Marya'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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's review
Jan 10, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: adult-nonfiction

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.
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