I was interested in reading his book because I have had some trouble "thinking straight" about animals myself, and I have noticed that few if any people – including animal rights advocates – seem to me to have straight thinking on this topic.
Herzog discusses the many ways people get caught in odd contradictions with regard to their attitudes or ethical principles towards non-human animals. For example, while not eating meat myself for the past 5 years, I have taken care of several cats. Cats eat an average of two ounces of meat daily, which adds up to 50 pounds of meat in a year. Since there are 94 million cats in America, en masse they consume nearly 12 million pounds of flesh, the equivalent of 3 million chickens, every day.
So why are there so many vegetarians who keep cats? They could save 3 million chickens every day by humanely killing all cats (euthanasia). But we don't hear vegetarians calling for this approach. Why not?
According to Herzog, surveys show that 60% of Americans believe that animals have an intrinsic right to life, yet they also believe that people have the right to eat animals. Why are people so inconsistent? Herzog wants to find out.
Throughout the book Herzog discusses gender differences in attitudes toward animals. In the introduction he tells the story of one Judith Black, a women who at the age of 12 decided that it was wrong to kill animals for food. The interesting thing is that this woman, who went on to earn a Ph.D. in anthropology, decided at that age that while cows and pigs were animals, fish were not. So for 15 years she called herself a vegetarian while regularly enjoying "smoked Copper River salmon and lemon-grilled swordfish."
Her taxonomy served her well until she met Joseph Weldon, a biology graduate student and meat-eater, who tried to convince her that since fish are vertebrates, she was wrong to treat them differently from birds and mammals. She did not agree, but this did not prevent them from getting married. The discussion continued for 3 years before Judith gave in. Faced with deciding whether to stop thinking of herself as a vegetarian, or quitting eating fish, Herzog says she "joined the ranks of ex-vegetarians," but this is not correct. She never was a vegetarian, she just thought of herself as such, and lied to herself about fish to make it so.
Reading Herzog's book, one gets the impression that this is in fact what all ethical vegetarians and animal rights people do. They tell themselves lies about reality in order to boost their moral certitude and signal their "advanced virtue" to themselves, if not to observers.
Herzog tells of a dilemma he encounters himself. A series of events led Herzog to adopt a boa constrictor. He had a friend who was deeply involved in rescuing kittens who heard through rumor that he was feeding kittens to the boa constrictor. She called him up to confront him. It was not true, but it led him to thinking about the issue. Cats kill songbirds, and cats eat a lot of meat requiring the killing of many animals. As reptiles with low metabolic rates, boas need must less meat than cats; a cat consumes 10 times more meat in a year than a boa constrictor. Animal shelters euthanize and cremate 2 million unwanted cats, many of them kittens, every year in the U.S.. Herzog thinks it through:
"Wouldn't it make more sense to make these carcasses available to snake fanciers? After all, these cats are going to die anyway and fewer mice and rats would be sacrificed to satisfy the dietary needs of the pythons and king snakes living in American homes. Seems like a win-win, right?Emotion allowed to trump reason. Is it really morally preferable to breed and kill more mice and rats to feed to snakes, then to feed the animals we already have killed, even if they be kittens, to the snakes? And why is there so much more emotion around kittens, than around mice and rats? Herzog answers: its the 'cuteness factor.'
"Yikes...I had inadvertently painted myself into a logical corner in which feeding the bodies of kittens to boa constrictors was not only permissible but morally preferable to feeding them rodents. But while the logical part of my brain may have concluded that there was not much difference between raising snakes on a diet of rats or a diet of kittens, the emotional part of me was not buying the argument at all. I found the idea of feeding the bodies of cats to snakes revolting, and had no intention of hitting up the animal shelter for kitten carcasses."
He reports that anthrozoologist Stephen Kellert of Yale University has consistently found that women are more concerned with protecting animals than men, yet also 3 times more likely to have fears of certain animals (e.g. snakes or spiders). On the other hand, men are much more likely than women to know more about the biology and ecology of other species, and to appreciate animals for what Kellert calls "practical and recreational reasons" i.e. for profit, food and fun.
Women far outnumber men among vegetarians and animal rights activists. Herzog writes:
"According to Donna Maurer, author of the book Vegetarianism: Movement or Moment?, the typical vegetarian is a liberal, white, well-educated, middle- or upper- class female who is less likely than the average person to adhere to traditional values."And:
"Women dominate nearly every aspect of grassroots animal protection. They make up 85% of the membership of the two largest mainstream animal protectionist organizations in the United States, the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States. Among dog rescuers, women outnumber men eleven to one, and three times more female high school students than males call the National Anti-Vivisection Society's dissection hotline each year because they want to opt out of biology dissection labs for reasons of conscience. And more women than men give up meat for ethical reasons."One might even interpret both of these movements as anti-male movements. They attack specifically male values and behavior. The irony is that these male values and behavior evolved to protect and provide for the survival of women, children, and elders.
