This is the conclusion of Dr. Karen Becker's fascinating three-part interview with Dr. Michael W. Fox. Dr. Fox is the author of a new book titled Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health. He's also an internationally recognized veterinarian and former vice-president of both the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International.
By Dr. Becker
Last week in part two of my three part interview with Dr. Michael W. Fox (part one can be found here), we continued our discussion of his latest book, Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health. We talked about the pet obesity epidemic, which Dr. Fox has dubbed "Carnivore Metabolic Syndrome," and the fact that this is a much more serious problem than simple weight gain.
We also discussed Dr. Fox's belief that the benefits derived from organic farming and also in switching companion animals from processed pet food to real food are examples of evidence-based medicine. We also chatted about the fact that a growing number of people are taking back their kitchens to regain control over what they eat and feed their families, including their pets.
Humanity is at a Crossroads
One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Fox's new book, Healing Animals and the Vision of One Health, is:
"Our perception of animals determines how we treat them, and whether they suffer under our dominion or not. Behind our perception and treatment of animals lie our needs, wants, values, and cultural and religious traditions. Until these are addressed and our perception changed so there is empathy, respect, and communication, the holocaust of the animal kingdom will continue. And those qualities or virtues that make us human – humility, compassion, and selfless benevolence – will continue to be crushed by arrogance, ignorance, and the selfishness of our species."
As I told Dr. Fox, in my opinion, no truer words have ever been spoken more eloquently. This paragraph beautifully summarizes not only the information in the book, but the concept of One Health.
Dr. Fox also feels the quote encapsulates the basic philosophy we need to embrace. He agrees with the Jesuit priest, philosopher and paleontologist, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who says in his book, The Future of Man, that biologically, evolution-wise, we're at a crossroads, and our final choice is between suicide and adoration.
Put another way, we can become responsible for the Earth, following Albert Schweitzer's view of reverential respect for all life, and obedience to the Golden Rule, or we can continue to make chaos out of everything. If we do the latter, we become less than human, and suffer physically, mentally and spiritually.
Dr. Fox believes as a species on our overcrowded, polluted planet right now, we're in a terrible predicament. But he feels we still have an opportunity to set things right and begin the enormous and awesome task of healing.
The Human-Animal Bond in Its Broadest Sense
Dr. Fox says that when he was graduating from veterinary school, he had the sense that if he was really going to help animals he would have to look at the human-animal bond in its broadest sense.
In order to be most effective, he would need to view the bond not just as an emotional concept, but also from the standpoint of rights for animals – the right breeding, right nutrition, right environment, right relationships, right understanding, and the right and appropriate veterinary preventive medicine and care.
As an example, when he thinks of the right environment and relationships for pets, he always encourages people to get two cats, or two dogs, or a cat and a dog. Cats are generally happier and healthier when they have a like-natured friend around. Dogs, of course, are pack animals and don't do well alone.
Since many people are away from home all day, pets need company in the form of other pets. They entertain and stimulate each other, and are generally much happier and healthier.
In chapter 7 of Healing Animals, titled "What Real Health Care Reform Entails: Animal & Environmental Protection, Food Safety, Security & Quality," Dr. Fox addresses some of these key issues and offers simple ways to move forward so that we're in a better place next year than we are this year.
Dr. Fox talks extensively about global bioethics in his book and giving fair consideration to not only human well-being, but animal well-being and the well-being of the ecosystem. This belief system is part of who he is as a person – he was a founding member of the Society of Veterinary Ethology back in the mid-1960's.
Animals and Nature First
For those of you who may be new to the One Health Movement or want to learn more about linking the well-being of the planet to the well-being of humans and animals, Dr. Fox's Healing Animals deals with the subject in a very concise way. The book is available at Amazon.com.
Another of Dr. Fox's books, Animals and Nature First: Creating Covenants with Animals and Nature, is a good compliment to his latest book for those who want to look more deeply at the philosophical and ethical arguments behind the vision of One Health. In Animals and Nature First, Dr. Fox discusses the spirituality of animals and their ability to empathize – what he calls the "empathosphere."
He tells the story of a family cat that starts crying at noon for no apparent reason. Then the telephone rings at 1:00 p.m., and it's the veterinary hospital calling to say the family's beloved German shepherd died on the operating table at noon.
Dr. Fox offers several similar stories in the book, and even a few about dogs and cats giving afterlife manifestations to their loved ones. It's all part of the great mystery.
The book's title, Animals and Nature First comes from the old lifeboat cry that ships' captains used to make, calling for "Women and children first."
According to Dr. Fox, the two books are kind of complimentary, but Healing Animals is more of an action-oriented book that can help everyone who reads it start making a difference. He says we need to just start chipping away at the problem – veterinarians, human doctors, public health officials, and others. Dr. Fox feels somewhat optimistic that the revolution is beginning, and he believes strongly that we all need to participate in whatever way we can.
My Thanks to Dr. Fox
He is truly an inspiration to us all. It was a pleasure and honor to spend time with him discussing his latest book.