Monday, April 20, 2009

Making Animals Human

Don't have a cow!
Famous animal lover Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, the author of "The Face on Your Plate," talks about why you should consider giving up the burgers -- and the fromage.

By Katharine Mieszkowski
Apr. 18, 2009

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, 68, is a former psychoanalyst, known for his popular books about the emotional lives not of humans, but of animals. As scientists continue to debate which species have feelings, Masson has written bestsellers celebrating their emotions, such as "Dogs Never Lie About Love" and "When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals," which he co-authored with frequent Salon contributor Susan McCarthy.

In his new book (which is his 24th), "The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food," Masson brings his heartfelt take on the feathered and four-legged to the dinner table. Five years ago, the prolific author, who was already a vegetarian, went vegan, giving up not just animal meat but also animal products, such as dairy, eggs and even honey. To be precise, Masson describes himself as "veganish," since he occasionally slips up when he's not at home and accidentally eats, say, a cookie prepared with milk; this vegan's not the sort of purist who would make a scene in public by spitting out an offending morsel.

Masson changed his diet because he's an animal lover, and he wants to tempt readers to do the same, whether we're motivated by environmental, health or animal-welfare rationales. As a polemicist, he marshals an impressive litany of mainstream sources to make his case that eating less flesh is a worthy goal, from the Meatless Mondays campaign, advocated by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, to the 2006 United Nations report on the environmental impacts of raising meat called "Livestock's Long Shadow."

I spoke with Masson at Salon's offices in San Francisco, where he enthused about the new White House vegetable garden, and challenged Michael Pollan, the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma," to a friendly public debate.

How did you become vegan?

I was raised, actually, vegetarian, but when I went off to college, I just didn't know how to eat as a vegetarian, and pretty soon I was eating meat.

I didn't give it all that much thought, to be honest, until I started doing the research for "When Elephants Weep," and I realized that animals felt things as deeply as did humans. It occurred to me: How can I go on eating animals, when I feel that they're capable of love and gratitude and boredom and loneliness, and can experience traumas, very much like a human? Read More

There is an incredible effort to not only give rights to animals, but to also convince people that animals have the same intellectual and emotional depth as humans. These people are quite scary because with this mindset, you are just as likely to sacrifice a human as an animal if a decision has to be made. Imagine one of these people seeing a dog biting a child, would they do anything? It’s hard to say since they are granting each species equal consideration.

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