Today I talked to Matthieu Ricard about two books.
The first is A Plea for the Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion (Shambhala, 2016) It is a powerful and wide-ranging indictment of the treatment of animals by humans--and an eloquent plea for animal rights. Every cow just wants to be happy. Every chicken just wants to be free. Every bear, dog, or mouse experiences sorrow and feels pain as intensely as any of us humans do. In a compelling appeal to reason and human kindness, Matthieu Ricard here takes the arguments from his best-sellers Altruism and Happiness to their logical conclusion: that compassion toward all beings, including our fellow animals, is a moral obligation and the direction toward which any enlightened society must aspire. He chronicles the appalling sufferings of the animals we eat, wear, and use for adornment or “entertainment,” and submits every traditional justification for their exploitation to scientific evidence and moral scrutiny. What arises is an unambiguous and powerful ethical imperative for treating all of the animals with whom we share this planet with respect and compassion.
The second, co-authored with Jason Gruhl, is Our Animal Neighbors: Compassion for Every Furry, Slimy, Prickly Creature on Earth (Bala Kids, 2020). It offers a story about the fundamental connection between animals and people and how we can treat all of Earth's creatures with compassion and empathy.
Furry polar bears, playful sea otters, slow sloths, prickly porcupines, and slimy snakes are just a few of the many animals we share our world with. And even though we might not look the same or have the same needs as our animal neighbors, we have more in common with them than we might think. Our Animal Neighbors introduces children to the importance of treating all animals with the care and compassion they deserve. We all want to experience love, safety, and respect and this book is the first step to instilling those values at an early age. This planet is our home, and we should all be free to live a prosperous life regardless of whether we have hands, hooves, scales, or fur.
Matthieu Ricard is a French writer, photographer, translator and Buddhist monk. Ricard received a PhD in molecular genetics from the Pasteur Institute in 1972 before departing his native France to study Buddhism in the Himalayas, eventually becoming a monk of the Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in Nepal. Renowned also as a photographer and translator, he is the author of numerous previous books, including Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and Your World, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill, and, with his father, the late Jean-François Revel, The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life. He dedicates all the income of his work to two hundred humanitarian projects run in the Himalaya by the organization he founded, Karuna-Shechen.
Mark Molloy is the reviews editor at MAKE: A Literary Magazine.