Do Unto Animals: A Review

If you’re at all like me, your heart goes a-flutter at the mention of Jon Stewart, the silver-maned comic who has become a defender of justice and fair reporting. He is part of the liberal millennial zeitgeist.
But I get straight-up “heart leaping out of ribcage like when Bugs Bunny sees a cute girl-bunny” for his wife, Tracey.
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Tracey and Jon are opening up a sanctuary in New Jersey, for farmed animals. Tracey, whose Renaissance-woman repertoire includes being a trained veterinary technician and animal advocate, works very closely with Gene Bauer, of Farm Sanctuary and with Animal Haven. Tracey has an extensive background in the arts, and is the founder of Moomah Magazine (read at your own risk: you will spend hours clicking through different articles).
Palpitating yet? Get ready:
Tracey just published an incredible book: Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live and How We Can Make Their Lives Better. And I went to the New York book launch with Dana, one of my awesome sisters.12107264_10205570889175753_7803228845389829849_n
At the event, Tracey was interviewed by none other than Gene Bauer.
One of the questions Gene asked was about how Tracey’s life acquired this trajectory. How did her journey veer from art (she has a degree in design) to animals?
Tracey explained that her life was not composed of multiple journeys, but was a single journey that had taken multiple shapes.
She spoke about having a job that she couldn’t wait to leave at the end of each day, and a career that inspired no passion, a state she described in her book as “comfortably bored.”
Because of her lifelong love of animals, she had contemplated –and initially dismissed– a career as a veterinary technician. She dreaded the sadness. She didn’t want to cry every day.
After a heart to heart with her future husband, she took the leap and went to veterinary school. As she had feared, she cried every day. And, as she had hoped, she was transformed.
One of the anecdotes she shared at the event was of helping a downed pregnant cow stand again– and getting covered with feces. “One of the happiest days of my life,” she laughed.
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It is clear from her stories (both in the book and at the launch) that she loves to laugh. When Dana and I met her afterwards to get our books signed and have a photo taken with her, she laughed and joked with us. I was initially timid in my approach, and she smacked the seat next to her and warmly told me “Sit your ass down!”
The Stewarts have been in the news a lot recently and a lot of the pieces seem to elbow Tracey out of the way to talk about Jon. He’s famous, and beloved, but this endeavor is hers. The book, the advocacy, the sanctuary, they are her. She has even inspired Jon to become a vegetarian –hopefully a vegan eventually!
She spoke during the launch about her then-upcoming interview with Gayle King, who understands better than most the experience of proximity to gargantuan fame. At one point, during the interview, Gayle told Tracey that when asked if she lives “in the shadow” of Oprah, she said: “No. I live in the light of Oprah.”
Tears came to my eyes when Tracey said “and I live in the light of Jon.” The epitome of grace.
The book is beautiful. It is covered, inside and out, with incredible illustrations by Lisel Ashlock, who is also the creative director of Moomah. I linked to her Instagram so you can lose an afternoon gazing in wonder, like I did.
The book is divided into sections:
Animals at Home, Backyard Wildlife, and Falling in Love on the Farm.
Stewart writes about some topics that are very difficult to read, like gestational crates, ear docking, and factory farming. As a highly sensitive person who often needs to pull back from too many undercover slaughterhouse videos and graphic photos of animal abuse, it is a welcome relief to read a book that does not flinch in the face of these, but instead presents them with gentleness.
It’s a bit like watching a parent explain to their child what death is– the delicate balance between telling the truth and avoiding being too scary.
The book has crafts, animal massage diagrams, bird-watching guides, personal stories, and so much more.
The chapters are short, often no more than a page or two. It’s a perfect book to pick up and open to any page. And it’s such a pleasure to read a book about animals that actually makes me feel more joy than sadness or anger.
If you decide to purchase the book, a portion of the proceeds go to Farm Sanctuary.
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