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Our Animal Neighbors -Book Review

Our Animal Neighbors -Book Review

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Our Animal Neighbors Book Review

Our Animal Neighbors -Book Review

By Lisa Shaw

“The world is too much with us,” wrote William Wordsworth; we grow up focused on the material and our own needs.  To counter this and find balance, we need to start with children, showing them the value of nature and respect for all life.

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.

– His Holiness The Dalai Lama

This quest for balance is the focus of Our Animal Neighbors: Compassion for Every Furry, Slimy, Prickly Creature on Earth, an inviting little book by Matthieu Ricard and Jason Gruhl, beautifully illustrated by Becca Hall.  In its attempt to instill the values of compassion for all living things, the authors establish that animals, like humans, share the planet and basic needs and feelings.

The book’s strength rests in its sweet illustrations, inviting the reader to embrace the adorable watercolor-like animal depictions from peacocks to foxes to pigs, whales to eagles.  We see the animals in harmonious interspecies crowds, with their families, and at “work.” including primitive habitats, pastoral settings, and urban rooftop patios.  We embark on a journey from mountains to oceans and get a panoramic view of earthly life from space.  This is all well done. The message through this travelogue is that animals enjoy the same features of life that humans want, share the same situations as humans (hurt, neglect, abuse), and respond to those conditions with the same emotions as people (anger, sadness, hurt).

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Almost as an addendum under the heading” Facts, Figures, & Things to Ponder,” the authors provide statistics on animal commodification, intertwining them with tidbits on evolution, biology, and human health, promoting a plant-based diet.

The book’s strength lies in its illustrations, strike an emotional chord, bolstering the call for compassionate living.

“The indifference, callousness, and contempt that so many people exhibit toward animals are evil first because it results in great suffering in animals, and second because it results in an incalculably great impoverishment of the human spirit.”

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