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Book Reviews
Eco-Spirituality and Human-Animal Relationships
By: Mark Hawthorne - Moon Books, $10.95

Description: In Eco-Spirituality and Human-Animal Relationships Mark Hawthorne examines the all-too-often difficult and exploitative relationship between animals and humans.

Eco-spirituality seeks to reassess our relationship with the environment, where humans are understood as not morally superior but rather equal to the life forms with whom we share this planet.

Our kinship with animals has perhaps always been fragmented, but it’s not too late to embrace a new paradigm. For us, for them, and for all life on Earth.

Verdict: For those unaware, Eco-Spirituality is a manifestation of the spiritual connection between human beings and the environment. Indeed, Eco-Spirituality incorporates an intuitive and embodied awareness of all life and engages a relational view of person to planet, inner to outer landscape, and soul to soil; whilst, and especially here in this new book Earth Spirit: Eco-Spirituality and Human-Animal Relationships, our kinship with animals is brought into the mix also.

For those living in the United States, there is a good chance that waking up each morning includes small paws walking across the bed or a cold, wet nose to the hand. According to a 2017–18 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 68 percent of US households own a pet; this equates to 84.6 million homes. And, while dogs and cats remain the most popular choices, horses, birds, fish, reptiles, and other animals are on the charts, too.

Americans cherish their pets. The APPA estimates that in the United States, $72.1 billion will be spent on pet expenditures this year (up from $69.5 billion in 2017). These expenses include food, supplies, over-the-counter medicine, veterinary care, live animal purchases, and other services.

This bond between pets and their owners was not always so similar to the relationships humans have with each other. According to Bayer, a life science company, the human-animal bond has evolved for more than 15,000 years, and it began as a working relationship.

Animals provided protection and service to people; this could have been while hunting, farming, or performing other tasks necessary for day-to-day life. Dogs would track and herd. Cats usually lived outside, and would hunt and kill rodents that, otherwise, could spread disease and damage food or other materials.

Animals also served people during wartime. The United States Army Medical Department Journal (AMDJ) mentions cavalry horses, sentry dogs, carrier pigeons, and even mascots as common historical military roles for animals. According to AMDJ, these animals not only provided protection; they also could offer stress relief and a sense of pride to their human counterparts.

It is easy to overlook the human-animal bond as a one-way street. Pets need their owners to meet their basic needs of food, water, shelter, and welfare. But, humans can gain a different kind of well being from their companion animals. Research shows that pets can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, raise blood oxytocin levels, and, in some cases, may reduce direct pain. According to Bayer, people living with dogs are 15 percent less likely to die from heart disease.

Pets also can offer benefits for other human health challenges. The elderly respond well to companion animals. According to Bayer, diseases like depression, coronary conditions, and dementia can be exacerbated by loneliness. By interacting with companion animals, elderly people can experience positive mental and physical effects. Similar results can occur in children during emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral development.

Inclusive of six chapters relevant to the subject matter - such as Animals Used For Food, In Captivity, In Labs, For Sport, For Labor, and Animals We Revere, Mark Hawthorne’s thoroughly engrossing new book Earth Spirit: Eco-Spirituality and Human–Animal Relationships provides vital information, perspectives, poetry and wisdom to guide and support [the reader] through the most complex of environmental, climate and biodiversity challenges and crisis facing us all [Sarah Kerr, Pagan Federation President].

About the Author - Mark Hawthorne is the author of several animal advocacy books, including The Way of the Rabbit, A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All, and Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism, whose 10th-anniversary edition was published by Changemakers Books in 2018.

Mark stopped eating meat after an encounter with one of India’s many cows in 1992 and became an ethical vegan a decade later. He and his wife, Lauren, live in Northern California.

Official Book Purchase Link