Imagine life 200,000 years ago. It is late fall, and plant food is scarce. The women and children of the tribe are hungry. A man has to choose between killing a deer and watching his spouse, progeny and parents die of starvation. If he hunts and kills an animal his family lives, if he is paralyzed by 'compassion' for the animal, he and his family die. The latter would be pathological altruism. If men were not men – primarily rational not primarily emotional, women and children would die.
Imagine the tribe is holed up in a cave for the winter. A bear discovers the cave and attempts to enter to take it from the family. The man has to choose between certain death for himself and his family, or killing the bear. He breaks down in tears, unable to bring himself to slay the bear because its "cruel" to do so. Would humanity still exist today if this is what men were made of?
In this light, disgust for men and their capability for cold, calculating rationality toward animals seems inseparable from hatred for humanity. Do women really want men to abandon rationality in favor of sentimentality? Do women really believe that, after millions of years of evolution selecting for men who are more rational than emotional, which served women's interests, things have changed so much that now women's interests are better served by opposing men in favor of animals?
It is worth noting that these vegetarians and animal rights advocates are "well-educated" and "less likely to adhere to traditional values." Since the 1960s, "well-educated" means having a university degree. Many of the elite intellectuals at American universities are so-called cultural Marxists who are actively hostile to "traditional values" which means European values. Whereas Marx aimed for a classless society, cultural Marxists consider distinctions between the sexes, races, and species to be the "socially constructed" roots of oppression, and they aim for eliminating what they see as oppression by eliminating the idea that there exist meaningful differences between the sexes, races, and even species.
Cultural Marxists believe that race, sex, and even species are "social constructs" with no biological components. They believe that the white race – that is, the European race, or European culture, particularly as manifest through "socially constructed" European males – is the main source of oppression. Therefore, they have a mission to destroy European culture and its "social constructions" of race, gender, species, etc. For example, Noel Ignatiev of Harvard University says he is inspired by Marxists and writes:
"The goal of abolishing the white race is on its face so desirable that some may find it hard to believe that it could incur any opposition other than from committed white supremacists."And:
"Make no mistake about it: we intend to keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as 'the white race' is destroyed—not 'deconstructed' but destroyed."Such individuals can only be considered openly hostile to European people and culture. Their stated goal is to destroy white culture, which means European culture, and even the (allegedly non-biological) white race itself. They hide their desire to genocide Europeans behind a laughable claim that the European race is only a social construct. They aim to accomplish this genocide by denouncing European men, creating conflict between European men and European women, reducing European reproductive success through "sexual revolutions" and discouraging Europeans from mating with other Europeans, and teaching people to abandon traditional European values and habits, including diets, so as to disintegrate European culture and thereby European power. In this way the hostile elites get European youth to rebel against their own culture and kind, to destroy the European race from the inside out.
It is well worth noting that whites – Caucasians, Europeans – dominate the vegetarian and animal rights movements. Not non-whites. Europeans don't eat dogs, but Asians do. Europeans want to save the whales, but Japanese refuse to stop because "whaling is an ancient part of Japanese culture, fishermen have caught whales for centuries, and Japan will never allow foreigners to tell its people what they can and cannot eat."
Did you get that last part? Japan will never allow foreigners i.e. non-Japanese to tell its people what they can and cannot eat. Japanese resist foreign control of their habits. Further, Japanese also resist foreign control of their homeland by strictly controlling immigration – only 1.75% of people living in Japan are non-Japanese. Japanese describe Japan as being a nation of "one race, one civilization, one language and one culture." This is in fact the correct definition of a nation. The word nation comes from the Latin nasci- meaning "born" and nationem meaning "birth, origin; breed, stock, kind, species; race of people, tribe." The Japanese clearly believe that there are very meaningful differences between Japanese people and non-Japanese. Unlike the Japanese, Europeans (including the Caucasian American population) have been convinced that they must let foreigners control their habits and their culture and even take over their homelands, in order to have a moral high ground and avoid the charge of "racism."
Europeans also fill the ranks of the organized environmentalist movement. Some people blame this "lack of diversity" in these movements on the whites, but that's odd, as if its the fault of Europeans that non-Europeans aren't as likely to have a personal or professional interest in vegetarianism or environmentalism. No one is stopping non-whites from taking an interest in animal rights, meatless diets or environmental issues. Would we blame Africans for the relative paucity of white people interested in performing rap music? Per Occam's razor, it may simply be that Europeans have a greater inclination to have this feeling for animals and nature, and hence these concerns, which is evident in the contents of European literature and folk tales.
Herzog points out that the animal liberation movement is like religion in two ways. One, animal liberation movements offer people moral meaning and purpose. Two, "Animal rights activists and religious fundamentalists are alike" in that "they see moral issues in terms of black and white rather that shades of gray."
