Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat

Book Review : Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat
Author : Hal Herzog
My Rating : 5 out of 5 stars

The complete title of the book is, "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals".

As is quickly clear from the title, we humans have a multidimensional relationship with animals. And the book explains, this relationship is much more intricate and even contradictory on all these dimensions.

Dogs may be family members in US, but in many countries, dogs are vermin. Some of us have mice as pets, but most of us hate them, but squirrels are cute, even if they are from the same rodent category. And when it comes to eating, there is indeed a very wide divergence of opinion on what is edible and what's not.

Now add ethics, economics and politics to that equation. Is it ethical to eat animals, and if yes, which ones, and how should they be farmed ? Which animals should be banned from being pets - tigers, pythons, chimps ? If it's illegal to raise chickens for fighting, even when they are treated like kings, why is it legal to raise them for food in horrible living conditions to eventually die a painful death ? If using monkeys as research objects is immoral, why is it ok to use rats instead ?

This expands the scope of the debate by orders of magnitude. But wait - let's add logic and philosophy to it. If you were an animal lover, would you rather have a cat as pet, or a python as a pet and feed live stray cats to it ? Don't squirm. Use hard cold logic. Cats destroy local bird population. And even if you force them remain indoors, the cat food itself comes from killing many other animals. On the other hand, a python can survive on a few cats for the entire year. Just look at the pure number of lives lost in feeding a cat v/s a python, and see if you change your mind. That is of course, if you want to be called as an animal lover, as opposed to a cat lover.

One last question - hypothetically of course - if you were in such a situation, would you kill a panda to save a child ? 100 pandas to save a child ? 100 pandas to save an old man who is going to die in a few years anyways ?

OK. Enough. This is how enormously complex the subject is. It's not just vast, multi-dimensional. But it's also cold, slippery and very uncomfortable. It gives rise to heated, passionate debates with polarized opinions, but the answers are elusive to most, while crystal clear to only the ardent activists. Most of us draw a line based on our comfort zone, and move on with life. That's because of the simple truth - we are emotional creatures, not rational beings.

This would serve as a nice summary of the book - except it doesn't completely convey how marvelous the book is. Author Hal Herzog has done wonderful job in exploring the enormity and complexity of the subject. This is no easy task.

The book covers all the things mentioned above and much more. Author Hal Herzog is a professor of Psychology, specializing in anthrozoology - a field focusing on human-animal relationship. With many years of research, he is well qualified to write on this subject. More than competency, his attitude wins the reader's heart and mind. His approach is very scientific. It is also honest and humble. He is unafraid to mention his biases and irrationalities. Neither does he offer any answers, nor does he advocate a certain point of view. He wants to highlight the contradictions within us, to explain why is it so difficult for most of us to come up with satisfactory answers.

The writing is smooth, thought provoking, funny. Totally enjoyable. But unlike many pseudo-intellectual books (e.g. Malcom Gladwell) there is more than just pleasant writing and touching anecdotes. Hal Herzog has done his own research. Not all of course, it is impossible given the scope of the issues involved.

This is a great survey of the numerous issues. It's a wide span, from analyzing how dogs came to be a fashion statement, to stereotyping of dog persons v/s cat persons, to the ethics of eating meat, to using animals in research, to the hypocrisy and moral inconsistency within all of us. It will engage you, enlighten you and force you to reexamine your beliefs. Just don't try to find any easy to use supportive arguments here, no matter what your stand is. Because this book, ultimately, is about the conflicts within us, not about animals.

I highly recommend this book. Read it and let others know about this. A scientific, objective and honest way to examine complex moral issues is rare. Especially, when it's presented in such an accessible manner.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bend It Like Beckham ! Indeed.

MLS 2011 Conference Finals. LA Galaxy v/s Real Salt Lake. The game would be remembered for how many times the ball hit the post and for this amazing assist by Beckham. I am not a fan of Beckham, but this is indeed his signature cross. Beautiful, perfect and it just makes you exclaim ... WOW.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...