February 4, 2014

We Animals. ~ Alicia Wozniak {Book Review}

We Animals, Jo-Anne McArthur

Note: elephantjournal.com received these review items for free, in return for a guarantee that we would review said offering. That said, we say what we want—good and bad, happy and sad.

It took me a week to read this 208 page book made of mostly pictures.

I spent four days avoiding the “Food” section.

We Animals is disturbing. If when you read it you aren’t disturbed, there’s something wrong with you. Straight up.

This book is brief in text and page count, but the pictures—the pictures. I have a hard time getting over the sadness in my chest realizing what the author, Jo-Anne McArthur, saw through her lens. My face was in a static frown the whole time reading and viewing. Even at the end when she lightens our hearts with “Mercy,” I was still heavy with grief for the rescued animals’ stories and for all of those—so many, too many—left behind and lost.

Jo-Anne McArthur is an award-winning Canadian photojournalist and activist and is the Founder of We Animals, a project “…that makes visible the barriers that humans have built which allow us to treat non-human animals as objects and not as beings with moral significance.”

She brings the human story to each animal in the pages and beyond. 

“Dr. Jane Goodall, primatologist and author, says of We Animals, ‘Powerfully disturbing. These images take us to dark and hidden places visited by only a few determined and courageous individuals like Jo-Anne McArthur.'”

I took on this review because I love animals. I have had numerous pets over my 40 years and currently am the owner of a dog no one wanted. She wasn’t abused, but she was being ignored. My heart needed a mate and my dog, The Dingo, found me through social media. Ah, the beauty of the Internet. My cat was found in a box with litter mates nearly 10 years ago—she’s snoring at my feet.

My daughter and I gather food and blankets for the Humane Society here in Tampa, Florida a few times a year. My friends and family donate what they can and we do our little part to help the ones who can’t help themselves.

I wanted to review We Animals so I could learn more about how to help.

I am changed.

We Animals is organized into five sections: three that examine animal
exploitation, one that celebrates animal rescuers and sanctuaries, and one
that offers a snapshot of the journals I’ve created from 2009–2013. The
book ends with a list of resources that I invite you to use to learn what
you can do to help end the suffering of animals.

The little text the author provides speaks volumes next to the photographs. The sadness. The fear. The confusion. Your chest will tighten throughout this journal. It really is a journal; not a text or a book. A diary of the mistreated and abused souls most of us don’t see regularly.

For those who do and can’t do anything, my heart breaks.

For those who do and can do something, I hope they try, understanding that what’s happening is wrong.

My eyes saw glimpses of animals I couldn’t help, but the need for help is so enormous, where do we start?

I am an omnivore.

I eat everything. I was saddened to open my fridge after I finally finished reading We Animals. I felt bad drinking my nightly chocolate milk. Were the cows who gave me my milk mistreated?

I had a steak recently at a work dinner. The server explained the cow’s last 100 days, “Grass fed and then grain fed.”

I almost cried at the table. Sounds like a good last 100 days, but what about the days before and what about its ending?

I said a prayer for the cow and gave thanks for it. I hoped it was treated well, truly, and, God, I can’t think of a better word, slaughtered humanely? The word “last” stayed with me through out the meal. I did my best to not discuss We Animals at the table of coworkers though it’s probably the best place to have the conversation that’s hard to stomach.

I have food guilt.

I once wrote a blog post about the fish at fairs and how I felt so bad for them stuck in bags of blue water. When was the last time they ate? Why is the water that blue? Is the water changed? Do they swim free at night?

I tell my daughter still, “No prizes with heartbeats.”

We Animals makes us aware of what hundreds of thousands of animals are subjected to daily. McArthur’s voice through the picture descriptions is calm. The importance of the message is delivered as stories; she puts us in the animals’ point of view. It’s personal, but we don’t get her as I would expect someone so close to the sadness would feel.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur, We Animals

The author details her personal accounts from her experiences in “Notes from the Field.” The hard core language and feelings of what she’s seen and experienced, what I think any of us who have been there or would help if we were there, are expressed. “F” bombs and emotion. Pain and frustration. I connected with the animals through out the five sections.

I connected with the author in her notes.

“Resources” help to close the journal. Websites, book and magazines. All offering us more to read and learn and connect… And help. The need for help is so great. If we all give a little help, we can make a big difference.

We Animals can make a difference for all animals, starting with ourselves and those around us. It’s an important journal to view, read and share.

Relephant reads:

Photos, Video: Jo-Anne McArthur, stunning photos of animals’ lives. [Adult]

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