Williams, Erin E.

views updated

Williams, Erin E.


Education: University of California, Berkeley, master's degree.


Home—Silver Spring, MD. E-mail—[email protected]


Animal rights activist and writer. Works for the Humane Society of the United States. Has been a wildlife rehabilitator, a campaign director and shelter director for the world's largest rabbit rescue organization; founded an environmental nonprofit organization focusing on factory farm issues; taught numerous classes and workshops focusing on animal protection, the environment, and social justice.


(With Margo DeMello) Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2007.


Erin E. Williams is a longtime animal rights activist who says she owes her concern over animals to growing up on a dairy farm in rural Illinois. She has worked or volunteered for a number of animal protection and environmental organizations, from small student groups to international nonprofits. She has worked in many segments of the animal activist arena, including as a wildlife rehabilitator, rabbit shelter director, and founder of an environmental nonprofit focusing on factory farm issues. Williams has also taught classes and workshops on animal protection, the environment, and social justice.

Williams is the author, with Margo DeMello, of Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection. In the book the authors offer a comprehensive tome on various animal industries, detailing humans' cruelty to animals and offering a way humans can reduce animal cruelty. Anneli Rufus, writing on AlterNet. noted that it is a "book so jam-packed with literal crimes against nature that it's hard to read more than a few pages in one go."

In their book, the authors point out the contradictory treatment of animals in America, from beloved pets to raising animals for food and other uses under cruel conditions. They also write of animals losing their habitats, being hunted for trophies, and removed from their natural habitat for exotic pet trade. According to the authors, twenty-two million mourning doves are killed in the United States each year while China rounded up and slaughtered thousands of pet dogs in 2006, calling it a health campaign. They also point to the approximately three million, eight-hundred thousand kangaroos killed for their skins each year in Australia, the 265,000 rabbits and 65,000 dogs living in U.S. research laboratories as research subjects, and the sixty billion pounds of fish and other sea animals killed and discarded each year by the worldwide fishing industry.

Nancy Bent, writing in Booklist, called Why Animals Matter a "a well-organized presentation of the animal-welfare argument." For example, the authors take a close look at the industries exploiting animals, from meat process companies to medical research laboratories and cosmetic testing facilities. These animal rights activists also point to abuse of animals in the entertainment industry and the fur and leather industry. A contributor to the Animal Literature Web site noted that the book "overwhelms at times with the sheer magnitude of offenses against animals, but it tempers this with pleasant photos of rescued happy creatures."

Among the adverse environmental effects of animal exploitation mentioned by the authors are pollution, deforestation, and the reduction of biodiversity. The authors also broaden their scope to look at wider social issues, such as the connection between animal cruelty and human exploitation of immigrants. The book includes case studies of rescued animals. The authors end each chapter with suggestions to help reduce animal cruelty, from the simple spay and neutering of pets to buying cruelty-free products. "These tips are peaceful little polyps in what is otherwise an unflinching indictment of human appetites, of our ridiculous desires," noted Anneli Rufus in her review on AlterNet. "It's an indictment of our behaviors and ourselves." The authors also take their examination of animal cruelty into the worldwide issues of globalization, growing food shortages, and overall negative consequences for Third World countries.

A Publishers Weekly contributor referred to Why Animals Matter as "a tough but fair-minded revelation of … cruelty that usually remains hidden from sight." BookPage Web site contributor Deanna Larson noted that the book finishes "with a manifesto for compassion and decency toward all living things, but remains a difficult look at America's heart of darkness."



Booklist, May 15, 2007, Nancy Bent, review of Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection, p. 6.

Library Journal, June 1, 2007, Alicia Graybill, review of Why Animals Matter, p. 146.

Publishers Weekly, March 26, 2007, review of Why Animals Matter, p. 78.

Reference & Research Book News, November 1, 2007, review of Why Animals Matter.


AlterNet,http://alternet.org/ (February 23, 2008), Anneli Rufus, "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who's the Cruelest Species of Them All?"

Animal Literature,http://www.animalit.ca/ (April 23, 2008), review of Why Animals Matter.

BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (April 23, 2008), Deanna Larson, "The Challenge and Inspiration of Our Animal Companions."

About this article

Williams, Erin E.

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article