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

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Combining the intellect of Malcolm Gladwell with the irreverent humor of Mary Roach and the paradigm-shifting analysis of Jared Diamond, a leading social scientist offers an unprecedented look inside our complex and often paradoxical relationships with animals.

Does living with a pet really make people happier and healthier? What can we learn from biomedical research with mice? Who enjoyed a better quality of life—the chicken on a dinner plate or the rooster who died in a Saturday-night cockfight? Why is it wrong to eat the family dog? Drawing on more than two decades of research in the emerging field of anthrozoology, the science of human–animal relations, Hal Herzog offers surprising answers to these and other questions related to the moral conundrums we face day in and day out regarding the creatures with whom we share our world.

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat is a highly entertaining and illuminating journey through the full spectrum of human–animal relations, based on Dr. Herzog’s groundbreaking research on animal rights activists, cockfighters, professional dog-show handlers, veterinary students, and biomedical researchers. Blending anthropology, behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology, and philosophy, Herzog carefully crafts a seamless narrative enriched with real-life anecdotes, scientific research, and his own sense of moral ambivalence.

Alternately poignant, challenging, and laugh-out-loud funny, this enlightening and provocative book will forever change the way we look at our relationships with other creatures and, ultimately, how we see ourselves.

326 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2010

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About the author

Hal Herzog

6 books37 followers
Hal Herzog has been investigating the complex psychology of our interactions with other species for more than two decades. He is particularly interested in how people negotiate real-world ethical dilemmas, and he has studied animal activists, cockfighters, animal researchers, and circus animal trainers. An award-winning teacher and researcher, he has written more than 100 articles and book chapters. His research has been published in journals such as Science, The American Psychologist, The Journal of the Royal Society, The American Scholar, New Scientist, Anthrozoös, BioScience, The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and Animal Behavior. His work has been covered by Newsweek, Slate, Salon, National Public Radio, Scientific American, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune and many other newspapers.

Hal Herzog is Professor of Psychology at Western Carolina University and lives in the Smoky Mountains with his wife Mary Jean and their cat Tilly.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 605 reviews
Profile Image for d4.
352 reviews201 followers
March 15, 2011
I'm torn between one star and two. I would have given it a two just because the author seems to be making steps similar to those of Michael Pollan--"humane" meat, eating less meat, etc. And although the author seems to be conflicted with his own choices, I feel that these steps could make a difference if enough people adopted them. Would I much rather the guy be vegan? Well, duh, but that's not the world we live in. If this book manages to convince someone to even CONSIDER the moral implications of food, then that's progress, right?

However, I have to say he destroyed his credibility with me rather early on: at the point in which he states that Hitler was a vegetarian, to be exact. He neglects to mention documentation from various sources--one being Hitler's chef--that refutes this (unless you're one of those special people who think that vegetarians eat sausage, game, grouse, and caviar). He only cited one source to support it; I'm surprised it wasn't vegetariansareevil.com.

He would also like to link vegetarianism with anorexia (I WISH! Wouldn't that solve all my problems?*) and bulemia. (How this has ANYTHING to do with the relationship between animals and people is beyond my understanding--and I'm guessing it's beyond the author's as well. Does liking animals put you at a higher risk for an eating disorder?!? Instead of discussing his field of "expertise," his writing derails into an attempt to discredit vegetarianism as "dangerous.")

*This is a joke in bad taste; deal with it.

For someone who makes a career out of studying the relationships between animals and people, he seems as misguided and confused as anyone else. It's sad to see someone justify cockfighting by saying it's more humane than the way chickens are treated on factory farms.

"Karen Davis tells me that no chicken in the world would want to live the life of a fighting rooster. I'll lay 25-20 that she is wrong." (P 170)

I'm sure some people would rather be stabbed to death than be placed in a concentration camp for their entire lives, but that doesn't justify either action. (And no, I'm not equating human suffering and animal suffering; these are just analogous situations.)

"The war on cockfighting is about cruelty, but the subtext is social class. The eighteenth century movement against blood sports was directed toward activities that appealed to the proletariat, such as bull-baiting and cockfighting, rather than the cruel leisure pursuits of the landed gentry, such as fox-hunting. It's no different today. Cockfighters come from easy groups to pick on--Hispanics and rural, working-class whites. Animal activists, on the other hand, tend to be urban, middle-class, and well-educated. They dismiss rooster fighters as a motley group of shit-kickers and illegal aliens."

What a fucking generalization. Last time I checked every animal activist I know is against blood sport of ANY kind and probably even more resentful of those undertaken by the wealthy (ahem, trophy hunting). Perhaps it seems otherwise simply because the wealthy have lobbyists to protect their interests and so animal activists gain a lot less ground. I would also like to point out (just for the fuck of it) that I come from a rural family. I'm also currently vegan while making $8 an hour at a part-time job where I work less than ten hours a week. I don't pay rent, but I do manage to buy my groceries with money left for gas and general waste (concerts, dining out, the occasional shiny object, etc.) and so it irks me a bit when people dismiss animal concerns as something left to people who can "afford" to care. As I stated before, bravo to the author for buying meat from free-range, organic, grass-fed farms instead of factory farms(!), but honestly, touting this option as a solution for everyone comes across as the ignorance of the wealthy and "well-educated" middle- to upper- class. (Thanks to the author's picture on the back cover I can now envision him giving Michael Pollan a well-deserved reach-around.)

He mentions how people frame questions and situations to mislead and yet he's guilty of exactly this. His foray into animal research mentions nothing of the alternatives to animal research. You're either for torturing animals to save lives or against--never mind that we may just be beyond the necessity of such experiments. "Yes, I would swap a million mice to wipe out Dengue. In a heartbeat. But a million mice for a treatment for baldness? Or erectile dysfunction? Hmm...probably not." While that's a lovely sentiment, why is someone's desire for a hard cock any less important than someone else's desire to consume animal flesh for the sake of TASTE? Well, if a guy has less cholesterol blocking his arteries, he might have less trouble getting blood flow down there, but that's not the point. The point is: why draw the "moral high ground" between the desire for vanity or sex and the desire for taste?

At the end of the book, Mr. Herzog is content with not particularly understanding "why it's so hard to think straight about animals." He doesn't seem like a bad guy, just very confused for someone who dedicated an entire book to a question he doesn't answer. I'd suggest he read Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy... since she actually fulfills the promise of explaining the contradictions we feel towards animals.

Let me reiterate a third time: I WOULD RATHER SOMEONE EAT MEAT FROM A FREE-RANGE, ORGANIC FARM THAN FROM A FACTORY FARM. I WOULD RATHER SOMEONE REDUCE MEAT INTAKE RATHER THAN THROW THEIR HANDS UP IN DEFEAT AND DO NOTHING AT ALL, but what I don't see the need for is another book, echoing Michael Pollan's sentiments without adding any more clarity or understanding to the issue. I take a chapter titled "Why Is Meat So Tasty?" as seriously as I do t-shirts that proclaim "If we're not supposed to eat animals, then why are they made of meat?" At least other books that lean towards animal-welfare reforms instead of animal-rights lend the issue the gravity it deserves.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
805 reviews4,790 followers
October 30, 2019
How sick and schizophrenic can it get? Loving one animal like a lifelong human partner while feeding it parts of many other, tortured animals is a good start.

