cover image Our Kindred Creatures: How Americans Came to Feel the Way They Do About Animals

Our Kindred Creatures: How Americans Came to Feel the Way They Do About Animals

Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy. Knopf, $35 (464p) ISBN 978-0-525-65906-8

A colorful menagerie of characters fills this radiant history of the tumultuous first three decades (1866–1896) of America’s animal welfare movement. Wasik, editorial director of the New York Times Magazine, and veterinarian Murphy (coauthors of 2012’s Rabid) describe how after the Civil War, many antislavery activists turned their focus to animal cruelty. Their numbers included abolitionist lawyer George Thorndike Angell, who in 1868 founded the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In New York City, Henry Bergh’s activism helped pass municipal legislation in 1866 outlawing animal abuse, after which Bergh personally arrested carriage drivers, dog fighters, and even a sea captain transporting turtles under inhumane conditions. Other notable crusaders included Caroline Earle White, who in 1871 opened the first dog shelter, and ornithologist Florence Merriam Bailey, whose contributions to Audubon Magazine turned public opinion against massacring birds to collect feathers for fashion accessories. Wasik and Murphy’s multilayered narrative teases out how the era’s animal and human rights causes often intersected (the U.S. military’s mission to subjugate Native American tribes by exterminating the buffalo on which they depended drew reprimands from humanitarians and ASPCA members alike), and the profiles breathe life into the legal and moral campaigns. The result is a scintillating overview of how animals earned legal rights and moral sympathy in the latter half of the 19th century. Photos. Agent: Elyse Cheney, Cheney Agency. (Apr.)