Book Reviews

Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs


An anthology of photos and stories by No Voice Unheard
Editors: Marilee Geyer, Diane Leigh and Windi Wojdak
PO Box 4171
Santa Cruz, CA 95063
(831) 440-9574

Review by Karen Davis, PhD

Ninety-five is the figure that is often cited as the number of animals who are saved each year by one person’s vegan diet. A droplet from the vast sea of creatures subjected to every conceivable cruelty and degradation in order to satisfy the human desire for their eggs, flesh, and nursing mother’s milk. For most people these animals are as invisible as microbes in a pond. Yet each animal buried alive in the sewage systems of animal agriculture is an individual with emotions, a personality and a will to live that is as passionate as our own. If only people could meet these animals, surely they will stop eating them.

One way for this to happen is by visiting a farmed animal sanctuary. Another is for America’s sanctuary animals to be brought to you through stories and photographs filled with the passion, beauty, love and tears of those who know them best. Ninety-Five provides a lyrical look at a group of individual chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs, rabbits, goats, ducks and other farmed animals - including a live-market crab named Jean - who escaped being dead on a plate. It’s an honor for United Poultry Concerns to be one of the sanctuaries chosen for this rich, expressive and compelling book through the magnificent photography of Davida Breier. Through the lens of empathic, talented and insightful writers, sanctuary caregivers, and photographers, Ninety-Five lets the animals be their own best witnesses to the truth of their lives.

Libby and Louie
Libby and Louie share love at Peaceful Prairie.

I sat down outside with our sanctuary chickens, our turkey Amelia, our two male ducks, and Frankencense the peacock, one Saturday afternoon in April, to read Ninety-Five. The stories and photos seduced me into the lives presented in the book, just as our sanctuary birds seduce me every time I join them in the yard and experience the pull of their personalities and vital energies. Each animal portrait in Ninety-Five needs to be dwelt upon as a whole, making it hard to extract passages to convey something of the book’s evocative texture, diversity and sensibility. So while every portrait is a treasure in its own right, for the sake of this review, I draw attention to one of the several powerful stories by Joanna Lucas of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary in Colorado. In “Libby & Louie - A Love Story,” Joanna creates a virtual symphonic tone poem about a rooster named Louie and the hen he loves and who loves him back named Libby. Here is an excerpt from their story:

In the blush of her first weeks at the sanctuary, when everything astonished her - the open sky, the endless fields, the scent of rain, the feel of straw underfoot - we thought we heard her voice a few times: small, joyful cries coming out of nowhere, seemingly formed out of thin air, the musical friction of invisible particles, not the product of straining, vibrating, trembling vocal cords, but a sound of pure joy coming from the heart of life itself. But, after she paired up with Louie and became his sole partner, Libby turned so completely quiet, that we began to wonder if the voice we had heard in the beginning was truly hers. . . .

This book is all about these vibrant, singing and silent souls, falsely imprisoned in the dispiriting and despairing notion of “food” animals. I recommend Ninety-Five: Meeting America’s Farmed Animals in Stories and Photographs to everyone who cares about animals, everyone who advocates for animals and wants to get to know them better and speak more eloquently on their behalf. “From Justice the steer who broke out of a truck on the way to the slaughterhouse and who is now the self-appointed ‘greeter’ at his sanctuary, to Gilly, a small white hen rescued from a factory egg farm who found quiet happiness in a loving home, each animal has a compelling story that will captivate.” This I can promise you’ll discover for yourself in reading this wonderful book. And please share it with your friends and family and donate a copy to your local library.
– Karen Davis

Rhubarb is one of many UPC residents featured in Ninety-Five.