I grew up during World War 11 in the industrial, cotton milling and coal mining county of Lancashire in the north of England surrounded by William Blake’s “satanic mills.” I came to respect the dignity of hard labor, the spirit of the Luddite and the virtues of frugality, self-reliance and serving the greater good in accord with the Golden Rule. I also witnessed how humans can harm the natural environment and create toxic wastelands. Animals taught me through their trust and affection to be gentle and respectful, qualities of character that were lacking in some of my peers whom I found had blown up frogs with straws at one of the local ponds where I played and studied the life in the waters, and in some adults who had thrown a sack in the pond which I opened and found a litter of drowned kittens. A year or so after these experiences I looked though the yard fence of the veterinary hospital that I passed every day on my walk home from school and saw two large trash cans abuzz with flies, brimming over with dead dogs, cats, puppies and kittens. This tragic sight was incomprehensible to my nine-year old mind but I realized that there was something seriously wrong and resolved to become a veterinarian to help save the animals. This mass mercy- killing, I learned later, was one of the dark consequences of food shortages during World War 11.
My childhood engagements with animals and nature, encouraged by my parents and “seeing practice” from my early teens with the local country vet when we moved to the sheep-raising county of Derbyshire, famed for its dales and moors, provided further inspiration to become a veterinarian. Most urgent, I believed, was the need to help restore human-animal relationships which I felt were dysfunctional at best and cruelly exploitative at worst..
Soon after graduating from the Royal Veterinary College, London in 1962, and after a brief time as House surgeon at Cambridge University school of veterinary medicine I came to the USA on a research fellowship provided by Dr. John Paul Scott of the Jackson Memorial Research Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine to study canine behavioral and neurological development. This legitimized my scientific credibility and efforts to contribute to the advancement of animal welfare and rights by applying the science of ethology to animal care and veterinary education. In particular I joined others to form the International Society for Veterinary Ethology to call for the inclusion of the science of animal behavior/ethology in the veterinary and animal science teaching curricula to help improve in how animals are cared for and regarded, be they wild or domesticated, leading to consideration of their needs, interests, well-being and rights.
My first two books were Canine Behavior (1965) and Canine Pediatrics (1996). In 1968 I edited and contributed to the first veterinary medical and scientific textbook on this subject, Abnormal Behavior in Animals published by W.B. Saunders and in 1971 the University of Chicago Press published my PhD dissertation Integrative Development of Brain and Behavior in the Dog. Some of my dissertation findings were applied to the U.S. army’s canine biosensor/Superdog project and improved the welfare and performance of in-field military dogs in the Vietnam war. My popular books Understanding Your Dog (1972) and Understanding Your Cat (1974) underscored the value of applying ethology in the care and enjoyment of companion animals.
Researching the behavior and development of wolves, coyotes and other wild canids to understand more of the effects of domestication on the dog during my tenured associate professor of psychology position at Washington University, St. Louis MO where I taught animal behavior/ethology and developmental psychobiology, I published several papers and books such as The Behavior of Wolves, Dogs and Related Canids (1971) and The Dog: Its Domestication & Behavior (1978), this research being awarded the DSc degree in ethology/animal behavior from the University of London. A series of lectures at the University of Minnesota published in Concepts in Ethology: Animal & Human Behavior (1974) helped establish the relevance of the science of animal behavior in the use and treatment of animals in biomedical research in particular.
It was a welcome affirmation to receive an invitation from veterinary college Dean, Prof. Leo Bustad to give the graduation address at the School of Veterinary Medicine in Pullman Washington State University at Pullman in 1978.I also was greatly encouraged during these several years by Prof. Calvin Schwabe at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Davis, California who engaged me in giving a series of lectures there and at the University of Minnesota in the published Wesley W. Spink Lectures on Comparative Medicine, Concepts in Ethology: Animal and Human Behavior (1974).
My growing affection and respect for the wolf, detailed in my book The Soul of the Wolf (1980) was contrary to the prevailing American view that sought their extermination by any and all means so I joined others in successfully securing endangered species status to protect the wolf and censor wild canid eradication methods and consequences. Of several children’s books published during this period, three were widely read on schools: The Wolf (1973), Wild Dogs Three (1977) and Animals Have Rights Too (1991). After training and certification as a massage therapist I was able to contribute to the advancement of holistic, integrative veterinary medicine writing the book on therapeutic massage for companion animals, The Healing Touch (1981),and sequels, The Healing Touch for Cats (2004) and The Healing Touch for Dogs (2004).
