While humans have turned pets into quasi family members, writes human-animal relations expert Herzog (Psychology/Western Carolina Univ.) in his debut, our love for animals clashes with our dietary habits and more.
The author is fascinated with “the often whacky ways that people relate to other species.” Over the years he has attended animal-rights protests, witnessed serpent-handling church services and clandestine cock fights, mingled with vegans and eaten raw steaks, all while pondering serious ethical issues—the rights and wrongs of using laboratory animals for his research projects, the food he consumed, etc. As an animal lover who is not only an “anthrozoologist” but a meat eater, he asks himself how “60% of Americans [can] believe simultaneously that animals have a right to live, but people have the right to eat them.” Herzog writes about big subjects with a light touch. The author deals with the vagaries of the human relationship to dogs and attempts to determine the thinking of “the first person [who] decided that a ball of fur could be a friend rather than a meal,” perhaps 40,000 years ago. He also calls out the deplorable behavior of modern dog fanciers whose efforts to create the perfect breed have produced millions of canines who suffer from severe physical problems as a result, in “a triumph of style over substance.” While many Americans, like Herzog, respect the moral stance of vegetarians, polls show that “between 97% and 99% of Americans sometimes eat flesh.” As a middle-of-the-roader on this issues and on the use of laboratory animals in medical research, the author has come to the conclusion that such “moral quagmires are inevitable in a species with a huge brain and big heart.” Despite our inconsistencies and callousness as a species, chimpanzees, our closest primate relatives, do not show the slightest sign of remorse when ripping a tasty arm off a fellow primate.
Insightful, compassionate and humorous.