I find it really hard to deal with this cognitive dissonance because it is so extremely obvious that the actions are unlogic and not consistent, but possibly I am just pedantic. As long as it is just a question of philosophy, faith or soft sciences, I can nearly understand the believers that avoid being confronted with different opinions.

But if one has the mashed meat of animals in a can and gives it to his beloved dog or cat, one might think that there should be any kind of feedback loop that lets the people think things like treating all animals with friendliness. Well, not even close to that, the opposite seems to be the case. This leads to actions like:

Shopping fur coats while petting a tiny Chihuahua.
Giving the kids money for the petting zoo feed while eating a fat, bloody steak.
Buying things made of leather, be it for fetish or furniture use and hoping that one´s cat may like the new couch.
Getting very fat on a meat diet together with your pet.
Loving pets, beeing indifferent about eaten animals and hating reptiles or critters with full disgust.
Hating cockfights and direct violence against animals while accepting and ignoring factory farming. The same behavior can be seen if someone saves a child in a plight or emergency and ignores all dying babies on the planet.
And so on.

Ok, I get it, subtle coherences are hard to understand, as already mentioned. But if it is so easy to see that one should consequently change to full torturer or full lover, it is just applied madness, my beloved cognitive dissonance in perfection. If one wants to be worthy of the love of a pet, she or he should treat all animals with respect and not just the ones in his closer environment. But hey, humans do the same thing with their own kind.

The author stays objective and tries to give a wide overview of all topics and behaviors without being instructive or trying to proselytize. He simply shows the immense unlogic, inconsistency and bigotry humans have adapted to and how irrational our actions can be. Simple conditioning on a certain aspect of the appearing of a creature like
and the species has had luck and is petted. No cuteness, no empathy. But we do the same with beautiful and ugly, charismatic and boring, fit and fat humans too, so at least this behavior follows a logical pattern.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real-life outside books:

Profile Image for Megan.
393 reviews7 followers
April 19, 2011
At home, I have a bearded dragon, a cat, and a brand new leopard tortoise with a respiratory infection. (pictures at the end)

Before buying both the bearded dragon and the leopard tortoise, I did my research, as of course anyone should do before investing in a pet, particularly an exotic pet. So when Genbu (that's the tortoise) developed a runny nose after coming home, I knew from my research that he was probably a carrier of a type of bacteria leopard tortoises are particularly sensitive to and that develops into infections when they are stressed, such as from a move. So he went to the vet and $300 later we are waiting on the test results, he has been deworned and force-fed, and we have to give him a shot in his pectoral muscle every other day for 20 days.

While we were going over the course of watching Genbu carefully, taking him to the vet and now, taking care of him, I was reading this book. For the first time it actually made me think, why am I investing time and money into a tiny little 3'' tortoise? He does not purr like my cat or curl up on my lap. He does not provide me with warmth and he doesn't play. He doesn't talk like another human companion would.

Back when I got my bearded dragon (Loki), I also did my research, kept an eye on her, and took her to the vet when she had a parasite infection. She did not have to have shots, but have you ever tried to stick a syringe into a lizard's mouth? It's pretty difficult and they do have claws. At the time, I thought nothing of it. She was my pet, and I had a responsibility to her even as she was slicing up my hands in a perfectly justifiable effort to get away from the weird plastic thing jammed in her mouth.

This book has made me wonder why I feel that way. I mean, I don't kill anything. I do eat meat (though not a lot), which is something the book addresses, the contradiction of animal lovers who still eat meat or condone medical testing, etc. But I won't kill anything. Not ants, not pigeons, not game animals or anything else. I feel a connection to animals that don't really give back a whole lot in terms of communication.

In fact, the animals I like are the animals most people are afraid of or that they don't care much about. I have heard people concerned that Loki is going to escape from her cage and bite me one night (the idea is completely ridiculous. My lizard is a scaredy cat who is afraid of strawberries) or that Genbu might be vicious (he eats hay. Like a horse). People find it difficult to empathize with reptiles.

The book addresses that, why people empathize with some animals (dogs, cats) and not others (mice, lizards) and don't care about eating others (pigs, cows). There's a wealth of information in here, and yes, some of it is really hard to read. One anecdote has stuck with me for quite some time, and involves guinea pig death for absolutely no reason that I can comprehend. If you like animals, some parts of this book are really difficult to read.

I think it's an important book though. Whether you are vegeterian/vegan/omnivore, whatever, whether you hunt, let your cat outside, volunteer for an animal rescue, or could care less about animals, it's still important to read. I mean, like it or not, we share the whole world with them, and there are more of them than there are of us. The way we treat them says something about us as a whole.

Loki in the Tub

Loki and Genbu.
Loki and Genbu

Sneakers the cat.
Sneakers by the window
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,057 followers
June 16, 2017
Written by a psychologist & anthrozoologist, Herzog seems to hold to the middle of the road in most debates & gives a good account of both sides so far as I can tell. There's a lot more to how we think about animals than I would have thought & he comes at the issue from several different angles. He uses multiple studies & comparisons of their findings when he can. It's amazing how often so much diatribe is based on single studies & faulty science, though.

(Update: Here's a good interview with Herzog that covers some of what is in the book & gives a great idea as to his style:
http://blogs.britannica.com/2010/11/a... )

I'm listening to this as an audio book. While it is very well read, I think a hard copy would be a better format or very nice to have as a backup. (I bought it in hardback, read, & gave it a different review (still 5 stars, but listing all the chapters & such) here:

There are times I've wanted to go back & go over some parts again as they are rather long & complex. The Trolley Problem
was one of these cases since he went into studies with 5 variants in some detail. In short, a trolley will kill 5 people unless you switch it to kill one person. Everything being equal, most people will move the switch, but the shrinks play around with who the people are.

Other areas could bear re-reading such as his discussion Bell curve comparisons, single cause fallacy, & other topics that are applicable to many situations outside the ones he addresses here. It would also be interesting to have better access to some of the facts such as we give 3 billion dollars to animal rescue, but spend over 10 times that eating beef - I think. It was a pretty incredible amount & makes his point that we're not particularly rational on the subject. I was a bit disappointed that he didn't make more of a point about the "out of sight, out of mind" factor specifically, though. Not just ignorance, but willful ignorance, are both huge factors, IMO.

While morality & culture are often a topic in the treatment of animals, I found the comparison of cock fighting & broiler chickens fascinating. Our ingrained hot buttons are incredibly weird. And then he gets into culture & eating various meats. Whether you're a vegetarian or meat eater, animal rightist or animal user, Herzog brings up a lot of points to think about & backs them up with the best facts he can bring to bear. In some cases, that isn't much & he admits it.

He spends a lot of time discussing dogs. Early on in the book, he gets into them & again later on. Although some of the information was similar, he's making different points in both cases & they're perfect subjects, so it never seemed redundant.

The last part of the book is almost exclusively on the philosophy of animal rights, vegetarianism, & other of the more extreme ideals. He shows where some have led & makes some great points on the logic of extremism. He also interjects the emotional factors & winds up admitting that we live in a pretty messy world. No great revelations there, but the trip was well worth it.

I highly recommend this to anyone interested in animals of any sort. This book is not designed to make an argument for or against how you treat animals, but just to make you think about how people do & why.
Profile Image for Courtney Lindwall.
200 reviews18 followers
December 26, 2010
I watched a video one time on Youtube of a soldier in Iraq throwing a puppy off of a cliff for fun. You could hear the puppy's cry get farther away as it plummeted lower and lower. You can probably still find this video if you search "soldier throws puppy off cliff." This video deeply affected me, and I do not really consider myself an "animal lover." I felt very strong hatred toward the men, very intense sadness for the puppy. How could someone do that? And yet...I eat meat.

