
By M K A
If you're looking for a comprehensive and easy-to-read introduction into animal rights issues, this book is great. Karen Dawn juxtaposes a wealth of funny and moving anecdotes with top-notch research, witty commentary, hilarious cartoons, and a parade of guest appearances by pop culture icons. Will make you both laugh *and* think.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Changing July 9, 2008
This book could have been written in a overly-dramatic, highly inflamatory way; however, it is carefully written, balanced, and even manages to use humor in at most unexpected places. Once you know, you can never go back to looking at milk, eggs, meat, fur, pets, circuses the same way ... and it's all for the good. Why not seek to move through this world with great awareness and compassion for all life with whom we share the planet?
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A witty, well-cited, and humorous take on animal rights October 30, 2008
I read a copy of this from my local library and decided that it's worth having in my permanent library. There are around 8 chapters on various topics, but the author, Karen Dawn, does a great job of breaking each topic into bite-sized pieces that make this an easy read. She intersperses animal-friendly comic strips and celebrity quotes every few pages. I found that instead of making the pace seem choppy, it instead provided an alternative endorsement of her ideas and make the book an easy read.

I'll admit that the one chapter I really had a hard time reading was the one on animal testing. I don't consider that a failure on my part as I skimmed it and got what I needed to get out of it. Because she breaks up each topic into such digestible pieces, it's not only an easy read but something I'm going to have on my library shelf for reference. Her arguments are polite, witty, and well-referenced. She's not militant in her views and her easy-going style make it easy to gravitate towards her side of things. In the interest of full disclosure, I was a vegetarian/near-vegan when I read this book, but there are chapters on household pets and animals in the entertainment industry that got me thinking enough to potentially change my future behavior.

I could see how someone would dismiss this type of book as nutty stuff, but really, it's not. It's merely stating various talking (or thinking) points with the goal of getting you to think differently about things that you normally don't think about. She has a huge bibliography in the back so she did her research. The book is short on the really gorey photographs that one might find in a pro-animal book such as this, and I appreciated that. She spends the last chapter talking about how to effectively get people thinking about animal rights via peaceful and non-annoying methods, which is a great way to exit the book as you then feel as if you can help make a difference all by yourself.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rising level of conciousness April 6, 2009
I eat meat, and it is hard for me to give us the taste of fried chicken, but I have always struggled with the moral aspect of being a meat eater. It is one thing to have to kill for survival (as our ancestors did), but quite another to kill to satisfy our pallets or test new drugs that have no new active ingredients, but only to extend the life of a patent so drug companies can make more money.

I am amazed that we can treat animals the way we do, especially since we have already proven without a doubt that animals are intelligent beings with emotions and feelings not unlike ours. This reminds me of the dark days when we were able to justify cruelty done to slaves because we do not see them as equal to us, and therefore discount their sufferings.

Karen's book is doing a lot to open people eye's to the cruelty that exist beneath the nicely packed meat, milk and eggs at the supermarket, and it is time we take our head out of the sand and face the truth that behind every bite, there is a sentient being out there that has suffered a great deal. It will be hard for me to switch 100% to a vegan lifestyle instantly, but I am committed to making small changes such as cutting back animal product consumption to make a difference.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and fun! Go figure. July 4, 2008
Animal activists ARE crazy. And after reading this book, you will understand why. In it, Karen Dawn tackles a daunting task, to take some of the most heinous and barbaric crimes we humans commit against the animal kingdom and shed light on them in a gentle, entertaining, and even fun manner. And she succeeds.

You will meet some of the most "radical" activists, filmmakers, nutritionists, conservationists, authors, and their celebrity supporters. Through remarkable, heartwarming, as well as heart-rending stories Dawn encourages us to take a step back, rethink our philosophies and actions, and to take responsibilities for our choices. TTM is littered with excellent information, great quotes, and a plethora of valuable links and ideas for creating a more compassionate world. A pleasure... and a treasure!
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Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals
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I agree. It's one of the first books I bought on the subject, and it's opened my eyes to a lot of things that I never even thought about.
Dec 16, 2008 by Have Gone Vegan |  See all 2 posts
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