Doing My Homework: 5 Days of Anti-Agricultural Reading

The holidays are a great time to read. If you follow the blog regularly, you know that it is one of my favorite hobbies. I love to read. I’ve collected quite a few books in the last few years, and soon I will probably need to invest in a bigger bookcase. The interesting thing about them, is most of my books about agriculture are anti-ag. Doing my homework to learn about American concerns and questions regarding farming means listening to their side of the story. In the next few days, I am going to share a few of my favorite, or the most interesting books on my shelf.

The two books that closely go together have equally similar names. Hal Herzog’s Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat and Melanie Joy’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows are two of my favorites because of the way they make the reader really think. While they both discuss the psychology of eating and raising meat animals, they are really pretty different.

Opening Lines: Hal Herzog’s “Why is it so hard to think straight about animals?”:

Herzog looks into the wide array of relationships between animal lovers, pet lovers, and animal advocates. He tells the story of a vegetarian who knew that cows and chickens were animals, but didn’t consider fish to be real animals, even though they have brains, are vertebrates, and are social. After she met her future husband, who was a hunter, she slowly reverted to a meat-eating lifestyle. Then he tells the story of a boy who decided to eat a vegetarian diet based on one of those popular pro-vegan publications you sometimes see in dirty metro stations. He even felt that keeping his pet bird in captivity was wrong. He released it into the back yard. He said “I knew she wouldn’t survive, that she probably starved.” Yet he chose to release her for his own mental well-being. The last story Herzog tells is when he owned a baby boa constrictor and the neighbors called after hearing he was feeding it kittens. Of course this wasn’t true. But he brings up a good point- with all of the kittens that are euthanized in the US each year, why wouldn’t we use them to feed predatory pets like snakes and birds, rather than cremating them? I know it’s an “off-limit” thought to most Americans. This is often because we attach warm and fuzzies to kittens- the thought of them as food is disgusting. Part of this is something called antropomorphism, humans projecting their emotions onto animals. This could be similar to a farmer looking at a cow and thinking “he looks really content, because I just fed him and he has shelter” and someone else thinking “that cow looks very sad to be confined and probably isn’t fed enough”. Americans project their emotions onto animals in both rational and irrational ways. Overall this book just opens up a new line of thinking about humans thoughts relating to animals.

Opening Lines: Melanie Joy’s “To love or to eat?”:

The first minute of the following video is the opening scenario in Joy’s book:


Melanie goes on to explain carnism. Essentially, carnism is to vegetarianism as carnivore is to herbivore as meat-eater is to plant-eater. This means that carnism is the choice to eat meat. The author doesn’t consider meat to be a necessary part of the diet, so eating it is a conscience decision made by humans. This is relatable to speciesism, but is more clearly defined in terms of diet. The author has said previously, in so many words, that the reason for this is to remain inoffensive and open to the meat-eaters of the world. However… in no way is this book inoffensive to meat-eaters. Joy uses quotes from Nazi leaders and philosophers to make meat-eaters reading the book to feel guilty, ignorant, almost evil. The author bases these thoughts on what she calls “The Three N’s”.

Normal: Eating meat is normal. If everyone’s doing it, how can it be wrong?

Natural: Eating animals, especially raising animals for meat, is the way things should be.

Necessary: For 2 reasons: animal population control and health and world hunger benefits.

Joy’s combats all of these common reasons why humans, specifically Americans, eat meat. Her opinion is that all meat consumption is wrong, but her ideas are intriguing in terms of psychology. Most Americans would be disgusted with the thought of eating golden retriever, but that’s just a food taboo in the US. Around the world, people eat some whack stuff. In the West African nation of Togo, rats are on the menu. In Iceland, during the holiday celebration called Thorrablot, residents dine on rams’ testicles, sheep’s heads, and rotting shark. Kutti pi, highly desired by most Indians and Europeans, is considered a delicacy because it is rare- animal fetus. All across the globe, we swat or spray misquitos, I would say even animal lovers: yet they have brains, they breed, they’re living creatures. Where is the line drawn? This is why I love these two books: they make me think about these weird things.

Do you eat meat? Why do you do it? I feel comfortable eating meat because there is a cycle of respect and care that I am confident occurs in animal production. I was once asked “how does it feel to eat an animal you raised?” This is important: I felt successful. Hear me out: if I had given that young pig anything but the best care that was possible of me, and it died or became ill, I would have failed. The fact that I cared for an animal, raised it, watched it grow, and then was informed about the slaughter process of animals is a success. I know where my food came from. There is no disconnect or unrealistic expectations, and I don’t feel negatively about helping to feed my family nutritious, sustainable food.

These are two books that, after I read them, I said “that really pissed me off, but I’d read it again, it made me think”. Those are the great kinds of books.

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