We read about a sheep so jealous of her crush's girlfriend that she head-butts her. And about a horse who makes friends with a cow but then shuns him when she's accepted into a new clique.
But the book mostly chronicles the positive characteristics of the animals Stevens has taken in at Catskill Animal Sanctuary.
We stare in suspense and wonder as an abandoned, emaciated horse gets his life back. And we watch a friendship develop between a cow and a pig.
"Animal Camp" is Stevens' second book. Her first, "Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary," was published last year. At least one animal from the latter makes a reappearance in "Animal Camp."
Each chapter of "Animal Camp" can stand alone, so it sometimes gets a bit repetitive with descriptions of animals we've already met. But that's a small complaint.
I liked how Stevens dared anyone to call her anthropomorphic, who accused her of giving "human" traits to animals.
In my view, the term anthropomorphism is used either malevolently, for instance, by scientists trying to assuage their guilt or deny their humanity as they justify horrific experiments performed on animals, or mistakenly, by people who know little about animals and thus accept the popular notion that they are fundamentally far more emotionally limited than humans.Throughout "Animal Camp" we see just how similar animals are to people.
I loved how Stevens described the most difficult aspect of her work:
Yes, absolutely, this is the hardest part of my job--encouraging people to look at animal consumption squarely in the face, to have the courage to address their role in the suffering, and to assess honestly whether they can still legitimately call themselves kind if they're knowingly contributing to such horrific suffering.Indeed at several points in the book Stevens reminds readers of the abuse animals endure at the hands of agribusiness because so many people continue to eat them.
But, those of you who haven't made the change to veganism, don't be scared off. Most of the book centers on the transformation individual animals undergo at Catskill Animal Sanctuary. Once neglected, abandoned, starving, these animals show us their strength, their resilience. They show us how important love is.
And it appears that the employees and volunteers at CAS have that resource in abundant supply.
Note: I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it.