Monday, July 15, 2013

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals : Hal Herzog

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals
By Hal Herzog

As a meat-eating foodie, having read some of Peter Singer's publications on the ethics of animals, I've mentally wrestled with whether the ethics of eating meat. And really, I've made no headway into coming to a practical and consistent way of thinking about animals. i.e. I still eat all kinds of meat and find it delicious.

Well, if I was morally confused about animal rights, eating meat and how people treat animals before, I'm even more so after reading this book.

Herzog has been in the anthrozoology field, the study of human-animal interaction, for 20 years and over those years, his conclusion appears to be there humans universally are inconsistent in how they treat animals.  He goes into example after example of research on meat-eating, vegetarianism, pets, fears of animal, cock-fighting, use of animals in research and other moral and ethical dilemmas and each seems to show people being completely irrational about how they think about and treat animals of different species.

* Nazi's - for all of their brutality towards fellow human beings actually had a fairly extensive animal rights protection policy.
* Arguably a chicken might suffer less if being trained to be in a cock-fight than reared to be food.  Cock-fighters rear their chickens with much care, exercising them daily, feeding them premium food, and giving them extensive room in cages, while the chickens reared for food, generally are raised in extremely cramped spaces, small enough that sometimes they're forced to sit in their own feces.  Yet cock-fighting is banned and is generally judged to be inhumane.
* Context affects how we view animals - Herzog's child had a pet mouse who the family fed and cared for.  Eventually, the mouse passed away and they held an emotional funeral.  Less than a week later, they discovered a wild mouse in their house and their reaction was to set up traps to kill it.  It was same species of animal, but completely different reactions to it.
* 47% of people surveyed felt that "Animals are just like people in all important ways," yet "half of [those] favored the use of animals in biomedical research, 40% of them thought it was OK to replace diseased human body parts with organs taken from animals, and 90% of them regularly dined on the created they believed were like humans 'in all important ways.'"

All in all, this is a really thought-provoking book, that clearly covers an expansive amount of topics related to how humans interact with humans.  I occasionally wished certainly topics could have been covered in more depth, but the breadth of topics and research is extensive and written in such a way that non-scientists can understand and discuss the ethical questions raised.

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