I’m an unreliable reviewer, right off the bat, and I’d not put too much credence in what I have to say about the book… a bit too close to home for me to claim any objective position, eh?
Too, there’s sections I haven’t read through in proper form – there’s too much pain, too much terror, too much loss and evil and hatred and destruction. I lived it all firsthand and realtime; reliving those specific details does nobody any good – least of all me. Though there’s a few picayune points on which I’d have suggested minor factual edits (I never saw, let alone had the ability to influence via suggested edits, UniquelyD prior to its publication – apparently that’s a rumour going around, which to me is pretty funny to hear given the reality of things during the course of the book’s creation), overall I know that the facts memorialised therein are true to the reality as it transpired.
And, although I don’t offer this as a criticism, I can say this: the author chose to leave out of the book vast quantities of unflattering materials as they relate to such profoundly destructive personalities as Laura (“felcher”) Clark, Corinne Super, Jeff Robson, Andrew Johnston (more on Andrew soon… much, much more), and Susan Roe. She did that for the simple reason that, if she couldn’t pin down a specific claim of fact with specific, objective, independent corroborative evidence then – no matter how much other evidence, often far more than enough to stand up in any court of law in the world – she simply wouldn’t let that fact into print. That meant that many, many examples of disgusting behaviour on the part of such monsters was not included in UniquelyD – which serves to paint these dark personalities in (hard as it is to believe, as bad as their included actions are) a much more flattering light than reality would otherwise provide.
I accept this, because I knew from the beginning that the author was categorically unwilling to compromise whatsoever when it comes to factual verification. I did my best to verify each and every claim or statement I made, over the years this book was being written; however, given the pure chaos visited on my family and I over and over by armed brutes with badges – who, with predictable regularity, destroyed my books, records, files, computers, and documents during every pretext raid of my home – there were times where corroborative materials had simply been destroyed before I could provide them. That’s the nature of the beast when reporting from the front lines of conflict – and that’s exactly the book that UniquelyD is.
That can’t be but frustrating to me, although I respect the author’s uncompromising stance on factual verification. It means that some of the worst crimes and transgressions of those who have invested themselves in destroying my life, my family, my work, my community, and my spirit didn’t make it into the book. That’s haunting, because some of those transgressions are substantially further beyond the pale even than those documented therein – again, hard as that may be to believe.
Fortunately, in some cases I have enough second-tier corroborating evidence to set forth some of those otherwise-elided additional details, in my own writing; that’s exactly what I’m in process of doing now. Because, to me, we’re all accountable for our actions and choices – myself included. I stand behind who I am and the choices I’ve made – the good, as well as the bad and not leaving out the many such that were outright stupid in hindsight I expect the same of others who feel justified in seeking to destroy me and everything I hold dear. We all must stand behind our work, and stand accountable for our impact on the world we share.
Sunlight is the best disinfectant. I’ve poured decades of my life into that one simple belief, and I’m no less sure it’s true today than I was decades ago. My own activism largely involves illuminating and documenting, as with a mirror, the ugly and violent bigotries and hatreds directed at me and at my community: this is what those dark energies look like, what they cause, and what they do to the people who embrace them. I document that, I spotlight it… and I know that, in doing so, those dark energies eventually burn themselves out. That is my work.
Uniquely Dangerous is a disgusting, painful, horrific book. It should never have been written, because the events it documents never, ever should have happened in a world of law, civilisation, and baseline human decency. It is a testament to so much that is broken, to so much that failed to hold up to its own standards and boastful assertions, and to so much about how we treat our nonhuman colleagues that (from the perspective of my community, in particular) is simply inexcusable. Factory farms. Surgical mutilation. Species extinction. Factory farms (!!!)… we have created a literal hell on earth for hundreds of millions of our fellow sentient beings. We made that, we H. sapiens sapiens. We did it on purpose – not by accident. We own it.
We have made hell, for those unfortunate enough to be caught in our unloving embrace. And yet, amidst that all-too-real, human-made hell of factory animal exploitation… our society has spent millions of dollars and decades of authorised use of force trying to destroy me because I wonder just why it is that we’re (allegedly) unable to share intimacy with other species without it being something abusive and negative-sum: love as ugliness, by societal fiat. How utterly disgusting a concept that is, and that such an effort must be undertook by people purporting to “save animals” whilst (as UniquelyD documents, to its profound credit) simultaneously murdering and/or mutilating them, often as not.
How is it, exactly, that my specific questions have been worth all that focus – all the thousands of hours that “animal activists” (what a perversion of the activism I grew up embracing and embodying – real work to help real nonhumans in living healthy, happy, stable lives) have spent demonising me – whilst we as a species continue to build our hell-on-earth factory farms bigger and bigger and bigger all the time. We’re expected to be in a tizzy about adult mammals engaged in mutually-sought, mutually-appreciated, mutually-agreed intimacy… and down the road factory farms churn out their intentional tortures for profit? It’s ok to stick an electric probe up the anus of a bull and shock him into disgorging his ejaculate… so long as it’s done for profit? What sort of twisted moral framework would ever decide that is ok? The merest touch of his testicles, and it’s “abuse” – but cut them off with a sharp knife thus leaving him damaged for life, and it’s somehow a blessing for him? Disgusting, absolutely disgusting – top to bottom, the entire charade.
UniquelyD never should have been written – it never should have been needed. But it was needed, and it was written. And I am grateful that someone had the courage, and integrity, and dedication to see it through. Nothing about it was easy – I know, I was there. But, then again, not much good comes easy when it comes to making the world a better place, does it?
Nope, it most certainly does not.
Integrity means standing by what is right, no matter what the cost and no matter what the consequences. I’ve done that – as best I can, every time I can. I stand by my work, and I am honoured to have had the opportunity to challenge a bigotry as unjustified, ugly, violent and destructive as that which in recent years has been directed at my fellow zoos and I.
I continue – proudly and with unflagging vigour – to challenge that prejudice today. I do so peacefully always, and I do so knowing that I stand on the right side of history.
Normally, I cannot help myself from entwining a bit of dark humour in my writing nowadays – I’ve earned it, and it’s helped me stay on even keel in my own involuntary, decade-long journeys back and forth through hell. But when I stand back and look at UniquelyD as literature, I simply cannot summon any pithy quips – one might as well crack wise after finishing Martel’s Beatrice & Virgil, or Wiesel’s Night. Dark books demand enormous contribution from their readers; they deliver, in return, enormous insight into the full-spectrum truth of the world as it is. They tell us of the horrors, so that we may understand them and thereby transcend them.
UniquelyD is too real, too raw, and too hard for any humour, any inattention, any blithe summaries or lighthearted critiques. It stands beyond regular categorisation, and to me that is perhaps the greatest compliment one could ever give a collection of written words.
I wish it was never written. I wish it never happened. It was, and it did – and I am profoundly grateful for both.