Do Unto Animals: A Guide to Raising a More Compassionate Family

In Animal Behavior, Animal Rights, Birds, Book Reviews, Children's Books, Conservation, Endangered Species, Insects, Nonfiction, Veganism by John Yunker


I grew up around cats, so it always struck me as odd when people didn’t understand what a cat’s purr signified.

Then again, I did not grow up around cows or goats or sheep and don’t understand their behaviors.

You have to learn how to live among animals. How to read the languages they speak through their body language and the noises they make. And since not all of us were raised in households with pets or by outdoorsy parents, how do we learn how to peacefully coexist with animals when we don’t have much practice?

This book provides a great start.

What I liked about this book:

  • Stewart advocates for adopting dogs from shelters and not buying them (Adopt Don’t Shop).
  • She sings the praises of pit bull and black cats (black cats are considered lucky in countries like Italy and England).
  • She encourages readers to support the wildlife they share their yards with — and not just bees and butterflies, but snakes and spiders. Even the much-derided mole gets some compassion.
  • She includes plenty of craft ideas for getting your kids involved in interacting with your pets and exploring the nature outside.
  • I appreciated “The Hurtless Hunt” – a section on naturing that doesn’t require killing nature to take it back home with you.
  • Stewart is an active supporter of animal sanctuaries and provides ways to help that go behind simply writing a check.

The most significant section is about farm animals. I was impressed to see Stewart explain why she doesn’t eat meat — and then explain just how special cows (and all farm animals) are: The sorrowful sounds a cow will make when separated from her calf. The personalities of each of her adopted flock of sheep, with accompanying illustrations. For Stewart, dogs and cats are not any more deserving of affection than goats and sheep and pigs; they all are equally deserving.

Stewart writes that she and her husband have a mixed marriage — he eats meat and she does not, and the children get to choose their diets. But much has changed since this chapter was written — her husband, Jon Stewart, no longer eats meat.

Despite the strong messages included in this book, it is by no means preachy. Stewart has a warm, welcoming voice that encourages all readers to simply take a moment to see the world through the eyes of animals.

The book is loaded with illustrations and interesting asides. It’s a fun read and can be reused by readers referring to the numerous craft ideas they can put to use with their children.

If your family plans to adopt animals or simply wants to better appreciate the nature outside your front door, I recommend this book.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the title of the book derives from the golden rule — a rule that we should apply not only to how we treat our own species but all species. The world will be a far better place when we do.

Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better
Artisan Books

Further endorsement of this book comes from Leon, pictured below, a Maine coon mix who is currently up for adoption at the Jackson County Animal Shelter in Southern Oregon.