"Text by Derrick Jensen; Photos by Karen Tweedy-Holmes; No Voice Unheard; $19.95; www.NoVoiceUnheard.org
Even if the Indianapolis Zoo hadn’t had such a run of rotten news in 2007 (the death of Phoenix the dolphin and Chugach the Kodiak bear, plus the recent fire that killed a dozen animals), this book would still be a heartbreaker. Not since John Berger’s About Looking has a book so profoundly confronted the reality of incarcerated animals. Writer Derrick Jensen deconstructs the various rationales in support of zoos, arguing, “Zoos teach us that animals are meat and bones in sacks of skin. You could put a wolverine into tinier and tinier cages, until you had a cage precisely the size of the wolverine, and you would still, according to what zoos implicitly teach, have a wolverine.” Over and over Jensen makes his point: If you haven’t seen an animal in the wild you haven’t really seen the animal.
Tweedy-Holmes’ photo essays of captive animals just drive the themes ever deeper. She has traveled the country, photographing animals in cages, animals juxtaposed with brick walls, chain link fences, gawking crowds of humans. She captures the sadness, the desperation, the numb terror in the eyes of the beasts.
Thought to Exist in the Wild moves back and forth between Jensen and Tweedy-Holmes in a dynamic format. By the time you can’t take any more of Jensen’s searing prose, it’s time to look the animals in the eye. When that becomes intolerable, Jensen begins again. It’s a sad symphony, but an essential one to face.