By Pieter N. Paard
Birch Bark Books, 450 pages
“L’histoire d’animaux est l’histoire du subjugation,” declared renowned historian, Angelique Blaireau, in La science de l’esclavage, her groundbreaking work on the history of Animal domestication. Now in its eighth printing, Blaireau’s study of the “science of slavery” has inspired a new generation of Animals to examine its history and to challenge our assumptions about Animal life.
From Slavery to Freedom: A History of Pack Animals picks up where Blaireau left off: in the Peruvian highlands, where Llamas continue to “work” for Humans, as they have done for 5,000 years. From there, author Pieter N. Paard takes us on a whirlwind tour of the world – on the backs of our brethren – and prods us toward a redefinition of slavery and freedom.
Though its title implies otherwise, this book is not a “history,” per se. Instead, Paard uses historical content as the foundation upon which to pose a number of philosophical, moral, and political questions. Chief among these, of course, is the question of what constitutes “true” freedom. Paard uses the example of the team of 20 Mules that hauled borax out of the mining areas in Death Valley. The fact of the Mules’ post-retirement status as celebrities and their subsequent appearances at special events begs the question: is this freedom, or just another form of slavery imposed by those massive, two-footed beasts?
Although it offers no definitive answers to the questions it poses, From Slavery to Freedom serves as a springboard for further discussion of a topic that is very much on our minds as we prepare to celebrate a quarter-century of zoocracy in The Park.
© The Mammalian Daily
Reprinted with permission from Issue 112, Autumn 24 AZ