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

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat by Hal Herzog
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Mar 15, 2011

did not like it
bookshelves: read-in-2010, reviewed
Read from December 25 to 28, 2010

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.
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Reading Progress

12/26/2010 page 102
30.0% "So far I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone."
02/11/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-33 of 33) (33 new)

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message 1: by rachel (new)

rachel wow, that bad, huh?

message 2: by dara (new) - rated it 1 star

dara rachel wrote: "wow, that bad, huh?"

I just added a short review; a lot more things about the book annoyed me, but I felt like if I went into it any further, I'd be exploiting GoodReads for a free therapy session.

message 3: by rachel (new)

rachel nicely written - and now i'm going to take this off my to read list, and add the book you recommended instead.

message 4: by Skye (new)

Skye Thanks for this review. I'm taking this book off my reading list. I'm Mexican and it makes me so mad when people use the word "illegal" to describe people of color. And he calls nonhumans "it"?!

message 5: by Asthmatoad (new)

Asthmatoad I have to say that I love this review. I'm only about a quarter of the way through this book, and I have found myself annoyed by author on multiple occasions already. I feel your review is thorough and well supported. You make many strong points. I'm considering forgoing any further reading and instead buying the book you suggest, which I came across previously and made me wonder if "Some We..." was just a cheap copycat.

Kristen I think you may have come into this book with a specific expectation that this book was not even attempting... who ever said it was activist literature? It is a scientific study on human psychology, which includes ethics, but it is not supposed to argue for a specific way of life; that is not its purpose.

Taryn This review covers it. I just finished this mess of a book and was so happy to be through it I couldn't bothered to write a proper review. Luckily, yours verbalizes my exact thoughts.

message 8: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Taylor Kristen, this book doesn't sound very scientific.

Kristen Well, social science.

message 10: by dara (new) - rated it 1 star

dara Ugh, I was printing something on campus and someone had printed a chapter from the book along with assigned reading questions. I wish I knew what class was using this BS. One of the questions: "What role does vegetarianism play for eating disorders?" One of < 10 questions, none of which take vegetarianism seriously. How eating disorders relate to our attitudes towards animals continues to elude me

message 11: by dara (new) - rated it 1 star

dara Also, I'm a sociology major. This book doesn't cut it from a social science perspective, either. My biggest problem with this book is not that it advocates or does not advocate a certain view, but that it deviates from what it is claiming to study: Instead of discussing his field of "expertise," his writing derails into an attempt to discredit vegetarianism as "dangerous."

Ancilleno Davis I for one find it better that the author gave an unbiased account. It was not meant to change a point of view but broaden perceptions. I do admit some wording may have been a little off putting for those with particular points of view, but this review speaks nothing to the art in the writing. The book is well written and does a good job at pointing out the problems from several points of view. Also, he did not call Mexicans illegals he said that is how the others see the trade of cock fighting.

Tezden I'm so surprised to read all these comments, I read this book and didn't find it at all like this. One thing you mention is his mention of Hitler being a vegetarian, I think that he didn't cite it better is because it was just a fleeting mention, and such an inconsequential piece that it wasn't even meant to be a solid point. The real magic in this book, for me, was all the alternative perspectives that he offered. I went into the book with all my opinions about animal welfare and vegetarianism, and it was great to see some very well presented alternatives. This book covers many science experiments, but what it mostly is is anecdotal, which is fine. I found it so interesting, it is full of perspectives I had never considered, prime example being the segment on cock-fighting, and also on the intricacies of why some may consider it more moral to eat a cow than a chicken. I don't think this book was written to push an agenda, which I think is what the original poster was looking for. This book offers different perspectives, and I thought it was very intelligently done.

message 14: by dara (new) - rated it 1 star

dara Just because the agenda is the status quo doesn't mean it isn't an agenda.

Tezden It's the job of the intelligent reader to read, interpret, digest, and then, if he or she wishes, to form an opinion. If you think he's pushing an agenda, it doesn't necessarily make it a bad book or one that people can't get something from. I thought his points were very fairly presented. So little of the book actually has to do with the merits (or futility of) vegetarianism, but he does refer back to it to make points and bring out contradictions in our relationships with animals (see title of book). There's a lot more to it than just whether or not to eat them. To me the most fascinating parts was the way he looked at pet ownership. I know many, many vegetarians who own pets, but don't really consider the 150-300 pounds of cat or dog food that the animal consumes each year, all full of animal meat. These are things that are considered in the book, the "morality" of being a vegetarian and having a meat-eating pet, among many other things. I'm not saying it's bad for a vegetarian to have a pet, and neither does Mr. Herzog, but he does present the topic for us to then consider. To me, it was fascinating, and a must-read for any haughty-totty vegetarian to read (myself included)--not because I think it will change anyone's mind, but it is all good information to consider, as simple as that.

I hope some of you who have taken this off your reading list will reconsider!!

