BOOKS: Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2010:
(published October 5, 2010)

Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat:
Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals by Hal Herzog
HarperCollins Publishers (10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022),
2010. 324 pages, hardcover. $24.99.

“When I first started studying human/animal interactions, I
was troubled by the flagrant moral incoherence I have described in
these pages,” concludes Western Carolina University psychology
professor Hal Herzog in Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat.
Examples include “vegetarians who sheepishly admitted to me they ate
meat; cockfighters who proclaimed their love for their roosters;
purebred dog enthusiasts whose desire to improve their breed has
created generations of genetically defective animals; hoarders who
caused untold suffering to the creatures living in filth they claim
to have rescued. I have come to believe that these sorts of
contradictions are not anomalies or hypocrisies,” Herzog states.
“Rather, they are inevitable.”


Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat appears to have
evolved out of Herzog’s professorial role in stimulating classroom
debate. Though Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat could be
used as a text in a course about animals and ethics, it is written
and marketed for a general audience. The strength of Some We Love,
Some We Hate, Some We Eat is that while Herzog makes use of a wealth
of academic scholarship, offering hundreds of footnotes to sources,
each chapter and moral issue is illuminated by stories about
real-life people, resolving real-life problems with a combination of
ideas, values, and experience that often include troubling
contradictions if extended past the immediate issues to frame
universal rules. In the here-and-now, to each person, the
resolution serves the immediate need, and the extensions of
reasoning to other situations are of no concern.
Herzog’s first major study was of the culture of
cockfighting. Herzog references this work repeatedly, for example
in comparing and contrasting the relatively privileged life of a
gamecock with the lives of poultry raised for slaughter or to produce
eggs. Yet, as Herzog recognizes, the cruelty inherent in
commercial poultry production is incidental, whereas it is the end
point of a cockfight.
Of historical note is that efforts to ban cockfighting began
at least 200 years before the beginning of the organized humane
movement, 400 years before the advent of factory farming. Though
opposition to cockfighting had a huge head start, legislation to
reduce the suffering of commercially raised poultry had already begun
to be passed before cockfighting was banned in every U.S. state.
Frequently the contradictions that Herzog perceives on the
surface of animal-related controversy is indicative of a cultural
transition underway at a deeper level.
For example, Herzog notes that there are about three times
as many ex-vegetarians than practicing vegetarians. Since the net
result is that the percentage of the U.S. population who are
practicing vegetarians at any given time has not changed much in 30
years, Herzog takes this to mean that American food habits regarding
animals are not changing much in response to increasing animal
advocacy.
Reality is that few people stick with any major lifestyle
change to the full extent of their initial commitment. Many more
people take up daily jogging, change careers, experiment with
different religions, etc., than continue with the changes
throughout the rest of their lives. Yet abandoning a lifestyle
change, or making a further change, usually does not mean a
complete loss of motivation. Rather, the individual typically finds
a less disruptive way to pursue the goal.
The aspect of making lifestyle changes that adds up to
societal change is cumulative. The reality that millions of people
jog at any given time, even though few jog every day, built the
multi-billion-dollar running shoe industry. The reality that most
people change careers at least once has produced major changes in the
nature of adult education, the modus operandi of pensions and health
insurance, and the political strength of labor unions. The reality
that people relatively often seek varied religious experience is the
basis of evangelical Christianity, and of the introduction of
meditation and other aspects of eastern religions into mainstream
American life.
It is not necessary that large numbers of people “convert”
permanently to vegetarianism to make the world much more friendly
toward vegetarians, and correspondingly, to animals. As becoming a
vegetarian becomes easier, more people try it, more become at least
semi-veg, and even those who give up purporting to be vegetarian
tend to eat less meat, and to remain more sympathetic toward farm
animals.
In discussing animal hoarding, Herzog relies for perspective
on the work of Gary Patronak. Currently employed by the Animal
Rescue League of Boston, Patronak has done quite a lot over the past
dozen years to help increase recognition of the problem. However,
instead of looking at the spectrum of chronic neglect of animals,
Patronak narrows his scope to just people who keep dogs and cats.
This produces the erroneous stereotype that animal hoarders are
primarily older women. Looking at the entire spectrum of animal
neglect, crunching the data from more than 10,000 cases, ANIMAL
PEOPLE has demonstrated that younger males are every bit as likely to
become hoarders as older females. The major difference is simply
that males are more likely to hoard animals as farmers, breeders,
pet store owners, keepers of hunting packs, or dogfighters than as
self-described rescuers. Males also tend to get into trouble for
hoarding between 10 and 20 years earlier in life.
Perhaps most controversially, Herzog tends to reject the
common contentions that animal abuse in youth predicts future violent
crimes by adults, and that involvement in animal abuse as an adult
is closely associated with committing crimes against humans. As
Herzog notes, when these questions are studied in a context that
considers only illegal violence against animals, different studies
yield conflicting answers.
However, Herzog overlooks that when the context is broadened
to include participation in legal forms of violence against animals,
such as hunting, trapping, fishing, farming, slaughtering, and
animal experimentation, the outcomes are rather different. In
1994-1995, for example, ANIMAL PEOPLE demonstrated that crimes
against children are significantly much more frequent in counties of
New York, Ohio, and Michigan with high rates of hunting
participation than in other counties, and that high hunting
participation coincides more strongly with high rates of child abuse
than either population density or per capita income.
Many of the contradictions involved in both human attitudes
toward animals and Herzog’s assessment come together in a discussion
of Adolph Hitler–but Herzog accepts too uncritically the claim often
voiced by defenders of animal use industries that Hitler was a
vegetarian who cared about animals. This was part of the public
image that the Nazi propaganda machine constructed, but despite
avoiding meat at times under doctors’ orders, Hitler never abstained
from eating meat for very long. Hitler signed numerous alleged
animal protection laws, but they tended to target the practices of
Jews (kosher slaughter), or just forbid Jews to keep pets. Laws of
broader scope went unenforced. Hitler appeared to love his own dog,
but SS training included raising a puppy, then strangling the dog as
an adult. Hitler purportedly opposed vivisection, but innumerable
humans were vivisected on his watch, and many of the experiments
also involved harm to other animals.
In the end, the claim that Hitler was a vegetarian depends
on a definition of vegetarian that includes everyone who sometimes
avoids meat for any reason. The claim that Hitler was an animal
lover depends on a definition of animal lover that includes every
hunter and rodeo cowboy who treats his dog well, while killing and
violently abusing large numbers of animals of other species. Herzog
portrays Hitler as an example of the contradictions to be found among
animal advocates, yet reality is that Hitler was much more an
example of the contradictions to be found among ordinary people, who
perceive themselves to be kind to animals while eating animals,
dissecting animals in school, and enjoying entertainments that
involve animal suffering.

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