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Us and Them: On the Importance of Animals (Quarterly Essay #45)

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  87 ratings  ·  15 reviews
For the first time in history, humans sit unchallenged at the top of the food chain. As we encroach on the wild and a vast wave of extinctions gathers force, how has our relationship with animals changed? In this dazzling essay, Anna Krien investigates the world we have made and the complexity of the choices we face. From pets to the live cattle trade, from apex predators ...more
Paperback, 125 pages
Published March 2012 by Black Inc.
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In this Quarterly Essay, Anna Krein provides a powerfully written introduction to three debates concerning animal ethics. And yet...that's it. She doesn't seem to reach any definitive conclusions at the end of the essay (aside from "we should reconsider our relationships with animals," which is really just the point of departure for the essay anyway), and there's a lot of wishy-washiness when it comes to taking sides. Granted, these aren't clearcut debates, and it's difficult to really say anyth ...more
Ben Eldridge
A brave essay in which Krien attempts (if not entirely successfully) to move the animal-human relation debate beyond the impasse of anthropocentrism it has remained at for the last few centuries, and which has been almost entirely removed from public debate after the high points reached in the wake of Singer's "Animal Liberation" in 1975. Krien's undermining of her own agenda within the opening pages of the essay are, whilst understandable, rather unhelpful to her overall cause. The most poignan ...more
Penni Russon
I listened to this after reading Krien's fantastic book on the contentious politics of forestry and protest in Tasmania. I just think she's awesome. She is not afraid to interrogate her own position in relation to her extremely difficult material. She bravely inserts herself into difficult scenarios and watches and listens, asking the questions that we want to ask - she is questioning, curious, uncertain - she has the truthful chime of a child. She somehow manages to make even statistics eng
Perhaps it is because I have read so much on animale welfare but I found this QE a bit disappointing. Anna Krien had done some great research into areas that are often overlooked in the animal ethics debate (the hunting of "vermin" section was all new to me) but I failed to discern her point. It read more like a collection of random facts about animal treatment rather than a thesis with an overall message. I felt she needed to take her teacher's much referred to advice about not ending on a ques ...more
Matt Kelly
Overwhelmingly the most life changing Quarterly Essay I have read so far. I was very reluctant to read an essay devoted to animals and how we interact and use them in our world, but I shouldn't have been.
Damien Evans
I enjoyed this but found it a little too short. I wanted more! An analysis of our relationship with animals, by the half way mark I wasn't feeling too much hope. Tales of Indonesian slaughterhouses will do that to you. Then we got on to the topic of yellowstone national park and how bringing back the wolves that has previously been removed was the key to the rejuvenation of that park. The apex predator is key! Fascinating! Then the closer to home story of using guardian dogs to protect sheep fro ...more
Anna Krien is nothing if not a courageous author: the March edition of Quarterly Essay entitled Us and Them, On the Importance of Animals is a brave essay which is likely to provoke hostility from an assortment of vested interests who profit from the use of animals.

She is unapologetic about her position:

‘I am not weighing up whether our treatment of animals is just, because it isn’t. That age-old debate is a farce – deep down we all know it. The real question is, just how much of this injustice
Kym Chapple

““In the eyes of a butcher a horse is already dead,” wrote Georges Bataille." 113

“I am not weighing up whether our treatment of animals is just, because it isn’t. That age-old debate is a farce – deep down we all know it. The real question is, just how much of this injustice are we prepared to live with? That is the premise of this essay." 147

“Today in Australia, according to statistics collated by the Australian Association of Humane Research, close to 7 million animals are used in research and
Anna Krien’s vivid and engaging essay challenges us to confront the uncomfortable facts about our treatment of animals and to consider our own complicity in it. The point, she makes clear early on, isn’t to question whether or not our treatment of animals is just. It's obviously not just, and we all know that, though we might not always choose to admit it to ourselves. The question, then, is how much injustice we are prepared to accept and participate in. With this in mind, she travels to Indone ...more
I enjoy narrative non-fiction, in general, and I found this one compelling. Superficially, it tracks the rape trial of a footballer, but its main subject is the intersection between sex, power, and football culture. Krien considers such issues as entitlement, the way society enables football culture and poor behaviour, the issue of consent in rape (particularly is our sexualised society), and the need for ethical/moral behaviour. Krien is self-questioning, but analytical rather than emotional. I ...more
Michael Burge
This essay gets to some core truths about why the human-animal relationship has gone so awry.

It's not all bad news, some solutions are celebrated and explored, once Krien has written honestly of what she encountered in Indonesian slaughterhouses engaged in the Australian live export chain.

Krien's at her best when placing human and animals in context - there's no "us and them", just "us", and she shows that it's conscience, not religion or anthropology, which is the ultimate proof of this assert
Matt Harris
More arguments for treating animals better. So many cohesive and important arguments. A wonderful picture of the colours of our Anima Mundi, how many ways we interact with them (either directly or indirectly.)

Just read the book. And then try to look at your dinner, pet, etc in the same way.
Sep 10, 2012 Belle marked it as wishlist
Was so impressed by Anna on Q&A, I'm keen to read her work.
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Quarterly Essay (1 - 10 of 58 books)
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  • Rabbit Syndrome: Australia and America
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  • Paradise Betrayed: West Papua's Struggle For Independence
  • Groundswell: The Rise of the Greens
  • Beautiful Lies: Population And Environment In Australia
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