Friday, July 11, 2014

Looking through a book

is different than reading one. Recently I received a copy of a book titled: "Animal Madness, How anxious dogs, compulsive parrots, and elephants in recovery help us understand ourselves" by Laurel Braitman. After reading some passages located via the index test...well...I looked through the book, I didn't read it.

Reading the title will tell you most everything you need to know about what is contained in the book (it should...that's a very long title). The last four words "help us understand ourselves" let us know the book is about what humans might get out of the deal. Pretty much par for the course in terms of human beings interacting with other beings. The author is listed as holding a Ph.D. from M.I.T in the history of science. On her website (one wherein she sorta seems to be quite impressed with herself) she touts herself as being a TED fellow...what that means I'm not quite sure. I was overcome by three letter acronym fatigue.

The index test shows that "animal rights" is mentioned in 5 locations in the book...that seems like a good thing except the first mention is brief and dismissive, the second mention is a snarky swipe at PETA, the third is a more lengthy write up about the fellow who trained Flipper the dolphin...with a primary focus on whether suicide occurs in other animals. For some reason that seems to be a hot idea to a certain group. Why, I'm not sure.

The fourth reference is several pages that includes this passage:

"This is why I never trust an animal rights activist who is misogynistic or thinks that Homo sapiens are, at heart, more rotten than any other species. Human rights activists are animal rights activists by default. The reverse should also be true."  p. 281

She seems to be doing some peculiar mixing and matching here, I'm presuming she's referencing the fact that humans are animals hence human rights activists are by definition animal rights activists. She coyly leaves out the fact that most human rights activists do not advocate for the other animals nor do they refrain from harming or eating other animals. The word definition seems to be enough for her. She doesn't say anything about not "trusting" human rights activists who aren't vegan...which should be the case if she's being serious. (I'm also presuming she misuses the word misogynistic when she means misanthropic...or maybe she meant to use it the way she did and was coupling misogynistic (the term) with a definition of misanthropic.)

I'll just say that I would be a bit suspicious of any animal rights activist who isn't a little misanthropic or who hasn't or doesn't entertain misanthropic thoughts and/or feelings based on the actuality and the history of the way human animals behave toward our sister and brother animals. For me any animal rights activist not being a bit leery of humans and their behaviors bespeaks of someone either being much more saintly than seems genuine or extremely naive or disingenuous. Believing we ought to feel all animals are equal in their right to live their own lives is one thing, ignoring the actuality of how different animals behave in regard to this (specifically human animals) is either symptomatic of cognitive malfunctioning or a serious denial of reality.

The fifth mention really isn't about animal rights, it's about animal welfare (arguably as are all the others). I suspect this author is the sort of person that would be characterized as an "animal lover". She seems to have been around lots of other animals and seems to care about them...up to a point. She is a human supremacist, make no mistake about it. She's the sort of supremacist (white, or human or otherwise) who would treat her slaves well...but...she absolutely believes that some sorts of animals (those not human) should be slaves and some shouldn't (humans).

Her notion of some future goals of "animal rights" includes this:

"We could stop eating mentally ill pigs, chickens, and cows, and do away with corporate farming practices so cruel they're often institutionalized torture. We could stop trimming our coats with the fur of compulsive mink, foxes, sable, and chinchillas and quit testing our drugs, cosmetics, and medical procedures on lab animals housed alone and in terribly uncomfortable conditions." p. 284

She goes on in the next paragraph to say we should accept that we're just another kind of animal and then she says (rather hilariously): "This kind of change will not be easy or fast." What "change" this would entail, based on her book, seems to be to not be so "mean", I guess...it's ok to oppress, enslave and kill and eat the other animals...just don't be ugly or mean about it.

I laughed out loud when I read the statement about not eating mentally ill pigs...that's a catch 22 for pigs. Sort of: "If you're crazy, little pig, we won't kill you and eat you but if you're not...well...tough tittie...you're bacon." One of the first things I thought when I read that was there goes any notions that MIT grads or TED fellows are the brightest of the bright.

But...it does give us a beautiful example of how denial creates stupidity. When we deliberately blind ourselves cognitively or emotionally then we are going to be oblivious to some absurdities. We are at risk of voicing, in a perfectly serious way, really grotesque and ridiculous (and sad) statements. And MIT or TED or Harvard or Yale or Stanford or or or...no amount of or excellence of education, no superior IQ...no nothing...is going to prevent our viewpoint from being warped and incomplete and distorted if we engage in denial. It is the all purpose stupefier and get you it will if you are under its influence.

Back in February I wrote about the index test, this book has animal rights in the index...but...there's no listing for vegan (or vegetarian) in the index...big big clue right there that here's another book ostensibly about the other animals that is actually about human exceptionalism/supremacy. This book really doesn't need the index test because the title tells you it is all about what human animals might gain from the other animals (help us understand ourselves). Given the denial exhibited by the author, I'm not too sure she has received much help in that respect but...my impression is she's out to gain for herself...her website is rather self-promoting and I suppose she's trying to "milk" the book for all she can.

