Some we Love, Some we Hate, Some we Eat: Why it’s so hard to think straight about animals by Hal Herzog is an examination of the complex and contradictory ways we interact with animals.
The book looks at our relationship with pets and working animals and how some animals are considered pets and some aren’t. The impact of breeding for specific characteristics and its often negative consequences for the animal somewhat undercuts our expression of love for these animals. One factor is our primitive response to certain features like soft fur and large eyes, which raises the question as to whether we are able to rationalise our feelings about animals or we’re simply at the mercy of biology.
The author explores vegetarianism and veganism, again highlighting the contradiction inherent in some of these positions. It was interesting to read that most people eventually return to eating meat, usually for health reasons. It contrast our squeamishness, or lack of it, around farming chickens for food and raising cocks for fighting. Many people would instinctively say that cockfighting is worse than killing chickens for food, but the life of a fighting cock seems a lot nicer than the life of a battery chicken. Through examples and contrasts like this the author is able to draw out why it’s so difficult to have a coherent approach to our relationship with animals.
One aspect of our relationship with animals is their use in the development of medicines or the understanding of biology and psychology. It seems people are more likely to take a cost-benefit approach here, prioritising the benefits to humans much higher than the suffering of animals. It also looks at our ability to convince ourselves that some animals don’t suffer or feel pain, and how research is challenging that belief. There are also stories of the researchers who become too attached to their subjects. The irony that in order to demonstrate that animals feel empathy or pain we have to experiment on them or dissect them is not lost.
Some we Hate, Some we Love, Some we Eat doesn’t take a position, perhaps a reflection of the author’s point – it’s hard to straighten all this out in your head. Through a compelling combination of storytelling and facts, Herzog lays out the various ways we use and interact with animals, and reveals the contradictions. It’s one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve read in a while. It doesn’t lead to answers, but will make you question yourself.