May 15, 2019

Personalities on the Plate

the Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat
by Barbara J. King

This book looks at the lives of animals we humans tend to eat: fish, chickens, goats, cows and pigs. It also starts off with a chapter on insects- is it better to eat insects than mammals, because they need fewer resources (lighter burden on the planet), and have less apparent intelligence? maybe- but most people in the western world can't get over their repugnance. On the flip side, I can't think of anyone who would eat chimpanzee meat, for entirely different reasons- but the author tells us there definitely are people who do, in other parts of the world. There's also a chapter on octopus, how smart they are, how much a delicacy in certain cultures- but having not-too-long ago read Sy Montgomery's the Soul of an Octopus- which is quoted plenty in here- I found myself skipping through a lot of it. In fact that was a damper for me in most of the book- I've also read several Michael Pollan books, Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and Barry Estabrook's Pig Tales, plus several others which are quoted or heavily referenced here. So although the author brought in a lot of personal experiences and incidents I hadn't heard of, still much of the material felt repetitive to me, not a lot new, and I skimmed plenty. I also gather that much of it was first written as a blog, which might have something to do with how brief and light some of the writing feels to me. It's also strong on the emotional slant, in giving reasons for moving away from eating meat and being vegetarian or vegan. However there was enough of interest in here - and some very convincing rationales I hadn't though of before- that I read it all the way through, regardless of the skips. So please don't take my rating to heart this time; it's more my personal response to the book because I already felt fairly saturated with this kind of information, than anything else. I think I need to switch subject matters for a while.

I was really horrified by the story of Mike the headless chicken by the way- just google that, if you will. Even worse is the fact that after this chicken gained fame (and money) for his owner, lots of other men tried to duplicate the curiosity- killing tons of chickens just to try and get one that would freakishly survive it. What??!

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 2/5                 229 pages, 2017


  1. I totally understand your reservations on this particular book, but for someone like me who has not been exposed to any writing on this particular subject, would you recommend this one as a primer - a decent place to start?

  2. Certainly! It covers a lot of different points in brief- and brings up many good questions and facts. If it sparks an interest, all the books she mentioned (that I've read at least) are great for deeper look at the subject.


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