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02/17/2010

Book Review: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows  »

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As I vegan, I know very well why I love dogs, don’t eat pigs and don’t wear cows. I would just as easily adopt a nice pig or sheep or cow if it could fit in my tiny NYC apartment. But for those of us who ever wondered how it became OK for some to live this way—to choose to eat one kind of animal and not another—there’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy, Ph.D. In her book, Melanie sheds light on a belief system she calls carnism, which allows us to select which animals become our meat (not us, but those other idiots who eat meat), and how it is sustained by complex psychological and social mechanisms. She compares carnism to other “isms” such as racism and sexism, saying that it is most harmful when unrecognized and unacknowledged.

Unlike other books that explain why we shouldn’t eat meat, hers explains why people do and how we can make more informed choices as citizens and consumers (i.e., not eating meat!). It was this reverse-psychological aspect of the book that made me really enjoy it. Dr. Joy explains that we have been conditioned to act and feel a certain way toward animals, and different kinds of animals at that—hence the title. She touches on different aspects of carnism, explaining not only how meat is a harmful ”mythology,” but also how it can be destructive to our bodies. In addition to the really smart narrative, the book contains resources like websites, movies and books for those looking to further explore veganism and animal rights. This one will be going on my shelf right in between Diet for a New America and Face on Your Place. That is, after I pass it along to all my non-vegan friends.

[image via Cute Overload]

12/20/2009

I’ve never heard of fried owl  »

The science world was in a tizzy last week as a new study was published about the veined octopus, a.k.a. the coconut octopus. Turns out these guys will collect coconut shells and use them as little shelters. OMG SO CUTE. This would make the octopus the first known instance of an invertebrate animal to use tools!

I happen to love octopuses because they are one of the smartest animals on earth! They can unscrew a jar, solve puzzles and they can even get depressed—I find depression in animals very endearing. I don’t know why. But I once saw a show about this poor octopus who was stuck in a stupid aquarium and got totally depressed—surprise! But some local kids set out to cheer him up and made him lego puzzles with treats inside and he loved them!

Now we find out they use tools. So cool. Here’s a pretty great video from the Museum Victoria in Australia:

All this got me thinking about the famous Jeremy Bentham quote about animals: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Even though he asked that in 1789, it is very relevant today. It seems that we vegans continue to make arguments along these lines—at least I know I do. But I can’t help but hope that if people realize how smart octopuses are, maybe they won’t want to eat them so much! I know, it’s probably naive, but look at the owl! The “wise old owl.” Maybe if we thought owls were dumb, they’d be dishing out owl burgers at McGrossy’s. But we think they’re smart, so we let them get old. Sigh. I can hope.

Image credit: dModer101 on Flickr.

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