Chapter One

In the Beginning…


Every animal knows more than you do.



IT WAS A TALKING ANIMAL that got us into all this trouble. If only that snake had kept its mouth shut, if only Eve hadn’t listened, we’d still be living in that peaceable kingdom known as Eden, our arms around our fellow creatures in a comradely hug: lions and tigers and bears—oh boy!


This will probably never happen.

We’re animals too, in case you’ve forgotten. Want proof? Check your pulse; if you don’t have one you’re either a vegetable or a mineral. But we’ve got it all compared to other animals, don’t we? Where are their mega-malls, SUVs, Internet, all those material things that make our lives worth living?

On the other hand, there’s a definite shortage of crooked politicians, greedy CEOs and financial swindlers in the animal world. They’re living la vida loca, the primal, sensual life we’ve traded in for a big brain and a thumb. There they are, naked and unashamed, screwing and shitting (and when they’re predators, killing) without a second thought, free of the neurotic baggage, social inhibitions and technological trinkets that weigh us down. Who wouldn’t envy that?

Way back when the hard and fast line between people and animals wasn’t so hard or fast, it was natural to feel a kinship with your cattle if something out there in the dark would just as soon eat you as them. Shamans spoke with animals and even turned into them on occasion. It was easy to invest animals with powers far beyond those of mortal men, or imagine them as strange visitors from another world: turtles that carried the Earth on their backs, jackals who ferried the dead to the afterlife. At the same time though, people lived eye-to-eye with animals and saw them behaving like…people: sly foxes, stubborn mules, deceitful serpents, regal lions and loyal dogs. We’re doing it to this day, we can’t help it, it’s hard-wired into our brains—and there’s a word for it, giving animals human qualities: anthropomorphism.

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The True Story of America’s Most Misunderstood Subculture