By: Staff  Date: 01/15/2012 Category: | Book Reviews |

Misplaced Compassion: The Animal Rights Movement Exposed, by Ward M. Clark; 2001; trade paperback; $21.95;Writers Club Press, an imprint of Inc.

“The AR agenda is far-reaching. Animal rights activists want to tell you what to eat, They want to tell you what to wear. They want to tell you what pets you are allowed to have. Some of them don’t want you allowed any pets at all. Their agenda includes outlawing the use of animals in farming as well as banning circuses and outlawing zoos. It also demands an end to fur sales, an end to McDonald’s and Burger King, and an end to hunting and fishing. The ultimate goal of the radical animal rights agenda is to end any interaction between humans and animals.”

With this bold statement, Ward M. Clark, a farmer, hunter, and biologist, begins his journey through the animal rights movement, a journey that uses the words of the activists themselves to indict their purpose and presents a host of arguments to counter their propaganda.

Clark was born and brought up on an Iowa farm. Hunting, fishing, and farming were ingrained in his life from the beginning. As a 10-year-old, he learned that some people wanted hunting banned, and he was confused by their emotional pleas. As a college student, he came face-to-face with a student who called hunting unfair, and he began to study the movement so he could debate it wherever it arose.

Misplaced Compassion is divided into six parts and has an extensive set of appendices containing profiles of major animal rights and animal welfare organizations.

Part One: “Rights: What are they and who has them” sets the stage for the debate in five chapters that define rights, discuss the philosophy of rights and responsibilities, describe man’s obligation to animals, and explain the personalities and tactics of animal rights activists. Clark argues that activists

  • are compassionate, but do not temper that compassion with common sense;
  • retreat into emotional rhetoric when confronted with logical arguments;
  • are intellectually lazy because they fail to move beyond that rhetoric; and
  • are arrogant in their attempts to force others to embrace their worldview through changes in law and policies.

He then gives a brief description of the tactics used by these groups to pursue their agenda:

  1. Tell a whopper, such as “Jesus was a vegetarian” and “The animal rights movement is non-violent.”
  2. Use gross generalities that vilify all hunters, researchers, etc.
  3. Pick and choose among facts to build the animal rights case for abolishing this or that use of animals.
  4. Use emotionally-loaded words and phrases such as “If it saves the life of one animal, wouldn’t it be worth it?”
  5. Demand that those who interact with animals justify their interest.
  6. Indulge in semantic infiltration to subtly change the meaning of words, such as claiming that the researchers ‘murder’ animals or referring to game hunts on private property as ‘canned hunts.’
  7. Protest anything and everything guaranteed to get headlines for the cause and turn public opinion against scientists, farmers, furriers, meat eaters, hunters, and others.
  8. Use lawsuits and legislative efforts to force changes that cost money and time and disrupt legitimate animal interests.
  9. Use direct action such as vandalism, harassment, arson, property damage, and theft.

In Parts Two-Five, Clark takes on the activist campaign against hunting and trapping, biomedical research, agribusiness, and the use of animals in entertainment, education, and personal service. In each section, he presents the case for maintaining these activities and exposes the fallacy in the activists’ arguments.

Hunting and trapping

The section on hunting and trapping covers 60 pages, about one fifth of the book’s total length. In it, Ward outlines the development of hunting, the reasons why people hunt today, and the contributions hunters make to conservation efforts through hands-on participation in projects carried out by hunters’ groups and through license fees and taxes on hunting and camping equipment. These efforts and dollars pumped into habitat restoration, wildlife management, reintroduction of wildlife species, acquisition of wildlife habitat, and population studies not only improve conditions for all animals but help boost the economies in areas where hunters pursue their sport.

The final chapter in the hunting and trapping section is devoted to debunking the radicals’ claims about trapping and the fur industry. He explains that, despite activists’ claims to the contrary,

  • Animals do not frequently chew off their legs to escape leghold traps;
  • Steel traps do not break bones and rip flesh when the animal is caught;
  • Animals in these traps do not suffer horrible pain;
  • Animals raised for fur do not live under cruel, horrible conditions; and
  • Animals in fur ranches are not killed horribly but are euthanized under methods recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association.