In fact, I eat meat every day. I love meat. There is nothing quite as satisfying as a still-bloody hunk of cow, seasoned and with a side of loaded mashed potatoes. And I sleep well every night. Not a single toss or turn for the likely thousands of animals that have been outright slaughtered for simply my mealtime pleasure. I am aware of this strange inconsistency. I do nothing to change it. And thus is the moral predicament, the seemingly bizarre relationship humans have with animals of the other species that both Hal Herzog, and now myself, are completely fascinated by.

Hal is an anthrozoologist. He studies, through various and rather crazy research adventures, how humans relate to animals. He's been to cock fights, animals rights marches, the homes of hoarders. This book was so incredibly interesting. I found myself laughing at my own irrationalaties when it comes to my views about animals. Cock fighting, for example. Evil, right? Debased men working through some sort of Freudian penis-envy debacle by putting their literal cocks in a ring and having them duke it out. Well, sort of. But not quite. Cock fighting is an intricate and perhaps not all that inhumane sport when you compare it to the lives of chickens raised for eating. I think anyone who just had some nice Tyson Chicken Snackers did much more of an immoral inservice to animal kind than a single cock fighter. Cocks raised for fighting get very special treatment for two years before theyre put in the ring. They get a very special diet, and loads of sunshine to help bring out their inner Muhammad Ali. Sure, in every race 50% of the contestants wind up thrown into a bin with the other losers. But, at the end of the day, two years of doting and thirty minutes of intense battle leading to death is still far better than the life a normal feeding chicken lives, cooped up in a ridiculous pen with a ridiculous number of other chickens, until within a very short period of time they're man-handled and taken somewhere that mechanically and quickly cuts their heads off and lets their bodies bleed out on an assembly line.

I guess my point is, the book makes you stop and think about why we deem some animal treatment as cruelty and other forms of animal treatment as the "way life is." Why do I love pandas and give a rat's ass about the fate of the Peruvian scorpion? Why are there 3 times as many women in animal rights activism than men? Why, oh why, do I have absolutely no response to the fact that millions of lab mice are euthanized before experimentation every year simply because they are surplus, and yet I had two quite dear pet mice as a child for many years?

It's a conundrum. And a really fascinating one. The book is incredibly well-researched, the voice is tongue-in-cheek, down to earth, and neutral. Hal isn't necessarily trying to convince you one way or the other. This is not the book of an activist. It's the book of a curious scientist, who, also, happens to be both a meat eater and animal lover.

Profile Image for Marya.
1,387 reviews
January 10, 2011
Interesting topic, colloquial writing, shoddy research. This book bravely takes on the question of how humans think about animals and why our thoughts are clouded with contradictions. Why do people oppose the torturing and killing of lab mice for scientific pursuits, but not the torturing and killing of mice they view as pests inside their homes? Why do people oppose cockfighting but not factory chicken farming which destroys chickens in arguably more inhumane ways in greater numbers? Why do people who declare themselves vegetarians eat so much meat (I wish he'd included the quote from Scott Pilgrim: "Chicken isn't vegan?")? And what is this animal rights movement really all about?
Herzog writes in a friendly, easy style mostly made up of anecdotes. This makes the issue he's discussing come alive. Unfortunately, it doesn't support his arguments rationally. Actual evidence is limited to a study here or there, oftentimes web surveys where the results are under suspicion due to the methodology. He seems to have read all the super cool nonfiction books I have (Malcolm Gladwell et. al) but seems to have skipped their conclusions. For example, he reads about an experiment where three different labs set up identical experiments with identical conditions with genetically identical (as much as possible) mice. Yet, the results of all three labs were different. Rather than conclude, as others have, that this supports the notion that environmental factors are far more prevalent and influential than we realized, Herzog seems to write off lab-controlled scientific experiments overall. Maybe that's why he can brazenly admit that the he doesn't actually understand the math behind the mathematical model he just used as support for an argument, despite studying this topic for 20 plus years.
At the end of the book, our folksy narrator (the fact that the author is a good ol' boy from the South is as evident in the writing as it is warming on the narrative) leads us through all the murky ethical and philosophical questions to end with saying that it's all a draw. His common sense tells him we should advocate for animal rights, but that we should draw a line somewhere- some animals should "count" and others "shouldn't". He will eat meat, but buy organic. Cockfighting is bad. In short, his own ethical system is one full of contradictions, built upon vague, unstated assumptions, including that argument-ending "common sense". Just like the rest of us. If you want your scientist to be some guy that you can have a beer with, that presents himself as full of flaws, just like you, then this is your book. If you demand more of an academic, that your scientist should understand all facets of his work, that he should create a reasonable framework for interpreting his results, this book will only frustrate you.
Profile Image for Jim.
Author 7 books2,057 followers
June 16, 2017
I listened to this a few weeks ago & gave it 5 stars as an audio book
(My review is here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...)
even though I don't think that was the best format for it. While it's not filled with facts & figures that require study, there were some I would have liked to have reviewed, not easy in audio format, so I bought the HB paper edition & am skimming through it. Definitely the better format!

(Update: Here's a good interview with Herzog that covers some of what is in the book & gives a great idea as to his style:
http://blogs.britannica.com/2010/11/a... )

Herzog lays the book out exceedingly well. Each chapter covers one general idea & then is broken into many 2 or 3 page subsections that drill into it from various, specific angles. They contain not just factual data, but real world examples that bear real thought. Since they're logically arranged & short, the layout promotes this.

Chapter 2: "The Importance of Being Cute" starts on page 37 by looking at "Why We Think What We Think About Creatures That Don't Think Like Us" using the example of a couple that are crazy about bluebirds & then hits us with some facts a few paragraphs later about just how few species merit our concern & how based on cuteness it seems to be.
- Page 39 starts the next section on "Biphilia: Is Love of Animals Instinctive?".
-Page 41, "Why Do People Hate Snakes?"
-Page 44, "What's In A Name? Language & Moral Distancing"
-Page 46, "Pets or Research Subjects? Categories Count"
-Page 48, "When Bugs are Pets & Dogs Are Pests: Culture & The Sociozoological Scale"
- And so it goes until we get to Chapter 3, "Pet-O-Philia: Why do Humans (& only humans) Love Pets?" starting on page 67.

