The Bond by Wayne Pacelle may be a tough sell to readers. It’s not that it’s not a well-written book, or that the book doesn’t contain lots of interesting information about the animal welfare (or lack of it) history in the United States.
It’s just that, in my opinion, readers who are familiar with Pacelle and the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) already know most of the facts contained in the book. Readers who are new to the animal welfare concept will learn much from the book–but its tone is at times annoyingly dictatorial and its format full of stultifying numbers and facts.
Knowing that Pacelle is the head of the HSUS, a book truly about the bond between animals and people would be a reasonable expectation from a book with that title. A reader might, for example, expect heartwarming stories about rescued dogs, animals who have saved the lives of those in their family, or perhaps dolphins who have saved human lives.
The picture on the cover leads one to believe that the book will cover examples of our kinship with animals (that’s the subtitle: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them) and include such emotionally satisfying stories about the human-animal bond. It’s not and it doesn’t.
Instead, what is offered is a compilation of animal abuses through recent history (going back to Darwin and Decartes). And the recitation of our sins (granted, there are many) is not done in a particularly clever or witty manner. It’s just chapter after chapter of how humankind has abused animals.
Much of what Pacelle writes is standard information that most people involved in animal rescue already know. The AVMA (the American Medical Veterinary Association) is rightly slammed for the precious little they do to ensure the welfare of animals (think puppy mills, factory farms, slaughter of horses for meat).
But some of what Pacelle writes seems disingenuous. Readers of The Bond might be under the impression that the Michael Vick dogs were saved because of the efforts of Wayne Pacelle and the HSUS.
About Michel Vick, for example, he writes that he visited him in jail just prior to his release: “And I had made it my business to see that he ended up right where he was at this moment.”
What Pacelle does not share in this book is that he advocated that all the Vick dogs be killed.
A New York Times article quoted Pacelle:
‘“Officials from our organization have examined some of these dogs and, generally speaking, they are some of the most aggressively trained pit bulls in the country,” Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Hundreds of thousands of less-violent pit bulls, who are better candidates to be rehabilitated, are being put down. The fate of these dogs will be up to the government, but we have recommended to them, and believe, they will be eventually put down.”
Pacelle said the Humane Society normally advocated that fighting dogs be put down shortly after being seized.’
Although much is said about getting Vick to work with the HSUS, nothing is said about the valiant efforts that WERE made to save the dogs–that was left to writer Jim Gorant in his wonderfully written story The Lost Dogs.
To be fair, Pacelle and the HSUS did later change their position regarding the killing of all dogs found in the Vick case. Thankfully, others worked long and hard to make sure these dogs were given a chance to show their true nature and not killed out of hand.
The Bond seems to have been written as a public relations piece for Wayne Pacelle and the Humane Society of the United States. For readers interested in that topic, this is a great book. For those who might want a more unbiased view of animal welfare, there are myriad other books available. And many of them are written with sincere emotion and passion. This one is not.
This book was reviewed from a digital galley provided through NetGalley.