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104. ‘Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: why it’s so hard to think straight about animals’ Hal Herzog…

16 Feb
104. ‘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‘ Hal Herzog
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This is a book I read, (and loved), over a year ago, which looks at the often illogical way we humans treat animals. From leather-wearing vegetarians, to animal lovers who own those infamous bird-slaughterers known as cats, it was fascinating to have our attitudes towards our furry, feathered and four-legged friends laid out and dissected in this way. As a recent giver-upper of meat, there was certainly plenty of (meat-free) food for thought, from the deep to the trivial. For example:
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“Judith had joined the ranks of ex-vegetarians, a club that outnumbers current vegetarians in the United States by a ratio of three to one…”
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This may be the most damning indictment of both man- and womankind I have read for a very long time:
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“A report by the American Animal Hostpial Association found that 40% of women they surveyed said they got more affection from their dogs than from their husbands or children…”
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Woman and Dog: photo courtesy of Wang Kou.

Woman and Dog: photo courtesy of Wang Kou.

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Wondering what the big deal is over how we treat animals?
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“The debate over the moral status of animals has become such a divisive social issue that FBI officials have called radical animals rights activism America’s greatest domestic terrorism threat…”
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If there was one section which summed up our morally ambiguous attitudes towards animals and people, it was perhaps best illustrated by a chapter on the Nazis’ love of animals:
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“In 1933, the German government enacted the world’s most comprehensive animal adolf hitler with dogprotection legislation…This was only the first in a series of Nazi animal protection acts. In 1936, for example, the German government dictated that fish had to be anesthetized before slaughter and that lobster in restaurants had to be killed swiftly…”
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Just to put that into even creepier context, 1933 was the year in which Hitler first became Chancellor, and the Nazis built their first concentration camp at Dachau. In an even more chilling and twisted passage:
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“In one of history’s great ironies, the Nazis followed the legal procedures governing humane slaughter when they euthanized thousands of Jewish pets. But, unlike their dogs and cats, Jews were not covered under German humane slaughter legislation…”
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Some of the statistics were mind-boggling:
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“We now spend more on our pets than we do on movies, video games and movies combined…The estimated lifetime cost of pet ownership is about $8,000 for a medium size dog and $10,000 for a cat (that’s because cats live longer)…”
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Stupid cats.
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I learned about a new class of psychological illness I had no idea existed:
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“Three times as many women as men get caught up in animal hoarding…The Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, an interdisciplinary group of researchers led by Gary Patronek estimates that up to 2,000 cases of hoarding involving 200,000 animals are reported in the United States each year…”
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That would make an average of 100 animals per hoarder. Wowzers.
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I particularly enjoyed the account of how animal rights may have led to one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in history, (and one of the only occasions when religious ridiculousness may have actually enhanced scientific knowledge rather than hindering it):
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“The Austrian monk Gregor Mendel bred mice for his first tentative foray into genetics, only shifting to garden peas after his bishop deemed it unseemly for a man of God to share his living quarters with copulating animals…”
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Gregor Mendel: the founder of genetics

Gregor Mendel:
the founder of genetics

.Apparently, after some genetic tinkering, not all lab mice are useful for experimentation:

.“Then there are the mice that just don’t fit in – obsessive-compulsive, chronically depressed, addiction-prone, hyperactive, and schizophrenic mice…”
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What on earth would a chronically depressed mouse look like?
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Think that animal rights are a modern fad? Think again:
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“For a couple of months [in 1966], Congress received more mail about animal rights than about the two great moral issues of the time, the war in Vietnam and civil rights…”
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There was a fascinating conclusion to a psychological experiment which I hadn’t come across before:
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“…a phenomenon that the University of Oregon cognitive psychologist Paul Slovic calls ‘psychic numbing’ – the larger the tragedy, the less people seem to care. For instance, individuals say they will donate twice as much to save one sick child as they will to save a group of eight sick children..”
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And finally, long-term readers will know by now my passion for quirky experiments, and this could  be the cutest one ever carried out:
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“A comparative psychologist from the University of California at Davis named Bill Mason systematically studied attachments between members of different species by raising young rhesus monkeys with adult dogs. Within a few hours after being introduced, the monkey-dog couples became intensely attached. After a couple of months, each monkey was given a choice between playing with its dog, a strange dog, or another monkey. They chose their dogs. They had become friends…”

Dogs are a monkey's best friend...

Dogs are a monkey’s best friend…

Animal hoarding, human illogicality, schizophrenic mice: what a treasure trove this book turned out to be!

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5 Comments

Posted by on February 16, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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5 responses to “104. ‘Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: why it’s so hard to think straight about animals’ Hal Herzog…

  1. Rui

    February 18, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    sounds like an interesting book.

    also, religion has been (until recently) not a hinderance to, but an instigator of, scientific knowledge. today, in some retarded areas of the world, yes, religion is very much anti-science, but that’s not true for every religious person or for every religious organization. And it’s specially not true of the pre-modern world.

    and cats are cool.

     
    • doronklemer

      February 19, 2014 at 5:35 pm

      It sure was, and I hope I shared some of the most interesting parts of it.

      Your comment had me pondering all day on the relationship between science and religion, and I’ll be honest: I couldn’t think of a single example where religion has inspired rather than hindered scientific discovery. It certainly didn’t help Darwin, or Galileo. I’d love to hear some examples and have my mind changed!

      And cats still suck!! 🙂

       
    • doronklemer

      February 19, 2014 at 9:16 pm

      Thanks! I’d have to read the Christian book to learn the arguments, and the Jewish book states it will discuss how Judaism “…complements modern science rather than conflicts with it”, (meaning, it seems to me, that the religion doesn’t get in the way of science, but i’m not sure how much it will claim to be a driving force behind it!).

      As for the video on Islam, I am only halfway through it and it’s been all about economics, but I will have to return to it as I don’t have the staying power to watch it all in one sitting! I found this link:

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/how-islamic-inventors-changed-the-world-469452.html

      but they seem to be accounts of things invented by people who happened to be Muslim, rather than specifically driven by their religion to be scientists. I will keep thinking and researching, however!

       
  2. Rui

    February 19, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Well, that is all true. The only one that actively claims religion is the driving force behind scientific knowledge is the “christian” book.

    Still, the initial claim was that religion is, and has been for the most part, a hinderance to science. And that is simply not true, and part of the “myth of the middle ages as the dark ages” – a time in which supposedly, and because of religion, everyone was incredibly stupid and ignorant. That is not the case. And in fact, from what I have read, it seems that religion gets in the way of science whenever the power of the church becomes centralized and mixed with the state, a state of affairs that did not exist in the middle ages.

    While it is hard to argue that religion is the driving force behind science, it certainly is not preposterous to claim that it is perfectly compatible and has been for most of history.

    Also, there is a book I read about the differences between modern worship and ancient worship, but I don’t remember the name or the author, be he basically argues that medieval religious life was much more rational than, say, modern wasp conservatives in america or the various extremist islamic sects.

    (Yes, the video is mostly about economics, but that was all I could remember from that religion. – and economics is a science, a dismal one, for sure, but science).

     

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