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Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos Paperback – May 9, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 152 pages
  • Publisher: Novoice Unheard (May 9, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0972838716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0972838719
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 0.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,291,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

To counter most books being written about zoos that present zoos favorably, never questioning their very existence, activist Jenkins and photographer Karen Tweedy-Holmes produce their examination of what zoos are and what their effect is on their animal inmates and the human animals who observe them. Jensen writes in a deliberately polemical style, challenging the reader with language that is in turn sarcastic and poetic but always urgent and angry. A zoo is a nightmare taking shape in concrete and steel. Tweedy-Holmes' photos, in stark black and white, are views of animals in obvious incarceration--bars or mesh often obscure the view; cement-formed pools, rocks, ledges, or walls predominate; doors, walls, and buildings hint at unnatural enclosures; and the animals are all obviously captive. Captions give the species and where they are found in the wild, though not which zoo is illustrated (a photographer's note at the end lists them). A good choice for presenting the other side in the moral debate about zoos. Nancy Bent
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

Finally, someone has the courage to question zoos. Animals in zoos are not ambassadors teaching us about the natural world, they're unwilling prisoners, teaching us how we as humans seem to need to dominate every living being on the planet. This is a brave book and a much needed voice on behalf of the animals. (Bill Maher, Comedian, Host of HBO's Real Time with Bill Mahe)

To counter most books being written about zoos that present zoos favorably, never questioning their very existence, activist Jensen and photographer Karen Tweedy-Holmes produce their examination of what zoos are and what their effect is on their animal inmates and the human animals who observe them. Jensen writes in a deliberately polemical style, challenging the reader with language that is in turn sarcastic and poetic but always urgent and angry: 'A zoo is a nightmare taking shape in concrete and steel.' Tweedy-Holmes’ photos, in stark black and white, are views of animals in obvious incarceration—bars or mesh often obscure the view; cement-formed pools, rocks, ledges, or walls predominate; doors, walls, and buildings hint at unnatural enclosures; and the animals are all obviously captive. Captions give the species and where they are found in the wild, though not which zoo is illustrated (photographer’s note at the end lists them). A good choice for presenting the other side in the moral debate about zoos. (Booklist)

An impassioned argument for the dissolution of zoos... an intelligent, well-organized debate, written in a conversational tone that engages the reader while tackling a subject encompassing psychological, social, and environmental issues... (Jensen) writes with a conviction that leads readers to think deeply about what their own beliefs are about zoos. (Foreword Reviews)

This sensitive and thought-provoking volume by ecological activist and author Jensen (A Language Older Than Words) and photographer Tweedy-Holmes raises more questions than it answers but compels nonetheless. Are we our brother's keeper? And, if so, just who (or what) is our brother? The book is not about conditions in which animals are held captive; instead, it explores the question of why animals are held captive at all as Jensen examines the who, what, and why of animal captivity, balancing the historical facts with his own strong personal experiences and beliefs. There is little tolerance for differing views, and in this aspect, this work fits the publisher's aim of 'creating unique voices on behalf of those who are unseen, ignored or disregarded by society.' Its strength and objectivity comes from Tweedy-Holmes's photographs that depict animals as contained, confined, and imprisoned. Shot at some of the finest zoos in the world, these pictures do not exhibit or exploit an animal's sufferings or even display them in degrading conditions. Tweedy-Holmes simply allows viewers to form their own conclusions. A beautifully constructed if polemical work, this text is recommended for large public and academic animal rights collections. (Library Journal)

Customer Reviews

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This is a book that will make you think deeply & try to find an answer.
Leslie Leigh
Jensen provides a poetic text written from the heart, and while his bibliography excludes some important writings on zoos, his criticisms are piercing.
Jonathan Balcombe
They are bears... Every bear - every animal, inside or outside of zoos - is an individual.
Midwest Book Review

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Balcombe on June 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
One need only read the title to know that this handsome book is not a celebration of zoos. It is, rather, a full frontal attack on them. Jensen provides a poetic text written from the heart, and while his bibliography excludes some important writings on zoos, his criticisms are piercing. "Zoos are about power," he says, meaning our power over animals and our control over nature (or at least the illusion of it). He describes the clicking of a grizzly bear's claws on the concrete floor of her cage as she paces back and forth rhythmically, neurotically. This stereotyped pacing will be familiar to practically anyone who's spent time at a zoo, and it's symptomatic of what's wrong with these institutions. "Zoos are a manifestation of this civilizing process: the foreclosure of options, the enclosure of freedoms... A bear is simplified to meat in a sack of brown fur, and not the relationships, desires, and behaviors that make a bear. She becomes a BEARTM."

