When Tracey Stewart’s book was launched in 2015, it was to great fanfare and lots of reviews. It has taken me a while to get this book to the top of my reading pile.
The theme of the book is ‘how to give back’ to animals of all types. The first 70 or so pages are about domestic dogs and cats and the remaining 110+ pages are about other creatures including wildlife and farm animals.
To be honest, I think Stewart could have cut the chapters about dogs and cats and focused solely on the ‘other’ creatures. The advice given for dogs and cats is pretty basic and not particularly well thought out because the information is so brief. For example, she has included two pages about dog massage with 6 ‘moves’ and the usual warnings about ‘not to be substituted for veterinary care.’
The book comes into its own, however, when the other animals become the focus of the text. For American audiences, the chapters about backyard wildlife and the roles of each of the ‘pests’ is enlightening. In the farm animals section, she covers pigs, cows, goats, sheep, horses, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese. And for each type of animal, she includes a hard hitting ‘what makes a pig (cow, goat, sheep, horse, chicken, turkey, duck or goose) unhappy.’
These pages constitute a simple ‘list of shame’ when it comes to factory farming and the realities of individual consumer choices for meat, dairy, and even feather down garments.
The best part of the book, in my opinion, are the illustrations by Lisel Ashlock. In full color, these adorn every page of the book and are a reason why this book should be owned and shared in print version (not electronic).
My overall grade: A-
Tracey Stewart has a veterinary technician qualification although her first career was in design. She is the wife of comedian and talk show host Jon Stewart. Both are committed to animal welfare, with a large animal family of their own on their New Jersey farm property; part of the proceeds of each book sold go to support Farm Sanctuary.
Kathleen Crisley, specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand