Growl book launch
I recently attended the launch of Kim Stallwood’s new book Growl in a vegan café in St Leonards. I had read an earlier draft and had commented on the combination of historical and philosophical thinking together with personal experience. Re-reading enabled me to focus on some aspects previously overlooked.
Brian May’s foreword refers to the book as similar to Bunyan’s Pilgrim Progress – which is the classic form for protestant autobiography. I don’t think this is an accurate analogy. Although Growl is about personal experience it is not a simplistic ‘coming through’ narrative. Indeed it carefully debunks the idea that real change in the position of non-human animals can occur simply by individuals altering their lifestyle: ‘Human nature is capricious whereas institutionalised regulations and laws are entrenched expressions of a society’s values.’
Of course, there is not a constant forward movement to treat animals with respect (witness the debate around the badger cull, for instance). However, in discussing the introduction of the Hunting Act Stallwood notes that the law empowered hunt opponents to shape public policy and had the effect of turning hunt proponents into law-breakers themselves: up to 2012 there had been 285 convictions under the Act.
Finally, the book is not just about humans. Throughout the narrative various animals are present including those with whom Kim has shared his life. For those who sometimes get tired of attending Animal Studies conferences where there is not a trace of the non-human in some contributions this is a refreshing change!