Here is the
Table of Contents
Introduction: Why Is It So Hard to Think Straight About Animals? 1
1 Anthrozoology: The New Science of Human-Animal Interactions 15
2 The Importance of Being Cute: Why We Think What We Think About Creatures That Don't Think Like Us 37
3 Pet-O-Philia: Why Do Humans (and Only Humans) Love Pets? 67
4 Friends, Foes, And Fashion Statements: The Human-Dog Relationship 97
5 "Prom Queen Kills First Deer On Sixteenth Birthday": Gender and the Human-Animal Relationship 129
6 In The Eyes Of The Beholder: The Comparative Cruelty of Cockfights and Happy Meals 149
7 Delicious, Dangerous, Disgusting, And Dead: The Human-Meat Relationship 175
8 The Moral Status of Mice: The Use of Animals in Science 205
9 The Cats In Our Houses, The Cows On Our Plates: Are We All Hypocrites? 237
10 The Carnivorous Yahoo Within Ourselves: Dealing with Moral Inconsistency 263
Acknowledgments 281
Recommended Reading 285
Notes 289
Index 327

As you can see from the chapter titles, he has a great sense of humor. It permeates the writing, but is very low key & he never lets it interfere with the facts. He's not afraid to hold himself up as an example, either. Chapter 6 "In The Eyes Of The Beholder: The Comparative Cruelty of Cockfights and Happy Meals" is a perfect example. He studied cockfights & the culture surrounding it after he happened upon it while buying chickens of his own to raise. Then he got behind a couple of trucks carrying chickens (Cobb 500 variety) & studied the lives of factory farmed chickens. His gut reaction to cockfights was negative &, like most of us, he hadn't thought much about where a Chicken McNugget came from. He evaluates his own & society's reaction to this & came to some interesting conclusions that he touches on more in the final chapter.

5 "Prom Queen Kills First Deer On Sixteenth Birthday": Gender and the Human-Animal Relationship, might be one of the best chapters in the book because Herzog makes a lot of sense out of averages, bell curves, statistics, & their impact on us. While he is concentrating on gender roles, the concept is the basis for many misunderstandings today. He sums it up very well in one sentence:
"When two bell curves overlap, even a small difference between the average scores of the groups will produce big differences at the extremes."
These extremes are what make the news &, all too often, blow our minds.

If you're hoping for a direction for your moral compass, you won't find it here. Herzog often shows both sides of animal rights issues & sometimes even tells us which way he jumped - if he did - but he makes no judgments. He leaves that to the reader, which I appreciate with a topic this emotional & irrational.

Gave it to my daughter to read & she's taken it with her. Hope to get it back some day...
Profile Image for Becca.
126 reviews1 follower
June 13, 2011
I agree with the basic premise of this book. Our attitudes about animals are logically inconsistent, and when people are extremely logically consistent, that leads to absurdity. Hypocrisy is inherent in the relationships between humans and animals, and complications are impossible to escape from.

However, this book only gets 2 stars because I don't think it was terribly well-written. It is anything but cohesive. There are hundreds of "mini-essays," each relating an anecdote, study, or philosophical idea, wrapped up with a pat conclusion. This results in incredible breadth but very little depth and sometimes patently ignoring what I see as extreme oversimplification and shoddy reasoning. Let me provide a few examples with my objections (some are pretty long, but most are short):

1. This one just seems to have so many logical flaws and unexplained assumptions that although what he is saying may be perfectly true, I just can't get past his terrible reasoning. While exploring the idea about animals living with humans because they unconditionally love us from page 79:

"If pets were so great at providing unconditional love, you would think that everyone would be bonded to the animals in their homes. (Unexplained assumption number one - that because an animal loves you unconditionally, you will necessarily bond with it). They are not. in a 1992 study, 15% of adults said they were not particularly attached to their pets. In informal polls I have taken in my class, roughly a third of my students indicate that someone in their family actively dislikes or even hates the family pet. (Assumption number two - animals provide unconditional love to everyone they meet. In my experience, it is perfectly normal for a pet to be more attached or loving to certain people in a house, usually the ones who also show it affection and take care of it). The demography of pet-keeping also presents a problem ... This view predicts that people living alone would have the most need for unconditional love and thus have the highest levels of pet ownership. (#3: WHY? because people with roommates or family already have their love quota fulfilled? #4: people always do what is statistically beneficial for them, i.e. "i live alone and have a deficiency of love so I should get a pet.")This is not the case. In fact, adults living alone have the lowest rates of pet ownership, (lots of things could contribute to this. This must include people whose lifestyles otherwise prevent pet ownership: every college-aged person in a dorm room, people who work or travel a lot, people who live in apartments by themselves that don't allow pets, which is more likely to happen if you are single, people who are allergic, etc.)while adults raising school-aged kids have the highest. (This in no way refutes the unconditional love hypothesis. Many parents get pets for their kids so that they can have that sort of relationship with a pet that includes unconditional love, as well as responsibility and kindness, and see it as beneficial to their kids all around). Interestingly, while adults with children have the highest rates of pet ownership, as a group, they are less attached to their animals than people who live along with pets. In fact, pet attachment drops a notch with each additional person added to a family. Pets in homes with young children really get the shaft. For example, only about 25% of pets in families with children are groomed every day compared to nearly 80% of pets who reside with adults who do not have kids. (There is no reason to assume that this fact is a direct cause of the nonexistence of unconditional love from a pet. People who do not have children have more time and disposable income to spend on pet grooming. They also are more likely to have a pet that requires grooming, while a family may choose a pet specifically because it is low maintenance in the grooming department. By this logic, because families with 4 children necessarily spend less time and money per child than families with 3 children, the parents with more children love each of their children less, and those children love their parents less. Very silly in my opinion.)

Phew! moving on to the shorter objections.

2. The explanations he provides about the studies he cites often either do not have enough information to make sense, or don't make sense. One such study about whether men or women have more susceptibility to the cuteness of babies and pets was summarized this way:

"Women, however, are more susceptible than men to creates that are cute. British researchers recently reported that two groups of women are particularly sensitive to differences in the cuteness of infants: those of reproductive age and those taken birth control pills that raise their levels of hormones progesterone and estrogen." These seem pretty clearly not be "two" groups of women. Women who are taking birth control pills are the same women that are of reproductive age, unless there is some new fad of seven year old girls and seventy year old women taking the pill just for the fun of it. Although not all women of reproductive age take birth control pills, one group seems to fit pretty clearly into the other, so that his suggestion that hormones such as progesterone and estrogen are the causation for this kind of behavior has some serious logical flaws and kind of just seems like a tricky way to avoid a more detailed explanation.

Mostly, though, the author bugged me by summing up what seemed like a complicated study in a few sentences, followed by the words "the research is clear that ______," when I felt like from what he said, the research was NOT clear, and his conclusion was utterly unsupported.

3. I guess this isn't really a complaint, just something I thought was funny, but he made me feel like a stereotype.

"Three out of four animal rights activists are women, and most of them are politically liberal, well-educated, solidly middle class, and primarily white. Nearly all of them have pets." p. 241

"The typical vegetarian is a liberal, white, well-educated middle- or upper-class female who is less likely than the average person to adhere to traditional values. She usually gives up red meat first, and then expands her list of rejected foods to chicken and fish, and, in the case of vegans, eggs and dairy products." p. 196

Although I ultimately agree with Herzog, this book was really an exercise in being continually annoyed by his rhetorical style. It got all of my debater dander up and within 70 pages I had to keep notes about all of the ridiculous things he said. Since I didn't know anybody physically near me who would find my complaints interesting, I channeled them into the longest review I've ever written.
Profile Image for Sarah.
256 reviews148 followers
January 31, 2012
There were several moments during this book when I thought, "WTF!?" but due to other obligations, I did not write them down and prepare a review.

1. I had forgotten all about the book until reading an article about the feral dog epidemic, when I remember that one of the more insane things in this book is when Herzog posits that if we keep spaying and neutering all our animals, someday (soon) there won't be any left so breeding dogs/pets is a good thing. He then cites the Netherlands, where spay/neuter is illegal, as an excellent example of how stopping all the spay/neuter efforts would work out just fine.