"Shelley Galvin and I gave animal activists a psychological scale developed by the social psychologist Donelson Forsythe to assess individual differences in people's ethical ideologies. Seventy-five percent of animal activists (compared to only 25% of a group of college students) fell into the 'moral absolutist' category. People with this ethical stance believe that moral principles are universal and that doing the right thing will result in happy endings."So most animal activists believe that they have the right to tell other people what to do because they (the activists) believe that they have the moral high ground. This is how so-called liberal values lead to totalitarian sentiments, such as when a vegan advocate states on video that meat-eaters don't deserve to live and everyone should be forced to be vegan to save the planet.
Since I am totally opposed to totalitarian control such as advocated by this dimwit, I have been tempted to eat meat just to rebel against their kind. She illustrates how mentally imbalanced people can become when intoxicated with so-called liberal values. I agree with Thoreau:
“If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I would run for my life.”For it is those who are most convinced of their righteousness that do the most harm in "doing good" to others.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Herzog discusses the heavy price that animal activists pay for their moral vision and absolutism. Their allegiance to animals can alienate friends, family, and lovers. People go bankrupt for donating all their money to animal rights organizations. They become terrorists who attack and even bomb humans to save animals.
People who take the animal rights arguments to their logical conclusions end up producing impossible ethical standards. For example, Herzog discusses Joan Dunayer, who in her book Speciesism, takes ethical equality to mean that all creatures who can experience pleasure and pain "should" be treated as equals. So, if we have to choose between saving a dog and saving a child from a burning building, we are perfectly justified in choosing the dog, perhaps by flipping a coin; and, duck hunters should be charged with murder.
"The problem for animal liberationists is that Dunayer is right. If you take the charge of speciesism literally, if you refuse to draw any moral lines between species, if you really believe that how we treat creatures should not depend on the size of their brains or the number of their legs, you wind up in a world in which, as Dunayer suggests, termites have the right to eat your house."And mosquitos carrying West Nile virus have a right to eat your blood. And you don't have the right to stop them.
Imagine if your immune system followed the anti-speciesist rule. Instead of identifying pathogenic foreign invaders as not self, and destroying them, it lays back on the principle that these viruses and bacteria and cancer cells have as much right to life as your normal healthy cells.
You'd be dead within a day.
No species can survive by the standard of speciesism. Anti-speciesism is a variant of pathological altruism, involving the sacrifice of oneself, one's family, and one's nation to enable some foreigner, even one that threatens one's own existence, to survive and thrive. Anti-speciesism is a death wish.
Who has this death wish? Caucasians. Why? Well, first of all, these animal-rights ethical theories are products of Europeans. Non-Europeans have faith-based rules of conduct, like the Ten Commandments, but Europeans have lead the world in the development of rational theories of ethics. The idea of speciesism is attributed to Peter Singer and Tom Regan, both of Anglo extraction.
Second, it seems to me that white people have been told that they are the bane of existence. White people are popularly blamed for genocide, colonization, slavery, environmental disaster, and many other crimes against nature and non-European humanity. Anti-Europeans pretend that non-Europeans have all been angelic, never having committed any of the crimes pinned in Europe. Their willful ignorance of history is appalling. Contrary to the moral and legal principle that no one can be held responsible for the evil actions of his or her ancestors, there is a popular perspective, promoted by certain special interest groups, that white people alive today must pay for the crimes claimed to have been committed by unrelated white people in the past.
Perhaps as a consequence of this, some whites have come to the conclusion that white people must be eradicated from this planet. We must put ourselves out of existence, and we must do it by sacrificing ourselves for the good of others. We must stop eating animals, we must stop reproducing, and we must give everything in our possession to others less fortunate than ourselves.
Some think we are commanded to do so by the Christ of the New Testament. Turn the other cheek. Walk the extra mile. If he asks for your coat, give him your shirt as well. Consider the interests of others to be above your own interests, or you are selfish, a hater of the others.
Meanwhile it is perfectly acceptable for those others to take advantage of you, to use you and spitefully persecute you. Do not resist your own dispossession and destruction or Yahweh will burn you in hell for evermore. This is "morality."
I learned many things from this book, including:
Dolphin "therapy" is a scam.
It is generally true that dog owners look like their dogs.
So-called dog people and cat people are different.
Childhood animal cruelty is not as strongly linked with violence as I had thought.
Research shows that animal rights activism is motivated more by emotion than logic.
You will find Herzog taking you through other lines of thought he has entertained in his effort to understand the moral issues surrounding animals. For example, he recounts an inner dialogue wherein he tries to understand how one would decide when it would be "right" to kill people who use animals for scientific or medical research, by comparing it to how one would decide when it would be right to bomb people holding other people hostage in an war-time internment camp, such as is usually attributed to Germans in WWII.
And more. I highly recommend this book to vegans, vegetarians, animal rights activists, and people who want to understand these people and their movements.