Two sabbatical leaves in the Indian jungle studying the Dhole or Asiatic wild dog gave me a deeper immersion in ecology, conservation and the politics of extinction, as per my book The Whistling Hunters: Field Studies of the Asiatic Wild Dog Cuon alpinus (1984). I was radicalized by the times—the Vietnam War, the War on Wildlife, especially against wolves and other predators across the U.S., and by the ignored realities of climate change associated with a non-sustainable fossil fuel based economy compounded by petrochemicals, overpopulation and overconsumption. I was also concerned about the family farm crisis, the proliferation of factory farms and puppy mills which I investigated along with laboratory animal care and zoo facilities. So I left academia to be the Director of The Institute for the Study of Animal Problems,(ISAP), a division of the Humane Society of the United States, (HSUS), a non-profit organization in Washington DC, seeking a broader realm to implement more effective ways to improve the health and well-being of animals. For some years we published the International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems (http://animalstudiesrepository.org/v3_ijsap) and Advances in Animal Welfare Science which helped pave the way for animal welfare science research and bioethics. My book Returning to Eden: Animal Rights & Human Responsibilities (1980) helped set the agenda for all involved in various arenas of animal use and potential abuse. ISAP helped establish animal welfare as a scientific discipline and relevant field of research. It was eventually replaced by the Center for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE) which I also directed while concurrently serving as HSUS’s Vice President for Farmed Animals & Bioethics. CRLE served as a catalyst to bring various religious and spiritual traditions to address animal and environmental concerns through various conferences, symposia and monographs, many of my writings being later incorporated in the book The Boundless Circle: Caring for Creatures & Creation (1996).
According to the website Activist Facts (https://www.activistfacts.com/person/3365-michael-w-fox/) “Former HSUS CEO John Hoyt said the Center was created “to let Dr. Fox direct some of his views in a channel that was an arm’s length removed from the HSUS. What are those controversial views about which Hoyt was so concerned? Fox holds the radical view that humans and animals have the same moral standing. — In his book The Inhumane Society, Fox’s opines: “The life of an ant and that of my child should be granted equal consideration.”
I traveled extensively during these years with the HSUS to document the quality of care and condition of animals in shelters, puppy mills, zoos, laboratory animal research holding and breeding facilities, intensive pig and poultry operations, cattle feedlots and slaughter houses: And shared my findings and concerns at various conferences of animal research, farming and animal welfare organizations and in testimonies on relevant hearings before Congress, State legislators and Governors.
The Smithsonian magazine contracted writer David Nevin to interview and accompany me on visits to various animal facilities including livestock and poultry operations. His article “Scientist Helps Stir New Movement for ‘Animal Rights,” published in April 1980 created such a media firestorm that one Texas Senator declared that to be able to generate such media attention I was being funded by a communist cell bent on overthrowing American agriculture. This was my first encounter with disinformation. I learned that reason was wasted on the unreasonable and that foresight was blinded by denial, ideological rigidity and lack of insight.
Beginning in the 1980s I joined many voices from academia calling for acknowledgement of animals’ right to equal and fair consideration and for their humane treatment and liberation from all forms of cruel exploitation, coupled with ecological stewardship, which I addressed in a series of books: Agricide: The Hidden Crisis That Affects Us All (1986); in Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals (1990) and in Superpigs and Wondercorn: The Brave New World of Biotechnology—and Where It All May Lead (1992), [second revised edition entitled Beyond Evolution: The Genetically Altered Future of Plants, Animals, the Earth—and Humans,(1999) and third updated edition, (2004) Killer Foods: When Scientists Manipulate Genes, Better is Not Always Best]; and Eating With Conscience: The Bioethics of Food (1997).
My critique of mis-applied science and technology adding to the social ills of humanity put me in the same league of anti-science and anti-society environmental extremists in the eyes many including one journalist, Stephen Budiansky, writing for U.S. News & World Report (May 13, 1996) who linked me to Theodore Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber! After Budiansky’s book The Covenant of the Wild (1992) was published, in which he presented his thesis that certain opportunistic species deliberately chose to live with humans and thus became domesticated, he was feted by the establishment, even giving a keynote address at an American Veterinary Medical Association conference. This was one of many conferences convened during that time to help keep at bay the concerns of animal rights and liberation advocates, and the scientific documentation of ethologists and others, concerning the mental states, awareness, and emotionality of animals.
Around that time as I was walking across the campus to present a lecture to the students at one mid-western veterinary college when I was intercepted by an embarrassed professor who told me apologetically that my lecture had been cancelled and that security would be called if I did not vacate the premises immediately. Just before another lecture to the student body on factory farming and animal rights at the University of Rochester, MN, the graduate student organizer informed me that the powers that be had instructed the university book store and the main one in the town not to carry any of my books!