2. Being a vegetarian is sort of like having anorexia-- both are be about having control and anxiety issues and the implication is that going veg is probably pathological. As an example of someone "healthy" he tells the story of a recovering vegetarian who drinks a pint of cow blood every morning for breakfast and "feels great".

3. As others have pointed out, there is a major problem in the cockfighting section when Herzog claims that the animal rights community is against cockfighting because they are actually classist and don't like the poor and illegal aliens.

Oh, and my favorite: even though cruelty to animals is listed as a hallmark of antisocial/conduct disorder (formerly known as psychopath) doesn't mean that perfectly normal don't abuse animals. Abusing/maiming/killing animals is perfectly normal and part of a healthy child's development.

I was interested to learn about anthozoology, a field I had never heard of before. However, there are probably better books than this on the subject.

Profile Image for Shomeret.
1,080 reviews245 followers
April 20, 2013
Although I liked this author's attempt to be fair to all perspectives, there were some questions that he chose not to explore.

Herzog points out that many dog lovers live with cats instead of dogs. In fact, he is one of them. But he never asks why this pattern has developed. Is it because cats make better apartment dwellers or are there other factors not related to urban living?

Also, in discussing the domestication of wolves (which is of particular interest to me), Herzog mentions a theory that wolves first approached human settlements because they wanted to sift through garbage heaps. Herzog considers this likely. Herzog is assuming that wolves are scavengers like dogs. They aren't. They are carnivores. Dogs really did evolve into a separate species. So why would wolves have been interested in garbage? Any canines who approached human settlements to scavenge trash would already have taken steps on the evolutionary path away from their original wolf identity. Herzog doesn't wonder how that could have happened. I do. Maybe it's a mystery beyond the scope of this book, but I think that given the fact that most humans have very different attitudes toward wolves than they do toward dogs, I would have thought that this would be an important issue for Herzog to deal with.

A GR reviewer accused Herzog of saying that vegetarianism causes eating disorders. Actually, he doesn't say this at all. He cites a number of studies that show a correlation between vegetarianism and eating disorders, but academics like Herzog know that a correlation is not the same as causation. He consulted with a colleague who works with young women who have eating disorders. She said that some anorexics are using vegetarianism to cover up their eating disorder. In other words they claim to be vegetarians, so that omnivores won't question the fact that they aren't eating when a meal includes meat. It occurs to me that if the omnivores immediately presented them with a vegetarian alternative meal that would expose the anorexics' true motive. They wouldn't be able to hide behind their alleged vegetarianism.

In a discussion of animal experimentation, Herzog discusses his qualms about using mice. Actually, I found his revelation about the gassing of "surplus" mice who aren't used in research even more disturbing.

In conclusion, this was an interesting book, but I would have liked to have seen more about some issues.
Profile Image for Brian.
286 reviews2 followers
October 21, 2013
Meh. This book has a good title, but it's misleading. Well, the part after the colon is misleading. Some more accurate titles for the book would be:

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: It's Hard to Think Straight About Animals (omitted the "Why" because he doesn't really pretend to answer that.)

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: It's Complicated (Yep)

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat (Enough said. Oh, and the book would be blank to save on a lot of redundancy.)

The author has over 20 years of experience in the Anthrozoology field. He feels the field is not very well-known, but because he loves it so much, he wants everyone to know about it, so he did the indulgent thing and wrote a book saying "look how cool Anthrozoology is" without really giving anything very substantial about what the field has really learned about people. I kid you not that the last sentence of the book is (along the lines of) "Our relationships with animals are more complicated than you might initially think." I could have seen that coming though, after the third chapter, which felt like a complete rehash of the second chapter, which itself felt like a complete rehash of the first chapter. After that there was a little more variety in the chapters, but there was still a lot of redundancy of ideas, and big chunks of every chapter that felt like a literature review as he recounted this study done by these people at this place, and then this study done by these people at this place, which amounted to what felt like a lot of rambling. (Kind of like this review). There were some interesting studies mentioned, but they usually just amounted to "oh, that's interesting" or "oh, that's inconclusive," and after reading that over and over it was pretty dissatisfying. The chapter on chickens was probably the strongest one. There were some good anecdotes throughout, and some interesting people were introduced, but I didn't come to any greater appreciation for the human-animal relationship through reading this book. Just that, hey, it's complicated, which I already knew.
Profile Image for Heidi The Reader.
1,395 reviews1,536 followers
March 28, 2016
Another one that I wouldn't have picked up without the encouragement of my book club. I knew most of the horrifying ways that people mistreat animals and this book doesn't offer any real solutions, so it was hugely depressing.

The author stated my position fairly well at the start of the book: "Like most people, I am conflicted about our ethical obligations to animals. The philosopher Strachan Donnelley calls this murky ethical territory "the troubled middle." Those of us in the troubled middle live in a complex moral universe. I eat meat- but not as much as I used to, and not veal. I oppose testing the toxicity of oven cleaner and eye shadow on animals, but I would sacrifice a lot of mice to find a cure for cancer. And while I find some of the logic of animal liberation philosophers convincing, I also believe that our vastly greater capacity for symbolic language, culture, and ethical judgment puts humans on a different moral plane from that of other animals." pg 11

I learned about the animal protection policies of the Nazis which made their actions towards Jewish people even more disturbing: "A bizarre moral inversion occurred in prewar Germany that enabled large numbers of reasonable people to be more concerned with the suffering of lobsters in Berlin restaurants than with genocide. In 1933, the German government enacted the world's most comprehensive animal protection legislation." pg 59

The horrors of animal hoarding: "A recent study on the public health implications of animal hoarding, reported that nearly all hoarders who have over 100 animals in their homes were women. The living conditions of these extreme hoarders ranged from lousy to horrifying. Things were particularly bad among those living alone. Over half of their houses lacked stoves, hot running water, or working sinks and toilets. Forty percent of the homes had no heat and 80% did not contain a functional shower or refrigerator. The conditions of the animals living in these circumstances are dire- cats, dogs, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits, all emaciated and ridden with disease, all running amok. First responders called in to clean up hoarding situations often encounter half-eaten animals corpses lying about." pg 139 Geez louise, people.

The romanticization of cockfighting: "But by far the most important trait, the one that gets breeders misty-eyed, is what they call true grit, or more commonly, gameness. I ask(ed) Johnny, a third-generation cocker, to tell me how I could explain gameness to my animal rights pals. "Gameness," he said, "is their heart. Their desire to fight to the death. Your bardyard rooster is cowardly.... Gameness is the drive to beat the opponent. It is so instilled in the true game rooster that he is going to give everything he has, to his last breath." pg 155-156 Think what Johnny could accomplish if he turned his passionate nature towards something that makes a difference in society. That whole chapter, In the Eyes of the Beholder, ranked right up there with the chapter on mice in animal testing (The Moral Status of Mice) as the hardest to get through. It's just heartbreaking.

