Friday, January 4, 2013

Book Review: Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog

My boyfriend and I adopted an adorable abandoned black kitten on Thanksgiving that he found in a shrub (we named him Turkey. Isn't he cute?) Why would we be willing to bring home a strange animal and spend lots of money on him (shots, food, litter, toys, boarding him over Christmas, and in 4 months getting him neutered) because he's cute, but we wouldn't be if, say, it had been a rat that came out of the shrubbery squeaking?

Why don't we have qualms about scientific experimentation on mice and rats but freak out if it's rabbits and cats? (In fact, the legislation that regulates how scientists treat animals specifically excludes mice and rats as not animals!) If I am unwilling to eat my cat, why am I okay with eating chickens and pigs? I am opposed to cosmetic companies testing on animals but not scientists - if it will cure a bad disease. Why all the inconsistencies?

Well, that's the way humans are designed. We are omnivores. True, these days that is more a choice (and wow, do we eat a lot more meat than necessary!) And so our brains have to justify us deciding certain animals are food (which does vary from one country/society to another). Other animals (horses, mules) are incredibly healthy and so we don't usually eat them. But what about cats and dogs and other pets? How and more importantly why did we evolve to have pets? (The answer is still unclear but the likeliest answer is that we didn't - they evolved to take advantage of some of our tendencies, like our inherent liking of creatures with big eyes and big foreheads that prevents us from hurting baby humans, and have latched onto us to care and feed for them because essentially they are parasites. I find that incredibly amusing, as my own parasite sits on my lap purring while I type this.)

This book looks at humans' relationship with animals of all sorts and tries to make some sense of it from a psychological perspective. Did you know that elephants mourn their dead and dolphins are so smart they will correct your grammar if you try to communicate with them? I did come away from this book feeling better about cockfights and worse about bird hunters (seriously.) And I wish there was a better way to farm chickens that wasn't so awful. I already have reduced my meat consumption years ago, thanks to Michael Pollan, as it's terrible for the environment, mostly cutting out beef, but now I find out that chicken is bad too in its own way, and of course there are no right answers. But this book helps us all understand those issues better and make more educated decisions.

I received this book as a gift from a friend.

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