So it was no surprise to me that one of the Board members of The Humane Society of the U.S, for whom I was serving as scientific director, one Robert Marshak, DVM, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, sought at that time to have me fired from the Society because I was becoming a “dangerous cult figure” according to the CEO of the Society, John Hoyt. Hoyt kept me on after I was called to the University of Pennsylvania campus to defend my concerns with an oral presentation and a written report about the welfare, health and rights of “factory” farmed animals before a panel of various department heads involved in the livestock and poultry industries, accompanied by John Hoyt and The HSUS’s attorney (who opposed the concept of animal rights).
My report was subsequently given the German Felix-Wankel international award for research into animal welfare and published as a book in 1984, Farm Animals: Husbandry, Behavior and Veterinary Care, not long after Dean Marshak had resigned from The HSUS Board of Directors.
One memorable occasion was after my testimony before a Senate sub-committee to secure legislation prohibiting raising calves for veal in narrow crates, when animal science professor Stanley Curtis, who became Dean of the Dept. of Animal Science at the University of Pennsylvania, was asked by the committee chairman if he believed that veal calves need to turn around. The professor replied saying that “More research was needed before we could be really sure if they really need to.”
I was not too surprised by the lack of evident responsiveness by this University of Pennsylvania veterinary panel when I raised the issue of animals’ social and emotional needs because earlier, at the inaugural meeting of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Resources Committee on Laboratory Animal Ethology, which I chaired at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington DC, I had my first encounter with this mind-set. Veterinarian Bernard Trum, Director of the U.S. government’s New England Regional Primate Center. He actually scoffed and shook his head in dismissal as a non-issue when I raised the question concerning the emotional needs of primates confined in laboratory small cages.. In 1986 the State University of New York Press published my scientific treatise Laboratory Animal Husbandry: Ethology, Welfare and Experimental Variables, to legitimize my concerns, documenting how animals’ stress and emotional distress were uncontrolled variables when not considered as influencing experimental results and data interpretation.
It was evident to me that the denial of animal sentience, of their rights and inherent value by those involved in their exploitation, was a necessary distancing to avoid the censorship of conscience and of public censure and accountability. It paralleled those who exploit the natural environment as a mere resource with total disregard for the rights and intrinsic ecological value of indigenous plant and animal species and of sustainable, traditional native communities and cultures.
My time with Arctic Inuit and native American Indian peoples and familiarity with their writings gave me insight into how our ancestors dealt with the necessity of killing animals for their own survival: I found that cross-cultural reverential respect was the hallmark of these peoples and they had no word for pest, vermin, weed or trophy animal.
Catholic priest Matthew Fox, (no relation except in spirit) was silenced in 1989 by the Vatican police, headed by Cardinal Ratzinger (who subsequently became the next pope), for one year because of his appeal for a more Creation and Earth centered ethics and spirituality which, from a Christian perspective, called us to empathize so deeply with the life around us and within us that we receive the stigmata of an Earth crucified. The Cardinal’s response to the growing animal and environmental rights and justice movements at this time, which was the basis of his medieval disciplinary action against dear Matthew, was that these movements were based on “somewhat anti-technical, somewhat anti-rational concepts of man as united to nature, and have an anti-humanist element.” Primitive paganism indeed—heretical beliefs!
It was also at this time that genetic engineering biotechnology and the patenting of life entered the global market place along with GMO crops, farmed animals and ever more varieties of laboratory animals to serve as models for human diseases and drug testing. I was involved at many levels questioning these developments and extensions of our presumed dominion over other animals and the natural world, writing the appeal to the U.S. Congress to prohibit the patenting of life.
I was demoted and virtually silenced by the CEO and CFO of The HSUS, Paul Irwin, in 1997 because I had endorsed and written the foreword to a book critical of the pet food industry, Ann Martin’s Foods Pets Die For. Irwin was hoping to secure funding from the pet food industry which had complained in a formal letter to him about my endorsement. He dismissed all documented, legitimate, science-based and clinically confirmed nutritional and diet-related concerns detailed in this book and the significant risk of many manufactured pet foods to the health of cats and dogs, many of whom belonged to supporters of the HSUS. In my defense I pointed to the HSUS’s “Eating With Conscience” campaign which I had initiated to advise members about the suffering of factory farmed animals, and that it was simply an extension of that campaign to address manufactured pet foods. It was a point of irony that my work and reputation had given the HSUS the scientific credibility that was needed in its advocacy for animal welfare and protection and was one of the cornerstones of its effectiveness, public recognition and financial enrichment. My position as a Vice President of The HSUS was changed to the token title of “Senior Scholar, Bioethics”. (At that time I had been a frequent guest on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show and other TV and radio programs and media interviews nationally and internationally as well as issue-related conferences at home and abroad).