The author's love of meat, which he managed to convey rather poetically: "I had never tasted pork belly, but I remembered that the local country music station used to announce their going price during the noon farm and home show. The piece of pork belly on the plate in front of me was a no-frills chunk of braised fat. One bite and my ideas about meat changed. I once stood for ten minutes in a museum staring at a painting by Mark Rothko, trying to figure out why anyone would think that an all-black canvas was art, but then something clicked and I suddenly got it. I had the same response to the taste of that pork belly. The Rothko and the pork belly had the same Platonic purity. One was distilled blackness, the other the essence of meat." pg 177

At every meal that includes meat now, that Mon Mothma line from Star Wars runs through my mind: Many Bothans died to bring us this information. Except, that inner trouble maker in my head changes it to: "Many chickens (turkeys, pigs, cows) died to bring us this food (lunch, dinner, snack, whatever)." And she nails Mon Mothma's sad delivery, every time. I wonder if the cognitive dissonance I'm experiencing will ever reach the point where I stop eating meat entirely. I suppose we'll see. Anyway, I have plenty to talk about at the club meeting tonight.
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,746 reviews415 followers
December 2, 2019
I enjoyed this book and kept some notes, which are basically worthless. So I'm going to refer you to my GR friend Jim, who wrote the best review I saw here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... --and don't forget to read the publisher's summary!

You will see, if you read some of the other reviews, that reactions to the book are all over the map. My only real problem was that I stalled out about 2/3 thru, and when I went back to finish it, I found my interest fading. So, he said what needed saying in the first 200 pages or so, I thought. Clearly 4-star reading until then. 3.5 stars overall, and you may want to stop where you lose interest.

Finally, I did appreciate his humorous, self-deprecating style, and the stories of his cat Tilly. And there's a great closing line: "Our relationships with animals . . . are more complicated than we thought."
Profile Image for Wendy.
406 reviews56 followers
February 10, 2017
I picked up this book because I love animals and I couldn't find any fiction books about them that looked interesting that week. Also, I thought the cover was cool and the premise sounded interesting.

I did not expect to have my world-view challenged! I didn't know a lot of the research and things he points out (I literally shouted 'Oh my God, seriously?!' when he points out that research shows dolphin therapy does nothing. I thought it did something, although certainly nothing as extreme as the die-hard supporters claim). He made me think about some things in ways I hadn't necessarily thought about them before.

And while I have had a few squeamish, 'eww, I'm eating a cow' moments before eating a cheeseburger in the past, I've been very successful in pushing such thoughts away. I couldn't push them away anymore after reading this book. It left me in a turmoil, one I had to sort out for myself--and I felt like that was the point of the book. He wasn't trying to tell you what to do, he wasn't trying to explain each individual person's relationship with the animal world; he just wanted you to think about it, instead of sweeping it under the rug. I thought about it, and I think I'm happier with myself after thinking about it, doing some additional research, and reaching some conclusions.

Also, while he's no comedian, he has a few turns of phrase that made me chuckle throughout, providing some much-needed tension relief. Overall, I would probably recommend this for people new to these thoughts, like myself. People already knowledgeable on the subject probably already know this stuff and wouldn't enjoy it as much for that reason.
Profile Image for Cortney.
65 reviews22 followers
March 6, 2011
A few hours ago I wrote in my "About Me" that I probably wouldn't be writing any reviews. But I enjoyed this book so much that I had to write one...

Mostly I wanted to assuage any fears that this is a book about shaming you for eating animals, or trying to lay down black and and white rules of how one should interact "correctly" with animals. The purpose of the book is not to convince you of black or white truths when it comes to how we treat animals. The purpose is to explore the large expanses of gray. The author is a psychologist who studies relationships between animals and people, and the book is a fascinating compilation of his experiences, thoughts, observations, and studies. The book winds its way through chapters that deal with different moral quandaries that pop up in our relationships with animals- from animal research, to breeding dogs, to how we adore our puppy but eat chicken, and peppered throughout are references to articles and theories and conjecture as to how our mutual past shaped our present interactions with animals.

There are many vignettes where the author walks us through a moral dilemma problem, and then presents us with possible logical conclusions. One of these is when he argues that cockfighting could be seen as more humane than eating chickens- one cock dies in the ring for every 10,000 chickens, and fighting cocks live 15 times longer than a factory farmed chicken, with much better living conditions. Yet most people, when polled, think cockfighting should be made illegal because it is brutal- yet those same people are fine with eating chicken. Again, he doesn't say this in a condemning kind of way, he is totally open to the moral inconsistencies that we have with animals, he's simply pointing them out and exploring them. One of my favorite parts of the book was Chapter 9, where among other things he talks about how everyone has moral inconsistencies, even people who are moral absolutists like animal rights vegans. In fact, he argues that the more absolute one's morals are, the harder it is to be morally consistent. I found myself writing down little notes and quotes, and this is one of my favorites: "Stop smirking. One of the most universal pieces of advice from across cultures and eras is that we are all hypocrites, and in our condemnation of others' hypocrisy we only compound our own." -Jonathan Haidt.

This is hands down one of my favorite books on the moral complexities of humans and our relationship with animals. It stays away from preaching, and instead takes a meandering, thoughtful trip through what is in the end a complex and thorny issue. I appreciate that the author didn't seem to have a bias one way or the other- he goes from talking about how he was unable to drown a mouse in a lab experiment to how he still supports animal research in spite of that. His willingness to say "I'm morally inconsistent" is honestly refreshing to hear, when the tone of the discussion around animals and humans has become increasingly more polarized and judgmental. There are no "you can't truly love your dog if you eat meat" insinuations. I'm a vegan leaning vegetarian myself, who volunteers at a no-kill animal shelter, and I thoroughly enjoyed the even handed, logical way he approached this topic.
Profile Image for Jami.
1,805 reviews7 followers
September 11, 2019
I picked up this book as I wanted insight into my quandary between loving animals and eating meat, knowing what happens. I realized from reading this book that I am far from alone in this “cognitive dissonance.” The information was presented in a way that was easy to understand. Some parts were funny and several parts were stomach churning and difficult to read. The book did shed some light on how we can act in ways that are in conflict with some moral values and provided interesting information.
Profile Image for Renee M.
900 reviews134 followers
August 21, 2015
Interesting, accessible discussion of our thoughts/relationships with animals. Herzog presents many sides and many scenarios, giving the reader the opportunity to appreciate a variety of viewpoints, and to, perhaps, reexamine his/her own thoughts on creatures of the earth and how we engage with them.
Profile Image for Penelope.
284 reviews15 followers
January 30, 2011
I kind of want to give this book 3 stars, but when I try to think about what I learned from it...the title pretty much sums it up. If a book can't go beyond its 9-word title, that's a problem for me. Ultimately, Herzog's only certain conclusion seems to be that our relationship with other species is complicated. No kidding! I was hoping for more than that.

It seemed like there was a lot of emphasis on the "Some we love" aspect of the book. Lots of information about pets, including Herzog's speculations about why we have them and why they aren't consistent across cultures. As a dog owner and someone who works with dogs on a daily basis, I found these chapters interesting but the information was sometimes disjointed and didn't seem to contribute to a larger argument. I often felt like the author was presenting information (lots of reference to various studies and books) solely for the sake of saying "Look at all this cool stuff anthrozoologists have discovered!" That's not to say that the information isn't interesting--it is!--but I couldn't see how most of it contributed to explaining the paradoxes and hypocrisy that the author is investigating here.

I thought the most informative part was Chapter 9, in which Herzog discusses the philosophies of Peter Singer and Tom Regan, whose theories have laid the ground work for animal rights activists today. In this chapter he really gets down to the nitty gritty and I wish more of the book had been like this chapter. Herzog's discussion about experimenting on animals (and how the public views such practices) is also interesting.

