How right it feels to be working on a foreword for the e-edition of Thanking the Monkey.
The advent of electronic books is a great boon for the environment, and therefore one
for the animals.
In the time since the print edition of this book came out, one of the most significant
events affecting animals was an environmental disaster. In 2010, BP dumped so much
oil into the Gulf of Mexico that they could have renamed it the Gulf Station of Mexico
and sold seawater for four bucks a gallon. It is now estimated that the millions of animals
who perished there included thousands of dolphins. Meanwhile animal rights
activists decry the slaughter of dolphins in Japan but, as a group, have remained silent
as BP has resumed drilling in the Gulf. We protest direct cruelty to animals but sometimes
ignore the destruction of habitat, which destroys the animals that live in it. I write
those words with appreciation to you, the reader, for having chosen the environmentally
friendly e-edition of this book.
Those poor dolphins in Japan received some fantastic press in 2010 when The Cove
won the Oscar for Best Documentary. That film focuses on the work of Ric O’Barry,
who you will read about in the Entertainment chapter, All the World’s a Cage. He fights
the cruelty of marine mammal captivity—the horror of the captures and the sadness of
lives spent in tanks.
Right on cue in the middle of that Oscar season, an Orca at SeaWorld, named Tilikum,
protested his plight by killing his trainer. SeaWorld tried to present the event
as some kind of freak accident, but it soon leaked out that Tilly had killed twice before—
just never in front of an audience that precluded a pretty cover-up. I refer to him
as Tilly as he was affectionately called by his lovely trainer, Dawn Brancheau. Clearly
the affection was not mutual. The affection of a jailor for a prisoner cannot be mutual.
With much sadness, I share my sense that Dawn, who meant no cruelty, understands
Kidnapped at age two from his family in the waters off Iceland, Tilly spent a quarter
of a century doing tricks at marine parks. Even in this third and very public attempt to
submit his resignation, he failed. After some months in solitary confinement, SeaWorld
put him back on show. As I write this foreword, I learn that while he is no longer allowed
within killing distance of trainers he went on a more classic strike last week—he
refused to perform. The audiences left in disgust. Where killing people failed to get him
that coveted pink slip perhaps boring them will do the trick. But no, Tilly has sired thirteen
orcas for SeaWorld; each brings in about a million dollars per year, so he is surely
deemed too lucrative to deserve freedom.
When Thanking the Monkey was first released, a glowing Washington Post review
noted that I criticized Jack Hanna “for supporting dove hunting and glossing over problems
with horse racing,” and it teased, “Jack Hanna, for crying out loud. The woman’s
got some nerve.” Tilikum, with more nerve than I, helped me make my case. In the
aftermath of his attack, we saw a debate on CNN in which Ric O’Barry talked about
“dolphin abusement parks,” and Jane Velez Mitchell told us that Tilly had spent his life
in the human equivalent of a bathtub, which surely got him “a little irritated.” She suggested
we “follow the money” and revealed that SeaWorld had recently been bought
for $2.7 billion. Jack Hanna was part of that debate, representing not the animals,
but SeaWorld, which enjoys “exclusive national sponsorship of his television show.”
Hanna sits on the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund board of directors.
Even Larry King, famous for his softball style of interviewing, noted the likelihood that
Hanna’s opinion “may be shaped by financial interests.”
Perhaps Tilikum’s sad tale (and I am most certainly including in that sadness the
loss of three human lives) will have a happy ending. Perhaps Jack Hanna’s will too—he
might decide to join Ric O’Barry’s marine mammal rescue efforts! While I am mostly
joking, I am also thinking of that beautiful line from A Course in Miracles: “The holiest
place on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love.” Who knows?
A different whale story is more certainly coming to a happy end. The United Nations
International Court of Justice has finally ruled that Japanese whaling in Antarctica
is not for scientific purposes and is therefore illegal. Sea Shepherd has been telling the
world that for decades. I hope you will enjoy reading the section on their war against
the whalers knowing that they, and the whales, have won.