I subsequently published the book Not Fit for a Dog: The Truth About Manufactured Cat & Dog Food, (2009) co-authored with two other veterinarians to further document these pet food health concerns.
Now some twenty years later I see the business world and aligned industries seeking to change their public image to appear more animal-and environmentally friendly. This is ultimately enlightened self-interest because when we harm the Earth we harm ourselves and when we demean animals we do no less to our own humanity as I detailed Bringing Life to Ethics: Global Bioethics for a Humane Society (2001).
After retirement from The HSUS in 2002 I was able to devote more time helping my wife Deanna Krantz working in India, the self-proclaimed “largest democracy in the world” where she established and ran a large animal shelter and provided free veterinary services to poor communities in the S. India Nilgiris Global Biosphere Reserve for close to a decade. Her work and the animal situation in India are summarized in our book India’s Animals: Helping the Sacred & the Suffering (2016).
From my perspective as an advocate of the One Health concept, our own health and ultimate well- being of future generations are dependent upon a healthful environment and healthy plant and animal populations and natural communities. The call for animal rights and eco-justice, too long ignored, now means that planetary CPR— conservation, protection and restoration—needs to be immediately implemented. Our commerce with the Earth must become one of mutually enhancing relationships rather than relentless exploitation, destructive invasion and human infestation.
Climate change, ocean acidification, loss of cultural and biological diversity and pandemic diseases are evidence enough that democracy must become all-inclusive. “When we take care of the earth the earth will take care of us”, a Pennsylvania Dutch farmer once told me, adding “and that includes caring for the animals.”
As Dr. Schweitzer advised, the scope of ethical concern should not be limited to our own groups and species, but to embrace all living beings. As I emphasized in my book Inhumane Society: The American Way of Exploiting Animals, this is ultimately enlightened self- interest because when we demean and exploit other animals without question, we ultimately demean our own humanity: Animals can therefore help us evolve and free us from the ethical void of an increasingly depraved existence of exploitation and spiritual corruption.
I am especially appreciative to have had the opportunity to communicate with millions of people through my syndicated newspaper column Animal Doctor over the past 40-plus years, and in the process learn much from them about their animal issues and concerns. I am also grateful for the encouragement and inspiration of many people in the various fields in which I engaged, notably Prof Tony Palmer, Cambridge School of Veterinary Medicine, England; Drs. John Paul Scott & John L. Fuller, Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME; Prof. Barry Commoner, Washington University, St Louis MO; Leo Bustad, Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Pullman WA; Prof. Calvin Schwabe, UC Davis CA College of Veterinary Medicine; Prof. Konrad Lorenz: Prof. Van Rensselaer Potter, University of Wisconsin, Madison WI; and Fr. Thomas Berry, advocate of Earth/Creation-centered ethics.
*The author, an Honor Roll member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, writes the internationally syndicated newspaper column Animal Doctor. His website is www.drfoxvet.net and latest books are Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health (2011) Animals & Nature First,(2011) on CreatSpace Books/Amazon.com
(Research papers and other writings between1962-1999 by Fox are in the Special Collections Department, Iowa State University. Reference: Michael W. Fox Papers, MS 452)
HEALING ANIMALS & THE VISION of ONE HEALTH. CreatSpace publ/Amazon.com 2011
ANIMALS & NATURE FIRST: NEW COVENANTS CreatSpace publ. Amazon.com/2011
NOT FIT FOR A DOG: THE TRUTH ABOUT MANUFACTURED DOG AND CAT FOOD, co-authored with Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, Esq, and Marion E. Smart, DVM, PhD, Sanger CA, Quill Driver Books, 2008
DOG BODY, DOG MIND: Exploring Canine Consciousness and Total Well-Being. Guilford, CT. The Lyon’s Press, 2007
CAT BODY, CAT MIND: EXPLORING FELINE CONSCIOUSNESS AND TOTAL WELL-BEING. Guilford, CT. The Lyons Press, 2007
BRINGING LIFE TO ETHICS: GLOBAL BIOETHICS FOR A HUMANE SOCIETY Albany, NY, State University of New York Press, 2001
KILLER FOODS: WHEN SCIENTISTS MANIPULATE GENES, BETTER IS NOT ALWAYS BEST. Guilford, CT. The Lyons Press, 2004
THE HEALING TOUCH FOR DOGS New York, NY Newmarket Press, 2004
THE HEALING TOUCH FOR CATS New York, NY, Newmarket Press, 2004
THE SOUL OF THE WOLF (reprint edition 1992) Lyons & Burford, New York (now ebook with DogWise publications)
UNDERSTANDING YOUR DOG (revised edition 1992) St. Martin’s Press, New York ( now ebook with DogWise publications)
BEHAVIOR OF WOLVES, DOGS, AND RELATED CANIDS (reprint edition 1984 (now ebook with DogWise publications).
