More than 65 million American households have a pet, so it's difficult to comprehend that many living creatures in this country are neglected, abused and cruelly murdered each year. Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection explores this contradiction as it exposes the suffering of domestic and wild animals in America. Bypassing complicated philosophical arguments, authors Erin E. Williams of the Humane Society of the United States and Margo DeMello of the House Rabbit Society coolly present sordid details of the human-animal relationship in America, from the meat, textile, hunting and medical experiment industries, to the use of animals as family and entertainment. The realities are brutal and no myths are left unturned: That delicious Sunday roasted chicken survived on a factory farm in a cage so small it couldn't flap its wings, covered in feces and fattened until it couldn't stand, to provide dinner at the cheapest price possible. Rationalizations and arguments about history, necessity and overpopulation don't stand up to the heavily footnoted studies and points made here; if you're going to eat that chicken, at least honor it by acknowledging what it went through to get to your table. Why Animals Matter ends with a manifesto for compassion and decency toward all living things, but remains a difficult look at America's heart of darkness.

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