By Lori Stultz, Outreach Coordinator
Hello, animal lovers! I am excited to tell you all about a wonderful book I read during my tour break. What if the Shoe Were on the Other Hoof? (WSWOH) was written by a good friend of mine, Keith Allison, who is a former Ohio elementary school teacher. You may recall seeing Keith on at least one of various news outlets back in 2014. At the beginning of the 2014 Fall semester, Keith posted pictures on his personal Facebook page of crates used to hold baby cows on a dairy farm not far from his home. One of his pictures was accompanied by these words: “The cruelty of separation, loneliness, and infant slaughter lingers inside each glass of a cow’s milk. Your voice can help change the system. You don’t have to support this. Plant-based milks are everywhere and are delicious.”
The owner of the crates saw Keith’s post and complained to the superintendent of the school district he was teaching for, and Keith was, very wrongfully in my opinion, fired from his position. After he was fired, a petition on Change.org went up, and more than 139,000 signatures were collected in an effort to reverse his dismissal. Keith and his attorney filed a lawsuit against the school district in March of 2015, and a settlement was reached by April. You can read all about Keith’s case and the resolution here.
Knowing that I was going to be writing this review after finishing the book, I will admit that the more I read, the more anxiety I felt. Book reviewers are supposed to briefly cover the topic of the book and note a few key parts that the reviewer feels are important for potential readers to know—sparking their interest in reading the book themselves. Well, that quickly became an issue for me because the entire book is incredible! I want to (and really wish I could) tell you about each chapter and each section. For time’s sake, I know I cannot do that. Thus, in the following paragraphs, I will do my best to concisely explain what Keith’s book is about and why I think others should consider reading it.
I think the true question is not what this book discusses—it is what it doesn’t discuss. WSWOH covers the whole spectrum of animal-related concerns: birth to death of the animals our society eats, the way most individuals care deeply for some animals (dogs and cats) but ignore the well-being of animals who have an equal amount of intelligence and capacity to feel (cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys) and common arguments against veganism, the “normal and natural” argument, the ever famous “I only purchase humane meat” argument, and—the best argument yet (I say sarcastically)—the “I won’t get enough protein” defense. In addition, Keith talks about the health and environmental effects of consuming animals and addresses the intersection of human and animal rights and the paradox many educators face when it comes to speaking up versus staying quiet about ugly truths, like animal cruelty in our food system.
What truly makes the discussion of these topics special, though, is the way Keith presents them. He doesn’t state fact after fact in a way that makes the reader feel like he or she is reading a textbook. Rather, he engages the reader by constantly asking questions. Moreover, each section of his book is no longer than a few pages, so it can be read in short spurts. It’s likely that readers will walk away asking themselves questions about their own behavior after reading just one or two sections. Here is an example that illustrates Keith’s unique presentation:
Vegans are so extreme. You’ve heard that, right? Perhaps you’ve said it. Maybe I have even stated it at some point in my life. But here’s the thing: when we allow ourselves to freely examine these concepts, we begin to realize how arbitrary our extension of kindness has been. Kindness and compassion are not radical concepts. We all believe in them. And it is not unusual to extend that circle of compassion beyond just the human race; whether we include dogs or lions or elephants or dolphins or pigs or cows or cats. Why does the thought of someone hurting a cow seem okay to most of us, while the thought of someone hurting a dog is horrifying? What criteria do we use to justify who deserves our compassion? Can we rationalize a moral judgment that results in suffering and death simply based on what tastes good and what is convenient? That seems extreme.
Keith also presents his points with a sense of humor, which makes the topics being presented feel less threatening:
I have been told by many people, when dismissing veganism, ‘These are your values, not mine.’ I disagree. These are all of our values. I have never sat with someone eating a cheeseburger and heard him exclaim, ‘We aren’t cutting our rainforests down fast enough.’ I have never dined with someone who ate bacon, took a deep breath, and declared the air to be too clean. I have never been beside someone drinking a milkshake who wished for a way to feed less people in this world.
I could go on and on about how great this book is, but I think I am at the point where I can only encourage you to read it!
Purchase Keith’s book now on Amazon.com.
And follow Keith on Facebook.