I read this book with increasing frustration at the author’s fairytale hope of a world where not only are farmyard animals no longer eaten, they coexist happily with humans, while living in conditions indiscernible from those of their forebears. Really? Who would feed them? Why? What would their purpose be? To suggest the one desire of such creatures is to return to ‘natural conditions’, and the one desire of humans should be to provide those conditions, is patently absurd. Their current contract with humans is certainly one sided; but the one major element Jeffrey Masson wholly fails to address in his book is what animals get in return – namely, food and shelter, and with it, escape from the battle for survival, at least in the short term.
In most modern societies, humans have much the same contract with themselves. Essentially, we have sold our souls for a measure of security. However, any suggestion we would be happier in our original, uncivilised state, is as absurd as Masson’s thesis, to all but survival cranks.
Having kept pigs, and killed and eaten them, I think I am qualified to say that it is perfectly possible to ensure complete happiness for such animals, with very little effort, and moderate expense, right up till the day they die; but that it is very difficult to do this on a commercial scale, if other ‘producers’ are not doing the same, since a major requirement is sufficient space in which to operate. Land is scarce, and idle land, such as pigs might enjoy living on, comes with a cost.
As, indeed, it does for us, with our often cramped living conditions and less than ideal outdoor spaces; but that doesn’t mean we should return to living in caves, gnawing on what plant foods we can find.
Certainly, more compassion is needed, less brutality; but is it really better that animals don’t exist outside of sanctuaries than that we should kill them in order to eat?
This book makes a few good points and a lot of very bad ones.