Overall, I found this book compelling. It was a quick read, full of intriguing facts and interesting anecdotes. I think my rating might be a bit harsh but this book really didn't live up to my expectations (lots of information, few conclusions), and there was an emphasis on the more pleasant human-animal relationships (pets) rather than the more morally troubling relationship between, say, humans and factory farmed animals.
Profile Image for Linda Lombardi.
Author 15 books10 followers
September 21, 2011
The subtitle of this book should not be "Why it's so hard to think straight about animals," which leads you to expect some kind of answer to the question. "It's so hard to think straight about animals" is more like it.

For me, as someone who's written about animals myself and has a fair amount of familiarity with the research literature, this book was somewhat disappointing. There's not that much in this book that I didn't already know. The most interesting part was about cockfighting, which is both the area that I knew least about and one that the author has done his own primary research on - most of the rest of the book relates the work of others.

On the other hand, the fact that this book is so similar to what you'd get from a brain dump of what I know about animals isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, the reason I learned all that stuff is because it is really interesting. If you don't know it, this book could be quite enlightening, at least in exposing you to stuff that you didn't know people even did research about.

As far as the publisher's description, I think you'll be disappointed if you expect the irreverent humor of Mary Roach, but relieved that you don't have to put up with anything much like the over-exposed intellect of Malcolm Gladwell. But never mind that publicity nonsense. The mix of research reports and personal anecdotes doesn't always work for me and the writing style was awkward at times (for example, why can't he make a consistent decision about whether to refer to researchers he cites by first or last names) but for me, he was a guide to this material that I felt extremely comfortable with. It was nice for a change to read a book about animals where the author is perfectly rational about the fact that basically nothing in our attitudes towards animals makes a damn bit of sense.
Profile Image for Cadence.
400 reviews4 followers
January 27, 2023
Really fascinating book. Our relationships with animals are so paradoxical and culture driven. Not only did I learn a lot (love when sciencey things are framed through a historical lense) but it also made me think. Didn’t really change my perspective on things, if anything I feel almost more comfortable in my contradictory feelings about animals.
104 reviews
April 4, 2021
Human-animal relationship, what an interesting topic! So when I saw a friend recommending this book, I immediately marked it as "to read". However, it took me quite a bit of an effort to actually buy it and open it. My struggle is: I'm NOT ignorant about factory farming and its cruelty but I'm not ready to become a vegetarian EITHER. I'm afraid this book will change my attitude but not behavior and as a result leaves me with only more uncomfortable truth.

Dr. Herzog shows me that the human-animal relationship is far more complicated than I thought. The human moral ethics towards animal is intrinsically inconsistent, paradoxical and, sometimes I would say even random. It is very well written and the author rightfully refused to give easy, black and white answers to this extremely complex and difficult topic. A provocative and enjoyable read!
Profile Image for Christopher.
677 reviews260 followers
June 5, 2018
This is a huge collection of moral dilemmas inherent in the human-animal relationship. I've struggled a lot in the past few years with my food choices. It's almost impossible now to avoid the knowledge that our modern meat production system is morally reprehensible. Animals are terribly mistreated for their short lives, then they're killed, and more likely than not, their bodies are thrown into waste piles rather than used for nourishment. I thought that I had arrived at a satisfying moral conclusion in my own life: I'm just not going to eat animals, and then I'll be clean from this awful mess. Maybe every now and then I'll treat myself to the meat from a happily raised and humanely slaughtered animal, but mostly I'm just going to deprive my huge appetite for flesh and eat, I dunno, green beans and potatoes and various disappointing veggie pucks.

But our relationship with animals is so much more complicated than the decision to eat them or not eat them. At every step, we must consider how much we value the lives of animals. Do we think an animal's life is worth as much as a human's? When asked if there is any significant difference between a human and an animal, about 47% of people say that there is no significant difference. But that's not how it plays out in practice. Humans are a muddle of contradictions. Here are some of the moral dilemmas this book raises, and that we should all at some point confront:

-Is it ever okay to eat animals? If you're going to eat animals, should you eat animals like shrimp, who don't have much of a nervous system and therefore probably are not capable of much suffering? Or should you eat the largest animals you can find? (A single blue whale can feed hundreds of people, while a chicken can only feed a couple, and during a crawfish feast, one person can consume dozens of lives.)

-What is worse, killing a chicken for food or cockfighting? This issue was surprisingly complex and unexpected. The majority of people will have no second thought about eating a grocery store chicken, but they recoil viscerally at the idea of cockfighting. But consider the lives of the animals. A grocery store chicken lives a terrible and short life. A fighting rooster lives the plush life of a pet, much longer than the usual life of a commodity chicken, and then spends the last part of its life in a violent frenzy that comes natural to it. I was surprised to come away from this chapter with the conviction that cockfighting is less morally corrupt than the simple act of buying a chicken from the grocery and eating it.

-Is it a moral act to keep pets, or is it slavery?

-What are the circumstances in which it is okay to use animals for scientific research? Is it any worse to conduct painful or deadly research on an ape or a cat than it is on a mouse or a bug? How many human lives do animal lives have to save before it's okay; is it a one human-one mouse ratio, or is it more like one human life equals 100 mouse lives?

-Okay, so you have decided that humans are no different than animals. Animal life is just precious as human life. Does that mean that you're morally justified in killing a security guard at an animal testing facility (one life) to save hundreds of animal lives? That doesn't sound right, does it, but why?

-Most people wouldn't think twice about calling an exterminator to do away with hundreds of ants or cockroaches or bed bugs in their house, but what about a squirrel? What about a raccoon, or a stray cat, or a pesky, home-invading monkey? It seems that the bigger, or the closer to human, an animal gets, the more we empathize with it. But where is the logic behind that? If all life is equal, termites should have every right to continued existence as us.

-What about owning a predatory pet, like a snake or even a cat or dog. Are you morally responsible for the birds your cat kills? What about the meat in your dog's food, or the mice you feed your snake? They are just doing what comes natural to them, but are you endorsing animal suffering by loving a predatory pet?

The world is a minefield of moral uncertainties. Thankfully we have books like this that help expose them and help us work through them.
193 reviews4 followers
April 7, 2012
I loved this nonfiction look at our entrenched, loudly argued, and deeply inconsistent opinions involving human and non-human species. We all draw the line somewhere: Never eat a cow, a dog, a horse, a pig, a lobster, a bug. Kill all snakes, endangered or not. Poison rats. Stroke kittens. Experiment on a mouse but not a chimpanzee. Dote on the bottle-fed offspring of your milk cow until you put him (the bottle-fed offspring) on the dinner table. Protest the inhumanity of cock fighting over a chicken dinner.

With a quirky writing style and a great tolerance for human foibles, this book shares anecdotal stories and scientific research. It touches on pretty much everything. It turns out that men are more likely to damage animals with aggression and women to damage animals by hoarding large numbers of them in infected, flea infested misery; that fighting roosters arguably live better lives and die easier deaths than their table-bound compatriots, in spite of the humane ban on cock-fighting in all 50 states; that despite being designated by Congress as non-animals, mice feel empathy; that among college students, 66% of males and 40% of females admitted to abusing animals as children; that swimming with dolphins is risky for dolphins as well as the people who share their water; that boy chimpanzees prefer "boy" toys and girl chimpanzees prefer "girl" toys.

