Brock expert’s animal protection research lands major international book deal

For years, leading animal protection expert Kendra Coulter has shared her research globally with academic colleagues, media audiences, government policy-makers and even children looking to learn more about animals online.

But in 2023, she will reach a new and even larger audience with Defending Animals: Inside the Front Lines of Animal Protection, a forthcoming trade book to be published by The MIT Press and distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services.

“This book is for the animals we have saved, those we have failed and those whose fates are still in our hands,” says Coulter.

The Associate Professor in the Department of Labour Studies and Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence is already an award-winning author who has most recently written and edited books about work, interspecies solidarity and justice. Her research has long informed frequent op-eds and media appearances, and it was this public presence that caught the attention of Chris Bucci at Aevitas Creative Management in New York City. The agent approached Coulter in the spring about the possibility of writing a general-audience book.

For Coulter, a Fellow of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and a Member of the Royal Society of Canada, Coordinating Committee of the Canadian Violence Link Coalition and Government of Ontario’s Provincial Animal Welfare Services Advisory Table, the chance to bring the issue of animal protection to the forefront was too good to pass up.

“Animal protection is an issue that can unite people, even across political spectrums, because we care deeply about the well-being of animals and want them to be safe and happy,” says Coulter. “Whenever I do a TV or radio interview about animal issues, the producer or host will always say that animal stories, including cruelty cases, generate more responses than any other topic.”

Indeed, when Bucci brought the project to market, several publishers showed immediate interest. So, earlier this month, multiple houses made pitches to acquire it. The rights were ultimately sold at auction to Beth Clevenger, Senior Acquisitions Editor at MIT Press.

Clevenger says that while books about animals abound, she was drawn to this project because of both “its empathetic and holistic investigation into how and why humans harm animals” and the solutions it offers for improving the lives of animals.

“While animals are centred — be they pets, working animals, factory farmed animals or wildlife — the book appealed to me for its promise to connect the animal and human worlds by drawing on justice, history and policy, which are subjects fundamental to many of the books I publish on the environment, food and cities,” says Clevenger. “And I’d be remiss to not mention Coulter herself. My colleagues at the MIT Press and I are excited to work with such a knowledgeable and passionate author.”

For her part, Coulter says that she has been struck by the “enthusiasm and vision” of the team at MIT Press, and that it energizes her for the work to come.

“Being able to collaborate with such a prestigious press and its stellar team to bring this unique book to a mass, international audience is really exciting,” says Coulter. “MIT Press’s powerhouse reach will help inspire diverse readers of all kinds who care about animals and want an inside look at what we actually to do protect them — and what else we could be doing to create a more humane future.”

The book will feature some six years’ worth of Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council- and Brock Social Justice Research Institute-funded research, during which Coulter has both job-shadowed and interviewed several animal protection workers, cruelty investigators and other law enforcement officers, forensic veterinarians and lawyers in North America and in Europe.

“The book will include unforgettable animals and moving stories from real cases,” says Coulter. “It will offer readers unprecedented access to many facets of the fascinating and challenging work of animal protection.”

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