Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat, by anthrozoologist Hal Herzog, is a fascinating look at the human relationship with animals. The author challenges some of our most deeply held thoughts and beliefs, exploring personal, religious and cultural biases. He plays devil’s advocate while questioning why people believe what they do, without being condescending. For instance, why do many of us abhor the idea of cockfighting, yet will happily eat battery raised chicken? Herzog would argue that the fighting bird lives a much better life in its two years of “training” than a meat bird could ever dream of:
“Looked at objectively, it is hard to deny that there is less suffering caused by cockfighting than in our apparently insatiable demand for chicken flesh. It is likely that 10,000 or 20,000 chickens have their necks slashed in a mechanized processing plant for each gamecock that dies in a derby. And there is the inconvenient fact that the life of a fighting cock is fifteen times longer and infinitely more pleasurable than the life of a broiler chicken. Why then is it legal for us to kill 9 billion broiler chickens every year, but cockfighting can get you hard time in the federal penitentiary?”
Herzog is certainly not a proponent of cockfighting, he even goes to the trouble to buy humanely raised meat and free range chicken for his family, but he does a good job of holding a mirror up to our society’s often distorted sense of morality. To his credit, he counts himself among the rest of us when pointing out the flaws in our collective thinking, acknowledging that “human attitudes toward other species are inevitably paradoxical and inconsistent“.
He also speaks at length about vegetarianism and the attitudes behind it, as well as the phenomenon of ex-vegetarians (which outnumber their vegetarian counterparts 3 to 1 apparently, and of which I am one). It was a progression that I easily related to, and I thought he nailed the reasoning that leads to this lifestyle for many people. I was “reformed” from my vegetarianism when I realized that animals were going to die whether I ate them or not (I blame 70’s Disney movies for my warped relationship with animals), and in the wild it’s often a long, slow, painful death. If we give our meat animal of choice a humane life and a dignified death, that makes it okay to eat them, doesn’t it? (Who am I kidding? I’m as likely to eat my chickens as I am to eat my cat, dog or rabbit).
These kinds of convenient rationalizations are the crux of Herzog’s book, and while he doesn’t provide us with clear answers as to why our moral relationship with animals is so murky, he lets us off the hook by acknowledging that “these sorts of contradictions are not anomalies or hypocrisies. Rather, they are inevitable. And they show we are human“.
I thoroughly enjoyed Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat. It’s funny and thought provoking, and I’ve found myself talking about it on several occasions over the past few weeks. I highly recommend it for anyone who lives with, despises, or eats animals.