THE DOG: ITS DOMESTICATION AND BEHAVIOR (reprint edition 1987) (now ebook with DogWise publications).
THE WILD CANIDS (reprint edition 1983) (now ebook with DogWise publications).
CONCEPTS IN ETHOLOGY, ANIMAL BEHAVIOR AND BIOETHICS (revised edition 1997) R. E. Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar, Florida
THE BOUNDLESS CIRCLE (1996) Quest Books, Wheaton, Illinois
SUPERCAT How to Raise the Perfect Feline Companion. New York, NY, Howell Books, 1991.
THE NEW EDEN Lotus Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico 1989
LABORATORY ANIMAL HUSBANDRY State University of New York Press, Albany, New York 1986
THE WHISTLING HUNTERS State University of New York Press, Albany, New York 1984
AGRICIDE: THE HIDDEN FARM AND FOOD CRISIS THAT AFFECTS US ALL (revised edition 1996) R.E. Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar, Florida
LOVE IS A HAPPY CAT Newmarket Press, New York 198
UNDERSTANDING YOUR CAT (revised edition 1992) St. Martin’s Press, New York
YOU CAN SAVE THE ANIMALS (1991) St. Martin’s Press, New York
SUPERDOG (1990) Howell Books, New York
INHUMANE SOCIETY: THE AMERICAN WAY OF EXPLOITING ANIMALS (1990) St Martin’s Press, NY
BETWEEN ANIMAL AND MAN: THE KEY TO THE KINGDOM (reprint edition 1986) Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar, Florida
THE NEW ANIMAL DOCTOR’S ANSWER BOOK Newmarket Press, New York 1989
EATING WITH CONSCIENCE: THE BIOETHICS OF FOOD (1997) NewSage Press, Troutdale, Oregon
ONE EARTH, ONE MIND (reprint edition 1984) Krieger Publishing Co., Malabar, Florida
FARM ANIMALS: HUSBANDRY, BEHAVIOR AND VETERINARY PRACTICE (1983) University Press, Baltimore, Maryland
HOW TO BE YOUR PET’S BEST FRIEND (1981) Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York
RETURNING TO EDEN: ANIMAL RIGHTS AND HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY (1980)Viking Press, New York
UNDERSTANDING YOUR PET (1978) Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, New York
CANINE BEHAVIOR (reprint edition 1972) Charles C. Thomas Publishing, Springfield, Illinois
INTEGRATIVE DEVELOPMENT OF BRAIN AND BEHAVIOR IN THE DOG (1971)University of Chicago Press
CANINE PEDIATRICS (1966) Charles C. Thomas Publishing, Springfield, Illinois
ADVANCES IN ANIMAL WELFARE SCIENCE (annual series 1984-1987) Martinus Nijhoff in Holland, and The Humane Society of the United States, Washington, DC
ON THE FIFTH DAY: ANIMAL RIGHTS AND HUMAN ETHICS (1977) AcropolisPress, Washington, DC (With R. K. Morris)
READINGS IN ETHOLOGY AND COMPARATIVE PSYCHOLOGY (1973) Brooks/Cole, California
ABNORMAL BEHAVIOR IN ANIMALS (1968) Saunders, Philadelphia
ANIMALS HAVE RIGHTS TOO (1991) Crossroads/Continuum, New York
THE WAY OF THE DOLPHIN (1981) Acropolis Books, Washington, DC
THE TOUCHLINGS (1981) Acropolis Books, Washington, DC
LESSONS FROM NATURE: FOX’S FABLES (1980) Acropolis, Washington, DC
WHITEPAWS: A COYOTE-DOG (1979) Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York
WILD DOGS THREE (1977) Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York
WHAT IS YOUR DOG SAYING? (1977) M. W. Fox and Wende Devlin Gates,
Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York
WHAT IS YOUR CAT SAYING? (1977) M. W. Fox and Wende Devlin Gates,
Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York
RAMU AND CHENNAI* (1975) Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York
SUNDANCE COYOTE** (1974) Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York
THE WOLF*** (1973) Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York
VIXIE, THE STORY OF A LITTLE FOX (1973) Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, New York
* Best Science Book Award, National Teachers’ Association
** Nominee for Mark Twain Award
*** Christopher Award for children’s literature