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Rattling the Cage by Steven M. Wise (Perseus Books; 332 pages; $25)

Most Americans wish to believe our legal system provides or should provide for the humane treatment of nonhuman animals. Not only is this sadly incorrect, but the extent to which it is false would shock most people. In the United States alone, an indeterminate number of animals are routinely abused and killed annually, with apparent legal sanction. State anti-cruelty statutes carry minor penalties, contain significant exceptions, and are (at best) unevenly enforced. Such federal statutes as the Animal Welfare Act, the Humane Slaughter Act, and the Wild Horse and Burro Act merely direct humans to respect certain interests of certain animals in certain situations, all subject in the end to human interest.

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