Thinking that sitting on a sandy beach with a book in hand and waves lapping in the background would be the perfect way to get back into the reading habit, I downloaded Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals by Rory Freedman before we left for vacation.
Shortly after its Spring 2013 release, I had the opportunity to skim the first few pages at the bookstore. I was drawn to the fun, conversational writing style and thought it would make a good beach read (as in a quick read, not lacking in substance). It was indeed a quick and engaging read with plenty of substance, but it was also incredibly more hard-hitting than I thought it would be.
Freedman describes Beg as a “call to arms to my fellow animal lovers to be better animal lovers. It’s an invitation to be more than just good parents to the cats and dogs we live with; Beg is a battle cry to wake up and rise up on behalf of the world’s animals.”
Beg discusses pets for the first six chapters. Freedman introduces us to the furry ones with whom she shares her life, and there is no doubt that many readers will often nod their heads and smile, identifying with Freedman as she recounts funny and touching stories, talks about her pets’ crazy habits (and hers, too) and delves into the meaning they add to her life. From there she guides the reader into topics such as puppy mills and the virtues of adopting animals from shelters rather than breeders or pet stores (millions of adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized every year) and the sad lives that show dogs (think Westminster) all too often live.
Then the book gets serious. The author even includes a warning that while the first part of the book was more fun and light, the next part, is, well, not. It gets into the nitty-gritty of the many ways we use and exploit animals. We’re talking animals for food, animal testing, animals in or for entertainment (circuses, zoos, horse-drawn carriages, rodeos, movies and television, hunting, catch-and-release fishing, and more) and animals for fashion.
Most of the vegan-centric books I read tend to focus primarily on diet and animals within the scope of food production. There is no denying that adopting a plant-based diet has a tremendous, positive impact on the lives of animals and our world, but one of the things I appreciate so much about Beg is the in-depth attention it gives to non-food topics (although it gives plenty of time to food, too). Because of that, I learned so much from this book — and I have 11 pages of notes and highlights to prove it.
As Freedman puts it, “[Veganism] is not an exclusive, elitist club — anyone can join, all are welcome. We want our numbers to grow. We want animals spared; we want humans to live longer, happier, healthier lives.” And on that note, she ends the book by providing tips and an abundance of resources to help readers make any changes they feel ready to make.
Because of the cute puppy cover and lighthearted stories at the beginning of the book (plus the fact that it can be found in the pet section of your local bookstore), I have a feeling that the change of tone that takes place six chapters in may take some readers by surprise. This isn’t necessarily bad — it’s an important message that needs to be shared. It may turn off some who aren’t ready to hear it, leaving them feeling tricked (although I hope it will still plant some seeds). For others, it will open up a dialog on topics that they may have never considered before this book, and hopefully it will help to open minds and hearts.
How wonderful will it be when, one day, expanding the scope of our compassion to encompass all animals is no longer considered a radical idea?