An inquiry into human & animal relations.
Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals by Hal Herzog. Harper Perennial, 279 pp.
As a dog owner, an “animal lover,” and a former farmer, I largely enjoyed Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat. Author Hal Herzog’s message is simple and clear: humans’ relationship with animals is illogical and emotional. My bona fides didn’t make me a logical-minded reader. I got emotional reading some of the stories.
But there were unforgettable passages, such as his outlining the strong animal rights stance of Nazi Germany. This created great difficulties for the Reich because it had to dispose humanely of so many pets that had belonged to the Jews they were mass murdering.
My view of the book is complicated by the fact that I read it as a member of my university’s screening committee for possible common books. A common book, which is read by every entering freshman, must have two qualities: a strong story and a strong social issue; Herzog’s book is more of a collection but explores a strong social issue. And our students would find it interesting, I think, at least initially.
I was concerned they might wonder why they were reading the same message repeatedly—that there’s no sense in how we treat animals of different species—and might bog down. And then my own biases came into play.
For instance, Chapter Six, comparing the relative cruelty of cockfighting and meat chicken production, points out that gamecocks live like princes for about two years before they are fought, while broilers live for only six to eight weeks in nightmarish factory-farm conditions before they are brutally slaughtered. While condemning cockfighting, Herzog concludes that it is less cruel than mainstream agriculture’s production of chicken protein. I happen to agree, but wanted him to bore in. Why have growing numbers of people in developed nations increasingly found blood sports repugnant while, until recently, have turned a blind eye to the cruelties of industrialized agriculture? What’s the moral difference between fighting naturally combative roosters and killing for food helpless, abused broiler chicks? Where is the line between enjoying seeing two roosters fight, and at least one die, and horse racing in which horses are often drugged, are raced with painful injuries, and in which many are destroyed?
I thought I was being logical but may just have gotten my buttons punched.Herzog is an affable guide, however, and Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat is enlivened by his persona. Beyond a strong story and a strong social issue, a successful common book must have a living author who is willing to come to campus. And he must be able to win the attention of easily bored eighteen-year-olds. A tall order. I think there will be less complicated candidates this year, which in a way proves his point, but I could live with Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat.