On the one hand I liked this book quite a bit.
On the other, I expected/had hoped for more from this after listening to a couple interviews with the author.
Hribal explores captive animals' resistance to their captors and tormentors. He documents how animals can, like people, differentiate between people and shows that wild animals who have had enough don't just kill randomly (even though they could easily do that) but target their prey. Even to someone actively trying to rid herself of speciesism, it's still amazing on one level to read how captive animals can, and will, do this. Hribal delves into the history of the animals, and shows that retaliation is not uncommon (though zoos and circuses would have us believe so).
But after a while it becomes somewhat tedious. It's as if he wants to show all the times he could find that elephants (for example) have been abused and resisted, but unfortunately there is little difference in the way this is done. The stories are horrifying because they showcase how humans abuse and exploit animals as a constant, ongoing source of profit and view animals only as profit-making machines, with total disregard for any familial bonds or suffering these animals endure. And how the zoos, aquariums, etc whitewash everything for the public (which is only too willing to believe those lies).
After reading of a number of incidents about elephant resistance, I wanted something new; one person called it a laundry list of events, and that's what it feels like.
I'd hoped Hribal would document other kinds of animal resistance to captivity and torture - certainly there are plenty of examples of "farm" animals escaping, swimming rivers, jumping fences. From listening to an interview with Hribal, I had also hoped he would explore the way animals have been exploited to build our society - everything from plowing fields to pulling carriages and being caught for food and clothes - and that a case could have been made for this sort of long-term resistance to centuries of exploitation.
While such a lack is disappointing, it might not have been quite so disappointing had the book been edited. Typos by the score were distracting, although the use of "solidarity confinement" for "solitary confinement" was amusing in its way (considering the anarchist publisher).
This is a book that could have been great but only succeeds in being good - though to a lay audience, to people not into animal rights, the editing could suggest that we are not terribly competent.
I'd cautiously recommend this to activists, but can't really recommend it for non-activists. And that's the rub, because even when animals don't consciously resist their tormentors activists already understand that they suffer and don't want this - and non-activists don't.