The Practical Guide to the World of Compassion and Kindness

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When I first opened a copy of the latest book by Ingrid Newkirk, The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights, after receiving it by mail, a colleague of mine stood behind me and gazed at it intently. I did not know what he was thinking, I just felt his presence and waited for him to speak his mind or tell me what he needed from me. A few more seconds drifted by before he stated, "I do not know where she finds time to write a book."

I didn't think when I replied to him, "Discipline," like it was self-understanding. But on second thought, I do not think I said something wrong. It takes lots of discipline to be a full-time active advocate for animals and also to find time to do something besides it – like writing a book.

Maybe it won't make much sense to many, but if we are speaking in terms of advocating for animals, discipline for me equals to commitment, dedication, empathy, compassion, kindness, love, perseverence, and patience.

This is what one needs to be a good animal advocate. These are qualities we must treasure if we want to successfuly finish our marathon race. And these are features I find in Ingrid Newkirk.

Unfortunately, I did not have the pleasure of meeting Ingrid personally. Exchanging e-mails with her from time to time is always such a pleasant and encouraging experience though. Whether they carry a concise message as praise in their subject or explain something in length, I always look forward to them. And if I have to say something about Ingrid's latest book, I cannot do that without saying something about Ingrid too.

Each book, each story, each line reflects the personality of its author. The same is with Ingrid and her books. During the last couple of years I read three of her books: 250 Things You Can Do to Make Your Cat Adore You, Kids Can Save the Animals! and Free the Animals. Meanwhile, I read plenty of other books about animals and animal rights. However, Free the Animals along with Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust by Charles Patterson are probably the two books that left the deepest impact on me.

The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights closely follows their footsteps, disarming me with its simplicity, practicality and outstanding message.

I've been an animal advocate for eight years already, after I dropped out of environmental protection. Throughout these years I learned a lot about animals, animal advocay, and animal rights in general, but also about myself. Most of that knowledge I as a person and my group as a whole owe to PETA and Ingrid Newkirk. Animal Friends Croatia realized many successful campaigns and actions studying PETA's strategy and the way of reasoning, while Ingrid Newkirk proved herself to be more than just a good advisor: she was a real trooper, a helping hand that guided us and brought us into safety when our heads were below the water. Truly, lots of credits for our achievements and victories surely go to Ingrid Newkirk and PETA.

This is why The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights is such an important book. It gives the reader an ocean full of practical advice of how to advocate for animals and how to treat them in everyday life, but it also talks to us. It communicates with us, page after page, sharing with us the rich experience of its author in saving animals and fighting for their rights.

On some 300 pages Ingrid guides us as gently as possible through all imaginable aspects of animal exploitation and abuse. Without holding back anything, she teaches us who are animals and why we should respect them and treat them as our equals. Yes, there are moments when she mercilesly tights her iron hand around our hearts when she narrates the true stories of animals who suffered through the worst possible ordeals humans bestowed upon them. Remember the story about Makara the rhino; a downer cow at a stockyard in Kentucky; a polar bear named Gus housed in New York's Central Park Zoo; the Berosini orangutans; a seagull tangled up in fishing line in a Virginia park; Billy, a timid little Silver Spring monkey; a stray dog named Aurora; a hound dog named Cindy; and Hannah, the sheep, to name just a few? Yes, this is Ingrid's way: she shakes us out of our boots, she brings tears to our eyes and makes our hearts bleed. But once we compose ourselves again, we realize that we are not so helpless as we thought we were. There is hope for us, which means there is hope for animals, too. In the "What You Can Do" sections, Ingrid takes enormous efforts in going into the tiniest detail in order to show us that we can make a difference – a huge difference with little effort. And maybe here lies the greatest value of this book. "What You Can Do" is simply priceless if we really set our heart in doing something for animals.

Yes, we can make a change, even with the smallest thing. We do not have to be in the front lines of animal rights advocacy doing demos, protests, vegan tastings, holding public speeches, lectures, or going nude for the animals' sake. No, we can sit comfortably in the warmth of our home, pick up the phone and dial our favorite radio station, call the TV news and leave a comment about something we just saw, write a letter to the newspaper editor or browse the Internet posting our comments, or maybe even create an animal rights blog or web site.

True, it is easy to be an animal advocate nowadays. The best thing is that whatever we do, each action we take, every bit of information we share with someone else, everything counts. Nothing is in vain. But the easier it is for us to become an animal advocate, the greater the obligation we have to really become one. There is no excuse for being passive, there is no excuse for doing nothing while animals suffer and are killed. There is no excuse for closing our eyes before the truth and ingenuity of Ingrid's advices. There is no excuse for closing our hearts after closing the cover of The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights, shutting out and denying the cries of those who seek our help.

It is very simple: compassion and kindness are the keys to both human and animal liberation. When we liberate ourselves from the chains of tradition and old-fashioned views, the light that will shine up within us will liberate others too. Let us light up our hearts and carry our torches in lighting up the hearts and lives of our fellow creatures.

Please, let this remarkable book written by a remarkable woman touch you with its kind message. Let it guide you into a world where there shall be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain. For anyone.

by Bernard Jan, a writer, a poet, and an animal rights advocate

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