Zoos are first and foremost commercial enterprises, and the animals' interests invariably play second (or third, or forth) fiddle to the quest for profit. Large, charismatic species are reduced to mere shells by the interminable boredom and lack of stimulation. Average life expectancy is actually short; those statistics of animals living longer in captivity are based on the rare elders who beat the odds, not on average life span. Jensen also rightly rebukes humanity's hypocrisy in romanticizing wildness while simultaneously extirpating any wild creature that gets in the way of our commercial developments. And zoos have precious little to show for their self-aggrandizing claims of benefiting species survival.

Tweedy-Holmes's black and white photos show the dignity and grace of animals despite their artificial surroundings.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on June 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
Written Press Action Person of the Year Derrick Jensen and photographed by critically acclaimed artist Karen Tweedy-Holmes, Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos is a protest against human environmental destruction wild habitat, and especially, the incarceration of wild animals in zoos. Questioning the purpose of zoos and what they teach humans about their relationship to nonhuman animals, Thought to Exist in the Wild harshly criticizes zoos for their commercialism, their reduction of animals to the levels of commodities, and the dubious morality of taking away wild creatures' entertainment for novelty purposes. "Bears are not toys. They are not symbols or stand-ins for Native American cultures. They are not attractions. They are not resources to be managed. They are not pests to be exterminated. They are bears... Every bear - every animal, inside or outside of zoos - is an individual. Each one has, believe it or not, a life." The compelling black-and-white photography poignantly illustrates the passionately charged essays in this thought-provoking manifesto.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gregg Eldred VINE VOICE on July 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
As I was reviewing the new books at the library, I held two possibilities for my next read, a book on the best zoos in the United States or this book, Thought to Exist in the Wild: Awakening from the Nightmare of Zoos, by Derrick Jensen and Karen Tweedy-Holmes. As you might guess, I elected to read Thought to Exist in the Wild. And I am glad that I did.

Beautiful photographs from Tweedy-Holmes punctuate the words of Jensen. Jensen is, as you may guess from the title, not a fan of zoos. After reading his words and seeing the pictures, I am less inclined to visit zoos. The only reason I would visit them would be to ask hard questions of the zookeepers and docents. Jensen makes it very clear that zoos exist for man to control nature. But nature should not be controlled by placing animals in cages for our entertainment. They should be viewed in their real habitat. Can't get to Africa to see wild elephants or lions? What about the nature in your own backyard? Birds, deer, rabbits, snakes, and insects that live and visit your area are worthy of your attention as well as your children. In that way, you have a relationship with nature and the things that inhabit it. Taking animals from their homes, killing the mothers and fathers, then shipping the children across the oceans is barbaric. Jensen tells the tale of one famous animal dealer that also dealt in humans (slaves). It is easy to make the inference that we are enslaving the animal kingdom for our own profit and entertainment.

Throughout the book, Jensen debunks the myths brought forward by pro-zoo authors and zookeepers. Tweedy-Holmes' pictures, of caged animals in some of the world's "best" zoos are beautifully done. In most cases, however, she makes sure that you are aware that the animal is in a cage.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By 2 cents on March 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Zoos are prisons for other animals. Kind of obvious when you consider it for a moment. Probably most people would at least partially agree. But, how many people think there is anything wrong with imprisoning animals? Maybe they feel a little bad about that, but then there are the usual rationalizations which typically follow moments of mild discomfort and cognitive dissonance. You already heard them for sure, about zoos.

What is needed are books like this that forcefully make their case. That's how it starts. That is how public opinion begins to shift. Bold, brilliant, uncompromising thinkers come forward and say what needs saying, however unpopular or strange it may at first sound to the average person. But as is often the case, the writer might be articulating for the public what a lot of us are already feeling in our hearts, whether we have chosen to realize it or not.
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