From the preface (where I learned that ex-vegetarians outnumber vegetarians 3 to 1 and that female hyenas give birth through penises) to the last chapter (a sort of forlorn note of hope in which we learn about a variety of animal sanctuaries), this book is well worth reading. I highly recommend.

Profile Image for Emily.
687 reviews653 followers
February 10, 2011
I expected to feel chastised by this book about "anthrozoology" and how humans think about animals. Instead, the book highlights how very muddled our thinking is--we're nearly all hypocrites in one way or another. For example, a survey about whether self-reported vegetarians had eaten any kind of flesh in the preceding three days had surprising results--lots had. Many of us see cockfighting as brutal; factory farming is probably worse, but you don't see states lining up to outlaw chicken fingers. Why are mice the subjects of elaborate protocols during medical research, but if they escape and live in the walls of the lab, they're vermin?

Some of our feelings about animals seem to be innate (furry and big eyes = cute, snake = repulsive) while others are cultural and mutable. For example, pigeons used to be seen as falling in the "lovable but not useful" category in America (people used to raise them) but now are seen as "flying rats"--neither lovable nor useful. Pets are lovable but not useful and farm animals are not lovable, but useful.

The author doesn't try to steer your thinking in specific ways; instead, he explores the roots of our hypocrisy in human history and psychology. If you're looking for a passionate book about vegetarianism, this isn't it--it's a description of different ways humans think about animals rather than a prescription of how we should treat them. Great title, too.
Profile Image for Clark Hays.
Author 14 books132 followers
November 16, 2011
Cognitive dissonance: gloss over it or untangle the knot?

This is a fun, worthy read of a complex subject. The author doesn't seek to draw any "meaty" conclusions, but rather uses a deft hand and light approach to probe the way humans think of animals from a variety of angles. I found it the most intriguing when referencing studies that seem to shed light on the way our brains perceive sentient beings. I found it the clunkiest when the subject turned to vegetarianism. Characterizing self-identified vegetarians as lapsed when they eat meat misses the point. Self-identified carnivores certainly don't consider themselves lapsed when they eat vegetables. It's not all or nothing, nor is vegetarianism a religion. Herzog seems fond of bell curves and spectrums - he should open that possibility to those who consciously choose to minimize suffering/cruelty. No matter where you are on that curve, you can make choices to increase happiness for yourself and other sentient beings. One misstep doesn't invalidate it all. Still, speaking as a long time vegetarian (my carnivorous ways lapsed 15 plus years ago) married to a vegan - both of whom are concerned about the validity of animal testing in medical science - I think Herzog does a fine job of presenting a balanced view of the issues. Not sure there's much new here to shape individual decisions, nor are there strategies to clear up the evident cognitive dissonance, but there is fascinating food for thought.
Profile Image for Haritha.
193 reviews9 followers
February 16, 2012
I started reading this book in order to participate in the Read Smart book discussion series organized by NCSU Libraries and Wake County Public Libraries. I was so unimpressed by this book that I almost gave up on it. After a day or two, I was so traumatized by my not finishing a book that I started, that I went back to reading it.

This time, I was pleasantly surprised by how intelligent the book sounded. I think the author did a good job addressing the very confusing and somewhat hypocritical relationship that we have with animals in our daily lives. He touches on pets and pests, meat and other animal products, hunting and other recreational killing, research animals and even cockfighting. In writing the book he has talked to people from all walks of life- those in academia, those involved with animal rights organizations, vegans and even some people who grow gamecocks.

While the book starts of a tad slow, he builds up momentum and argues convincingly about his case- that our relationship with animals will always be confusing, draped in various shades of gray.
Profile Image for Sofija.
190 reviews
December 23, 2014
Absolutely Amazing! So full of really good facts and stats and reality, yet there is no preaching or judgment or trying to persuade the reader to do anything but THINK about human-animal relationships, which it easily does. This book inspired me to revisit the desire to spend some time volunteering with animals (and gives great ideas of where to do so), to really think ethically and morally about my meat consumption even if I never become a vegetarian (which at the moment I don't plan to), and to look at my many many relationships with animals and animal products with a more conscious lens (i.e. leather, and all of my beauty products).

A great resource, this book is really well-written and I think that if vegans and vegetarians and animal rights activists REALLY want folks to hear them, they should first recommend this book. This book provides insight and balance which are rare to find in the animal rights/vegetarian/carnivore controversy. I can't wait to read the next book by Hal Herzog.
98 reviews
January 27, 2020
this left me feeling both immensely morally superior and like an ignorant failure and you know what I liked it
Profile Image for Maisa Barbosa.
22 reviews9 followers
July 14, 2021
This book is much more our us than the animals themselves. Our relationship with animals is the perfect case to illustrate how complex and nuanced our logic and values area, how easily we deceive ourselves and how much we need to review our concepts and ideas. I can relate with the authors moderate position, and felt he made a great effort to let curiosity and not judgement guide his journey.
Profile Image for Pers.
57 reviews3 followers
February 26, 2016
This book was terrible. It wasn't terrible because the author ultimately concludes that hypocrisy is human and probably fine to subsist in when it comes to animals but because it is just so poorly researched and presented. He cites multiple studies but pretty consistently misrepresents their findings. If I hadn't Googled him already, I'd have assumed this was written by a person with a very poor understanding of the basics of social science research (ie: the difference between correlation and causation, the dangers of self-selection bias, isolating controlled variables). Since he IS a social scientist, it appears to be just a case of sloppy or perhaps even purposely deceptive analysis. Whatever the case may be, it's irresponsible of an academic of his stature.

The title promises an explanation for our fraught and contradictory relationship with other animals but fails entirely to deliver. Instead, what we have is just a series of examples, made more compelling with personal anecdotes and interviews, of the ways in which Americans are inconsistent in their approach to animals. Very little energy is invested in trying to explain why they are inconsistent or even whether that inconsistency is a problem. The reader comes away from this book knowing *that* people don't think straight about animals but not why or what to do about it.

The writing follows a predictable pattern of presenting a case in a sensationalistic way for pages and pages and then tacking on a paragraph right at the end paying lip service to journalistic objectivity. For example, the section on animals and gender spends most of its time constructing an image of soft, emotional women loving animals and strong, logical men harming them (those who don't fit the paradigm are cringeworthily labeled "Gender Benders") and then tacks on a tiny paragraph at the end about how maybe this isn't always true. The section on vegetarians and mental illness conflates correlation and causation for pages and pages and then admits, in only a few lines, that maybe there might be other explanations for some of the results. It's almost like the attempts to show other possible ways of considering each case were added into the completed manuscript afterward. It is completely acceptable to write a book that advances a particular argument or agenda but it isn't acceptable to do so by misrepresenting the data or pretending at a disingenuous neutrality.

I often see people mentioning this book as pro-vegan/animal rights and have even spotted it for sale at a few vegetarian events. It is not. This part is not the author's fault as he unapologetically speaks of his meat eating and other animal use throughout the book. If anything, this book is arguing the opposite view, that eating and otherwise using animals humanely is possible and inevitable. In the case of scientific experimentation on animals, the author is overwhelmingly in favour of it and presents his arguments in the book. Let me say it again, this is NOT a book supporting animal rights or veganism.

If you're interested in a well-researched look at why people experience so much inconsistency and cognitive dissonance in their relationships with other animals, try social psychologist Melanie Joy's Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism: The Belief System That Enables Us to Eat Some Animals and Not Others It actually succeeds in doing what this book only claims to do.
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