I presume this is a "well-meaning" human...I don't think she is personally deliberately cruel to other animals (she just pays others to enact the cruelty) and I think she would like to see some of the more horrific ways that we torture and enslave and kill other animals be reformed or eliminated. That's a good thing. But...she's a human supremacist...period. She wants to keep right on oppressing, enslaving and killing, just not do it in such openly cruel ways.

I will give her credit for writing one of the more zany (in a tragic and sad way) statements I've ever seen. Stop eating mentally-ill pigs. Good grief.

I'll tell ya what...just stop eating pigs (or any other beings), whether mentally-ill or not...go vegan. That way you don't have to do any diagnosing for mental-illness or compulsivity or loneliness or anything else.

6 comments:

D.E.M. said...

Nice!
Excellent review.
Oh, and that human/animal rights default idea really is stupid. Everyone up here is all on board human rights (opening a Human Rights Museum) & nobody on that bandwagon gives a thought to animal rights.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting DEM. Considering what she wrote, I question whether she has any more than a passing awareness of either animal rights and/or human rights. I'm happy that several (that I'm aware of) prominent advocates for women's rights are also now vegan...but none of them do advocating (again, that I'm aware of) for the other animals. I really do think she was trying to make a buck, found what appeared to be a "hot" topic and went with it. There might be some interesting anecdotes in the book but her perception and rationality is flawed by denial.

Which, by the way, is probably why so many advocates and defenders of harming the other Earthlings sound "stupid" and/or absurd...denial can make any of us sound as if we were devoid of reasoning ability...mainly because it makes us devoid of sound reasoning ability. :-)

Bea Elliott said...

Thanks for the warning on this book. Yep, often you can tell the contents by the cover/title. The unspoken "what's in it for me" is evident and also no surprise given our penchant for self-gratification.

You're right too that awareness can't come without a certain element of misanthropy. On some days (weeks and months) a lot more than others.

Insane pigs, depressed cows and frustrated chickens --- Ah... Food for the human gOds. :/

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea. I sorta pulled my punches (believe it or not) with reviewing her book in that I didn't note that she was interviewed somewhere and said she tended to agree with the critics of vegans who thought that vegans were trying to wipe out animals. I'm sure you've heard it...the notion that vegans are trying to "disappear" animals because there wouldn't be so many of them if we didn't eat them (because we 'raise' them to eat)?

I find that kind of "thinking" contemptible in the extreme...it's beyond wrongheaded...it's almost malicious.

What's interesting is that I've seen a couple of reviews of her book by vegans for whom I have a lot of respect (Marc Bekoff and Michael Fox) who gave the book a mild thumbs up. I suppose because she's advocating for "better" treatment of animals...or because she's sort of saying "they" are more like "us" than we now pretend. I'm all for people saying we should behave better toward all animals...but when they say that in a book and then say keep on killing...nope...I'm not going to give them a pat on the back. I'll acknowledge their call for better treatment but I'll also call them on their ugly, destructive, self-serving blindness.


I actually find that (acknowledging that we're all animals) somehow more repulsive than if she maintained the opposite. Saying we're more like the other animals than we now admit hence we ought to 'treat' them better but it's still okay to kill them and eat them...that's somehow more ugly and gross to me than trying to maintain that humans aren't animals. Sort of like the difference between being a sneaky a**hole versus being an openly blatant a**hole. Less confusing.

If they can see well enough to apprehend that we're all animals then what in hell are they doing by advocating harm to our relatives? Nope, a kind killer or a mean killer...in the end...both are killers. I'll agree kindness is preferred over meanness but stealing someone's life is the ultimate harm...the prelude is minimal next to that.

Have Gone Vegan said...

Snort, I laughed more than once reading this post, starting with I was overcome by three letter acronym fatigue. -- priceless! :)

Oh, and guess what landed in my inbox today? The Animal Legal Defense Fund is so excited to tell you about our upcoming live chat with author Laurel Braitman. and they added that Laurel is a passionate animal advocate and her insightful book is taking the media by storm. Hmmm...

As soon as I read the words "help us understand ourselves" I knew where you were going with this, and rightly so. Animal use is so ubiquitous it's frightening. Is there any way in which human animals DON'T use other species?

It's also been my observation that the occasional times when non-vegans use the phrase "we're all animals", it's usually followed by
a rationalization of one of the many ways in which we harm them.

Oh, and Homo Sapiens are, on the whole, more rotten than any other species, and no amount of wishful thinking is gonna wipe that fact away. So there! :)

Christine said...


This sounds like an interesting book but maybe not in the way the author intended. If it can be shown that animals suffer with mental illness than this is yet more evidence that animals are like us inasmuch as they are intelligent, sentient beings capable of emotion and suffering psychological damage and must therefore be treated with the same respect with which we should ideally treat each other. If an animal is capable of suffering with depression, anxiety, stress or obsessive-compulsive behaviours and other psychological conditions it shows that they are not the automatons driven by instinct that many people would have us believe but are fully conscious aware sentient beings. I am in no doubt that animals suffer with mental illness as do we humans. I think it is more than obvious that animals sufferer with psychological problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder particularly in view of the horrendous treatment many receive at the hand of human beings. Showing that animals suffer with mental health issues may demonstrate that non human animals are sentient creatures and in time may help change the way they are treated. An interesting post thank you.