Animal Rights Book Club discussion

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That's Why We Don't Eat Animals > Why this book fails.

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message 1: by Chris (new)

Chris Poupart | 14 comments Mod
I am not entirely sure on the final message for this book. Obviously, the big one was "factory farms are bad".

But is that it? Where is the vegan message? Why is this a book for vegans?

Unfortunately, I get the strong feeling that the author is not against animal use per se, but rather, against inhumane animal use.

Furthermore, this book seems to have been tempered to also appeal to "vegetarians". There is no mention of dairies or egg production. (I take it back. Paragraph 3 on the opening page mentions "... factory farms where hundreds or thousands of animals are raised for meat and dairy."

Introduction
The problems, IMHO, begin on page 1, where veganism and vegetarianism are presented side by side as though both were equally valid. Further, it presents veganism as a diet, which it is not (unlike vegetarianism).

Pets
Apparently, we should treat all animals like pets. Though, no mention of pets are property or the associated problems that go with that, such as [puppy|kitten|other:] mills, etc.

I get that this is a kids book, but we shouldn't be perpetuating the idea that owning pets is OK because we treat them well.

Animal Families
The message is pretty good here, but again, there is an unfortunate focus on factory farms. You are going to find a separation of animals from their families on almost all the farms out there, factory or not. That is just reality. Again, the problem isn't factory farms.

Chickens
Apparently, it is OK to use free range (or other non-factory farmed) eggs, because the problem is, once again, the factory farming.

Turkeys
The only problem with factory farmed turkey is that they are too fat. ORLY?

Quail
Probably a regional difference, but I have never seen quail anywhere around these parts. That being said, this was one of the less objectionable sections.

Again, the issue is more complex than just "what a shame it is that these quail are raised only to be hunted!"... but again, a kids book. I shouldn't expect too many deep concepts and "it is wrong to kill animals for pleasure or sport" is a pretty good general rule.

Ducks & Geese
Again with the factory farming.

Page 2 in this section, focusing on poultry (raised for meat though, no mention of those raised for eggs) is a bit better. The message is essentially "animals should be free".

Pigs
Again with the factory farming (seeing a pattern here? I am!)

I am sorry, but the "heirloom" pigs being raised by my neighbours, who are allowed to play outside, root, bathe in the mud, etc, may have a better life than their factory farmed counterparts... but they are still doomed to an early and violent death, or to the whims of the market and their owners.

Cows
See pigs, chickens, etc. Add in - no mention of dairy farms, coupled with the fact that there is no mention of what happens to boy calfs on a dairy, or how they (including diary cows) will meet an untimely death.

And at the risk of getting too technical, on a "cattle farm", they have a pretty equal number of cows and steers.

On the plus side, some mention of the environmental impact.

The Ocean
Not much to say there...

Fish
Not enough said on fish intelligence or social groups. This describes them as purely reactionary/instinctual beings whose only importance is to keep the ecosystem in balance.

The Rainforest
OK.

Endangered Species
OK.

The conclusion? "We don't eat animals" because:

1) Factory farms are bad
2) We have to keep the ecosystem in balance
3) We are what we eat (wait, I thought that humans were also animals, even if we don't eat them?!)
4) World peace.

On the plus side, beautiful illustrations. It is just too bad that the message is so diluted and all over the place, focusing on the treatment of animals instead of their use. I will likely not be reading this to my son for many years, but when that day comes, I hope that he will already have a better understanding than Ruby Roth of the reasons why we don't use animals.


message 2: by Lindsey (new)

Lindsey (_lindsey_) | 4 comments Great outline, Chris.

I was really hoping that this would be a lot better than it was. I wanted to leave it out as a coffee table book, but it will just be going on my bookshelf instead. I figured even adults are more likely to pick up a picture book with minimal text than they would a dense book on animal rights, but
I guess I'll just have to wait for a for-real vegan children's picture book to come around.
I agree with you about the one positive side of the book. I loved the illustrations.


message 3: by Verdsatt (last edited Jul 10, 2010 12:34PM) (new)

Verdsatt | 3 comments I personally found the book useless because I'm not a kid, and I'm already vegan. But to say it "fails" is not an accurate assessment, in my opinion. If it were a YA book, it would be another story. Remember that she made this book with her own students in mind. I don't think she wanted to get into philosophical debates with them in art class. She is just trying to explain to them why she is vegan and raise their awareness about animals, not get into the nuances of vegan philosophy. I'm not saying there's a time too early to explain veganism, BUT I still don't think the book is useless, and I understand why she wrote the book this way. When you're a kid, the most important things are having good role-models and having your caring feelings for others affirmed and nurtured rather than neglected. That's what this book offers.


message 4: by Chris (new)

Chris Poupart | 14 comments Mod
Louche wrote: "I personally found the book useless because I'm not a kid, and I'm already vegan. But to say it "fails" is not an accurate assessment, in my opinion. If it were a YA book, it would be another story..."

Try to imagine this in terms of human slavery. There were two main types of slaves in use: hard labour slaves, that were literally worked into the ground because it was cheaper to just get new ones than care for them properly, and domestics servants (chefs, butlers, house cleaners, shoppers, even accountants and nurse maids).

Now, no matter how you look at it, human slavery was wrong. It doesn't matter if you were a house slave, or a hard labour slave.

This book takes the issue of non-human animal slavery sand makes a distinction between forms of use. It says that the reason we shouldn't eat animals is because of the way that they are treated. That is not a good moral position from which to advocate veganism. She starts the book off by implying that it is OK to have pets (without going into any of the "rescuing" vs "buying" aspects, she doesn't talk about the idea of ownership at all).

In other words, domestic slaves are OK, but hard labour slavery isn't. That is the message of her book. Not "slavery is wrong", but "this type of slavery is wrong because of the way that we treat the animals".

As someone who is both a parent and who used to work with children, I can tell you that I would never use this book to try and explain veganism to a child.


message 5: by Verdsatt (new)

Verdsatt | 3 comments These comparisons with other movements in order to get anti-racists to agree with anti-speciesism are getting a bit stale for me. I don't entirely disagree, but I don't believe that racism, sexism, and speciesism are equal, parallel, the same, untouching. I think they are different, perpendicular, and intersecting. Equality of unequals, as Bob Torres notes in "Making a Killing" (although I believe he is citing someone else, can't remember who).


message 6: by Chris (new)

Chris Poupart | 14 comments Mod
They are all different, yes, but at their core they are all a form of prejudice.

Now, obviously human slavery and animal slavery are different, but I don't think that it is necessarily wrong or pointless to rephrase things into other similar situations in order to help people realize their own prejudice.


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