Tezden http://ttbook.org/book/transcript/tra...
An interesting interview with Hal Herzog for anyone wanting to hear his voice before getting the book (or not getting it).

Rebecca I agree with Tezden in thinking that Herzog was trying to present a balanced book rather than an agenda. He was mostly studying why people think the way they do about animals rather than trying to make moral judgements about whether or not they were correct. However he did in places state his opinion, i.e. that he thought cock fighting was indeed wrong... but then he tempered that with showing how our judgement about it compared to other animal cruelty can be clouded by society.

I also think he was more balanced about the whole Nazi animal policies thing than you suggest - he even states 'needless to say, the fact that Hitler loved animals does not in any way undermine the validity of the case for animal protection.' Whether Hitler was a vegetarian or not is also not central to his argument. Instead, he looks at quantifiable Nazi animal protection laws, for example the fact that Jews were not covered under the laws for humane animal killing.... I think this makes the point he is trying to make far more credible than you allow for.

I'm not saying the book doesn't have its flaws - I for one would love some more concrete conclusions to be reached from all the interesting experiments he lists. But I don't think it is quite as unreliable as your review suggest...

message 18: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Dyer Thank you- I just checked this out from the library and I am promptly returning it.

Chiara I'm quite surprised by your reaction to the book, dara. Most of his opinions were added more just as a human perspective, I found, rather than something he thought other people should follow. He himself recognised that he was hypocritical in the way he thought about animals, but then goes on to show how almost everyone is. Perhaps I felt differently about it because many of his views were similar to my own, but mostly I thought they were irrelevant to what his argument was. I expected the book to be about ethics, but it turned out to be about the psychology of ethical standpoints instead. I didn't at all find a pushing of one particular conclusion over another.

message 20: by Raydel (new)

Raydel I am so happy i read your review, it was amazing!

message 21: by Wayne (new) - added it

Wayne So, basically, you're saying you gave this book a poor rating because it challenged your worldview in a way that you find threatening and uncomfortable. That's not particularly useful to anyone other than devout vegans hoping to avoid accidental exposure to material that doesn't confirm their own biases.

message 22: by dara (new) - rated it 1 star

dara So, basically, no.

message 23: by Hannah (new)

Hannah I got so fed up with this book so early on, I had to leave it. Your review sums up my feelings perfectly and honestly makes me even more glad I didn't push myself to finish it. Definitely a disappointing book.

message 24: by Chromis (new)

Chromis Thank you for this review.

Leann I'm in agreement with Tezden and Wayne's comments on this. This book is objective and unbiased. I am also a vegetarian and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I actually found this author incredibly down to earth and humble, not to mention a great sense of humor and irony which he splashes in here and there. It felt like I was a fellow researcher I was having a conversation over dinner with an extremely intelligent friend. Dont expect it to be about the destination, this book is all about the journey.

message 26: by dara (new) - rated it 1 star

dara I'll give the book credit for being as unbiased as my review is, and no more.

Leann Ps. Dara, have you read "Eating Animals" yet? I just finished it. Safran Foer is excellent. I hope you give it a try. I actually stumbled across this book just after reading that one and I was hoping to learn more about why humans think its ok to eat pigs, cows, chickens, etc... But not the family pet or horses. If I am choosing not to eat one I believe I am a hypocrite for being so easily able to eat the others and dismiss their validity. There is a book called "All pets go to Heaven" that makes my blood boil. The family pet was spoiled, but that chicken you just ate has torture and suffering written in its genetic code. Yeah--- only pets go to heaven, animals that are fundamentally functionless, not the animals (you believe) sustained your very life. UGH. Mellow officially harshed. Lol! Oh well... Viva la resistance, eh? Wishing you well. ;)

message 28: by dara (new) - rated it 1 star

dara I've read Eating Animals. Foer is one of my favorite writers. I wrote a non-review review of Eating Animals. I would also highly recommend Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy for the psychological reasonings you're looking for. She also just did a TED talk, which is pretty cool.

Adrian Your reasons for disliking the book seem to be connected to your fervent love if vegetarian ism.

Adrian Vegetarianism really is the right thing, but people who are too passionate about it turn off those on the fence, therefore sabotaging the cause. While the book wasn't perfect, it served its purpose. You seemed to expect a lot more than it was wanting to give.

message 31: by dara (new) - rated it 1 star

dara Nope. My reasons for disliking this book are the ones I listed. Thanks.

message 32: by Laura Pope (new)

Laura Pope Seems that so many authors are conflicted about their relationship to meat as food . Animals don't suffer moral issues about what they evolved to eat! Read "The Secret Life of Plants" to rethink your relationship to veggies. I recently went to a demonstration of Plants singing using a device developed in Italy. I think we cannot assume that anything that lives doesn't have some level of awareness, and moralizing about it it a religious convention. We need to treat everything with kindness and respect, and that goes a long way to solving the ethical problems of how and what we eat.

message 33: by Jennifer (new) - added it

Jennifer Thank you :) I am gonna read your recommendation instead.

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