Brief Review


Animal Scam: The Beastly Abuse of Human Rights, by Kathleen Marquardt, with Herbert M. Levine and Mark LaRochelle, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, 181 pages, $24.00

"Your brain and your wife's brain will be drilled and burned like you are doing to our lovely animals." In 1990 animal-rights activists mailed this message to Walter Salinger, head of the psychology department at the University of North Carolina. While the Salingers were not harmed, Animal Scam cites other such threats and actual instances of violence committed by animal-rights extremists.

Author Kathleen Marquardt is founder of Putting People First, an advocacy group that defends biomedical researchers, pet owners, hunters, and others against animal-rights zealots. The book describes U.S. and Canadian cases in which "animal rightists" (Marquardt's term) have committed arson, burglarized laboratories, and threatened violence against scientists who use animals in their research.

Marquardt reveals inconsistencies: For instance, animal-rights advocates consider humans who eat animal products evil, but they act as if animals don't dine on one another. She also digs up some outlandish quotes from well-known animal-rights supporters. "I think [biomedical researchers] should experiment on murderers," opined singer Doris Day. "What the hell are they going to do for society to pay us back?"

Unfortunately, a litany of horror stories and goofy quotes doesn't constitute an argument against animal rights. Marquardt saves her exposition of animal-rights ideology for the end. Breezing right past the philosophical issues undermines the book's appeal to an important audience: people who are sympathetic to animal welfare but are unwilling to sacrifice medical research or the Kentucky Derby merely to satisfy a few fanatics. (For a more substantive discussion, see "Liberation Zoology," June 1990.)

Animal Scam awkwardly grafts animal rights onto the larger environmental movement. Marquardt lumps animal rights groups together with such radical environmentalist organizations as Earth First!, Jeremy Rifkin's Beyond Beef Coalition, and Greenpeace. These organizations do share a Luddite hatred of technology, and Marquardt's discussion of the anti-science underpinnings of animal rights is on the money. But Rifkin does not routinely spike trees or destroy property to get out his message. And pet ownership isn't a big problem for the members of Earth First! Marquardt never makes these distinctions.

Her attacks on animal rights often consist of no more than unexamined assertions: Hunting is good, vegetarians don't eat healthy diets, circuses provide wonderful entertainment, and so on. You get the impression that the readers for whom Marquardt is writing eat steak three times a week, bag a couple of deer before breakfast, and catch the rodeo on weekends. There's nothing wrong with any of these activities. But Animal Scam implies that you're woolly-headed unless you do the same.

Marquardt relies heavily on secondary sources. That's too bad, because she's a prominent warrior against animal-rights extremism. Aside from a description of a successful legal defense her organization mounted for an animal trainer, the book contains few stories of her encounters with animal-rights supporters. These would certainly be more compelling than examples from other people's articles.

And because Marquardt apparently didn't interview Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society's John McArdle, or any editors of animal-rights publications, the reader never discovers how these crusaders respond to a direct challenge. Perhaps no animal rightists would talk to Marquardt, but she does not mention any attempts to reach them.

If you want a laundry list of animal-rights abuses, you'll find it in Animal Scam. A systematic yet accessible assault on the animal-rights movement has not yet been published.