Kim Stallwood has been on the forefront of the animal rights movement since the 1970s, giving him a unique perspective on where the movement has come from and where it is headed. In Growl, he shares his journey and insights learned along the way, from leadership of BUAV (now Cruelty Free Intl) in the UK to PETA in the US.
This is a remarkable journey of a young man who once worked a summer at a chicken slaughterhouse when becomes a leader of the animal rights movement. But this book is much more than a memoir, it is a guidebook for anyone who wants to change the world for animals. And you’ll see firsthand the lessons Stallwood learned along the way, the setbacks and victories, with insights into which strategies work and which did not.
This book will give you a solid introduction to the modern animal rights movement, which began in the UK with the anti-vivisection movement in the 1800s to the founding of the Vegan Society in the 1940s. You’ll learn about Don Watson, Henry Salt and Camberley Kate.
When one awakens to the horrors that animals suffer and that we as a society have enabled, it can be overwhelming. Early in the book Stallwood writes:
These are the first truths of animal advocacy: that what society considers usual is obscene; that the normative ‘truth’ about what is ethical to do to animals is in fact an ‘untruth.’
Stallwood came of age just as the modern animal rights movement was gaining mainstream attention, first the UK and then in the US.
I would have loved to have attended, with Kim, a conference that featured an address from Brigid Brophy.
Anyone involved in animal advocacy will find both useful advice and inspiration for moving forward. It’s important, I believe, to know that others came before you and that you are part of something that is much larger than one person, and that will carry on and gain momentum long after you are gone.
It can seem futile, hopeless. To think of the daily carnage and violence. And yet, if we can also focus on the small but important ways we can improve the world for the animals around us, we can stay inspired.
As an aside, I was pleased to see Stallwood touch on the misalignment between environmentalism and animal activism, something we work to unite through EcoLit Books, our writing and press and the Siskiyou Prize.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from this book is to show as much as compassion to animals as you do to one another and to yourself. To not demand purity nor perfection from yourself or others. To balance pragmatism with idealism. Stallwood writes:
Life is messy, complex, and difficult. We make compromises all the time. History demonstrates that most, perhaps even all, freedom fighters and social change agents were flawed or had moral blind spots. … Focusing on the destination rather than the journey gets too many of us into trouble. Even the most assiduous vegan will have used (perhaps unwittingly) an animal product, even if it’s the body of the ground-up animal in the tarmac they drive upon.
Growl provides a valuable and inspiring guide to the animal rights movement — where it has come from and where it is headed.
Author of the novels The Tourist Trail and Where Oceans Hide Their Dead. Co-founder of Ashland Creek Press and editor of Writing for Animals (also now a writing program).