Another happy-ending story, that of two captive elephants named Shirley and
Jenny, has a new life in this e-book. At the Los Angeles Thanking the Monkey book launch
party, CSI’s Jorja Fox read us the Urban Elephant tale and I get to share that reading with
you, via a YouTube link, in chapter 3. Being able to link many of you straight to videos
is one of my e-edition pleasures.
Less pleasurable, but of vital importance, are links to new undercover dairy cow
videos. You’ll hear cows bellow in agony as their tails are chopped and horns are burned
off without anesthetic. That is standard industry practice, even on organic farms. Another
dairy farm video shows workers stamping on calves’ heads and stabbing udders
The farming industry has been appalled by the undercover video that has been
emerging from its midst and has taken swift action to make sure that such heinous acts
of cruelty are never seen again. Unfortunately “seen again” are the operative words.
Legislators beholden to agribusiness have been putting forward state bills that do nothing
to prevent industry cruelty, but would make taking video of it illegal. As I write this
new foreword, some states have already passed “ag-gag” laws and others are hearing
them in their legislatures.
Yes, the farming industry is trying to make it illegal for you to see some of the
videos included here. And I want you to enjoy this book, so I won’t tell you to watch
every single horrifying one of them. In fact, I never tell people what to do, or what they
should eat, and was pleased that a consistent review comment about this book is that
it isn’t preachy. But as the subtitle suggests, I do ask people to think, so that they can
make their own informed and well-considered choices. If you choose to consume meat
and dairy products but you can’t bring yourself to even look at the cruelty you are inadvertently
supporting, then I will ask you, gently, if it might be time to examine that
disconnect. But hey, for starters, why not just make a commitment right now to switch
those skim milk lattes to soy or almond milk and skip the gory dairy videos with a clear
It’s so gratifying to see how those soy lattes and plant-based diets in general have
moved into the mainstream in the last four years—and a diverse mainstream at that!
Bill Clinton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that he lost 24 pounds right before Chelsea’s wedding,
and did so by adopting “an essentially plant-based diet.” He cited the work of
renowned doctors, such as Cleveland Clinic’s Caldwell Esselstyn and the China Study
author T. Colin Campbell who have proven that such diets can reverse heart disease.
That’s a feat never accomplished by medications, which can only alleviate symptoms
or sometimes slow the progress of the disease. That work, which I discuss in chapter 5,
has now been made available to hundreds of thousands of people via the delightful film
Forks Over Knives, which the very mainstream film critic Roger Ebert described as “a film
that could save your life.” How we wish that dear and dearly missed man could have
seen it a decade ago.
Not long after Clinton’s CNN interview, Glenn Beck shocked his audience by announcing
that he was dabbling in veganism. Top athletes such as star NFL player Arian
Foster are switching to plant-based diets. So are environmentalists, including Al Gore.
We even saw a big poster on Sunset Boulevard that says, “Love Animals Don’t Eat
Them,” with a photo of Mike Tyson letting us know that even he had gone vegan. We
aren’t sure that Tyson is sticking with it; apparently he was disappointed to learn that
the diet didn’t allow for even an occasional ear. Well, that’s unless you count corn.
Be prepared for more corny jokes throughout this book as I attempt to bring at least
a little levity to a serious subject. This e-version has been tweaked and updated throughout
so that the information inside is still accurate, and we’ve added links to loads of videos,
some of which will make you laugh and some of which will make you cry. Perhaps
my favorite line from the original reviews of Thanking the Monkey came from Veg-News,
which closed with “VN Associate Editor Elizabeth Castoria got in touch with both her
manic and depressive sides while reading Thanking the Monkey.” I hope this book will
make you laugh hard but sometimes weep softly for what we have done. And I hope
that you will emerge from these pages with some extra knowledge and more empathy
for our fellow earthlings and an eagerness to help them.