Among the several tables of information in Misplaced Compassion is a three-page compilation of animal-based research projects from 1901-1997. Beginning with the development of diphtheria serum using guinea pigs and ending with the discovery and characterization of prions (the culprits in diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy [mad cow disease]) through work with hamsters and mice, the chart identifies the year, the scientist, the animal models, and the result of the studies. A glance through the list highlights the broad range of scientific understanding of body processes and the mechanisms of disease for nearly a century, all achieved using animals.

Clark goes from the overview of scientific research using animals to the specific case of thalidomide, a drug that caused severe birth defects in human babies. Thalidomide was not approved in the US because of insufficient animal studies – tests on pregnant animals were not completed until the drug was implicated in infant deformities in Europe, where it was used to relieve morning sickness. Animal rights activists use thalidomide to claim that animal tests are useless, Clark wrote, but “American women were spared this tragedy precisely because the FDA refused to approve thalidomide for distribution due to insufficient pre-clinical testing.”

Tests done subsequent to the discovery that the drug does cross the placental barrier showed teratogenic effects in mice, rats, marmosets, hamsters, and baboons.

Clark continues on with an examination of claims made by the anti-research group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that animal research has been of no use in a host of discoveries; a review of current laws, regulations, policies, animal welfare standards, and both public and private oversight of research involving animals; and a brief assessment of methods that activists regard as replacements for animal-based research.



“Animal agriculture is an indispensable component of the world’s food producing machine,” Clark wrote, but noted that activists consider it “wasteful and unnecessary.” He then quoted a passage from the website of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a passage that paints a dark and sinister picture of farm animal life in language designed to appeal to people who know nothing about animal husbandry, and proceeded to debunk it just as he did with the PCRM deceptions about animal-based research.

The section on agriculture wraps up with an examination of the activists declarations that raising grain and soybeans for people is a more efficient use of land than raising crops to feed livestock and that livestock farming uses a disproportionate share of irrigation water.

Animals in education, entertainment, and service

The last section about animal use covers a broad spectrum of uses from circuses and rodeos to the raising and training of working dogs. It gives only a few paragraphs of attention to the complex of attacks on purebred dog breeding and does not mention the attempts to change the federal Animal Welfare Act through legislation and lawsuits, the recent support that zoos have expressed for activist efforts to prevent private ownership of exotic animals, or the educational use of animals in the classroom.

The section does contain a chapter about the battle of Bobby Berosini to protect his livelihood and his orangutans from attacks by animal rights groups, a battle that has seen Berosini accused of (but never charged with) cruelty. Berosini was the victim of an early undercover videotape ‘investigation’ that was sent to national media outlets with allegations that the trainer beat and otherwise abused his performing apes. Berosini sued, won, lost on appeal, then lost on a second appeal based on the judges’ assertions that activists were entitled to believe that the video tape showed cruelty even though it was made by a disgruntled former employee of the hotel where Berosini’s act took place and the perpetrator admitted that he deliberately agitated the animals so the performer would have to bring them under control before going on stage.

The final chapter in Misplaced Compassion describes the estrangement that civilized people have with animals and the environment, an estrangement that allows radicals to replace hands-on experience and in-depth knowledge with their own interpretation of the human-animal bond.

Today people receive their meat in plastic wrap, get their information about wildlife and the environment from television and movies, and revel in a society that is further and further removed from nature. Pets are the last direct contact most urban and suburban people have with the natural world, and pets are fast becoming transmogrified into feathered and furred ‘children,’ their true natures hidden in an anthropomorphic haze.


When his work on Misplaced Compassion was winding down, Clark spent some time at MacKenzie Gulch, a canyon in the Continental Divide in Colorado.

“As I sat on the edge of MacKenzie Gulch, I was surrounded by life; plant life, animal life, single-celled life; the forest, the waters, the soil, and the sky was literally a heaving sea of life. I have never had to see the bonds that connect me, inextricably, to other life forms that I share the Earth with. I’ve always known they were there; I’ve always embraced them. “Life feeds on Life, and Life gives Life to Life.


I don’t know why animal rights activists seek to minimize that understanding or to deny that connection. I don’t know why they seek to somehow divorce Man from Nature. Ingrid Newkirk’s wish for humans to ‘enjoy from a distance’ baffles me all the more in surroundings like these.”

Misplaced Compassion ends with appendices featuring profiles of several animal rights and animal welfare groups and other resources. There’s also a footnote section, but for a book packed with counter-arguments to animal rights campaigns, the notes are rather sparse.

About The Author

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All Authors Of This Article: | Norma Bennett Woolf |
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