Personalities On The Plate: The Lives And Minds Of Animals We Eat

Hardcover | March 22, 2017

byBarbara J. King

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In recent years, scientific advances in our understanding of animal minds have led to major changes in how we think about, and treat, animals in zoos and aquariums. The general public, it seems, is slowly coming to understand that animals like apes, elephants, and dolphins have not just brains, but complicated inner and social lives, and that we need to act accordingly.
 
Yet that realization hasn’t yet made its presence felt to any great degree in our most intimate relationship with animals: at the dinner table. Sure, there are vegetarians and vegans all over, but at the same time, meat consumption is up, and meat remains a central part of the culinary and dining experience for the majority of people in the developed world.
 
With Personalities on the Plate, Barbara King asks us to think hard about our meat eating—though this isn’t a polemic intended to convert readers to veganism. What she is interested in is why we’ve not drawn food animals into our concern, and, as part of that, just what we do know about the minds and lives of chickens, cows, octopuses, fish, and more. Rooted in the latest science, and built on a mix of firsthand experience (including entomophagy, which, yes, is what you think it is) and close engagement with the work of scientists, farmers, vets, and chefs, Personalities on the Plate is an unforgettable journey through the world of animals we eat. Knowing what we know—and what we may yet learn—what is the proper ethical stance toward eating meat? What are the consequences for the planet? How can we life an ethically and ecologically sound life through our food choices?
 
We could have no better guide to these fascinatingly thorny questions than King, whose deep empathy embraces human and animal alike. Readers will be moved, provoked, and changed by this powerful book.
 

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In recent years, scientific advances in our understanding of animal minds have led to major changes in how we think about, and treat, animals in zoos and aquariums. The general public, it seems, is slowly coming to understand that animals like apes, elephants, and dolphins have not just brains, but complicated inner and social lives, a...

Barbara J. King is professor emerita of anthropology at the College of William and Mary, where she taught for twenty-eight years. She is the author of How Animals Grieve and Evolving God, and her work has been featured in The Best American Science and Nature Writing and on NPR’s 13.7 Cosmos and Culture blog.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:March 22, 2017Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022619518X

ISBN - 13:9780226195186

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"There is no doubt that humans are confusing and contradictory creatures, and our relationship with our fellow animals, and the environment in general, is a prime example. Humans are capable of deep compassion towards animals when it suits us but we are also omnivores. How can we love animals and eat them and not find that in some way conflicting or at the very least disturbing?  My children (aged 2, 4 and 7) struggle with this concept, but at some point we begin to accept this juxtaposition as 'normal.'  Barbara King addresses this topic head-on in Personalities on a Plate. She asks the uncomfortable question: Who are we eating? While a fair number of people these days are vegetarian, a good number of those still eat fish, as if they are related in some way to broccoli rather than being sentient beings. Of all the animals that we eat, fish are the species for which we have least compassion. Recent scientific research shows, however, that fish are smart and have personalities just like you and I. They have feelings and suffer pain, anxiety and stress. There is no reason to treat them any different from terrestrial farm animals. So of all the animals on our plate, fish perhaps most of all require a second thought. King's thoughtful commentary on the intelligence and personality of the animals we eat will go some way to provoking these thoughts in her audience."