Hal Herzog on Our Double Standards for Animals

March 6, 2011

This hour, why it's so hard to think straight about animals.  We start with psychologist Hal Herzog, author of "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why it's so Hard to Think Straight About Animals."  He talks to Anne Strainchamps about his own mixed feelings.

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If one does eat meat, it is important not to eat animals that have been tortured and executed under terrible conditions on factory farms.

Hello,

I enjoy listening to your show and I often find it inspiring. However, I was very disappointed with your uncritical and unbalanced interview with psychologist Hal Herzog.

Dr. Herzog admits that eating meat is ethically wrong and that vegetarianism is better from a health perspective and an ecological perspective. And yet he continues to consume animal products. He justifies his hypocrisy by calling it a moral “inconsistency” that is smaller than other moral failings.

There is no evidence that Dr. Herzog’s proclivity for eating meat is biological. Unlike carnivores, humans have no claws and our teeth are not sharp. We have long intestinal tracts for the digestion of plant-based foods, and in which meat rots. The consumption of animal products by humans has been shown to cause obesity, cancer, and diabetes, among other diseases. According to the U.N., animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all the automobiles in the world; it is clear that global warming has already caused irreversible destruction and even if we change our course, this will continue for generations to come. The land used to grow crops for livestock feeds far fewer people than if it were used to grow crops consumed directly by humans, which wastes fuel and other resources, and contributes to human starvation. The systematic cruelty inflicted on 10 billion animals raised for food in the US (approximately 60 billion worldwide), the great majority of which live lives of tortured misery from birth to slaughter, is well documented. This is no small moral “inconsistency.”

Of course, there is no perfect morality; inconsistency is often inevitable. As Dr. Herzog noted, vegetarians occasionally consume animal products. Many vegans feed their obligate carnivore pets meat and fish. Rodents are killed in the production of vegetables and grains. But why not aspire to limit your inconsistencies to those necessary for the wellbeing of others, rather than merely for your own convenience and pleasure?

Contrary to Dr. Herzog’s claims, there is evidence that meat consumption per capita is down (http://www.earth-policy.org/data_highlights/2012/highlights25). There is also evidence that veganism and vegetarianism is on the rise. In any case, if you must present the view of the uninspired majority as represented by Dr. Herzog, please also present the view of the inspired, progressive - heroic, in Dr. Herzog’s words - minority, whose choices, however imperfect, are motivated by compassion and justice.

"For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love." ---- Pythagoras

"The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look on the murder of men." ~Leonardo da Vinci

“All ancient philosophy was oriented toward the simplicity of life and taught a certain kind of modesty in one’s need. In light of this, the few philosophic vegetarians have done more for mankind than all new philosophers, and as long as philosophers do not take courage to seek out a totally changed way of life and to demonstrate it by their example, they are worth nothing.” ~ Nietzsche

"A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral." ~Leo Tolstoy

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being." ~ Abraham Lincoln

"To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being." ~Mahatma Gandhi

Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. ~Albert Einstein

"Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come." ~Albert Schweitzer

The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character. ~ Margaret Chase Smith

ps Dr. Herzog can continue feeding birds if he puts the feeder where cats cannot reach it. I put my hummingbird feeder outside my second floor window, which I keep closed. Our human brains are quite adept at finding clever solutions to small obstacles.

I found this book fascinating. I've recently read several criticisms of the book and they are in sync with the poster above: Mr. Herzog's personal "inconsistency." Not to specifically attack the commenter above, but I feel like it's taking too much of a personal condemnation of the author... He's written a very interesting book that considers many different things, and I commend him for it. I think the book is something all vegetarians should read, because it proposes a lot of philosophical issues that I think very few people ever consider.

I really enjoyed the book, it was a fascinating read that I think many people would also enjoy, regardless of their ideology.

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