First Read the Book!

What an amazing misrepresentation of Animalkind I've just read in the Times Literary Supplement.  Jennie Erin Smith accuses me of "piling on" and simplistically attacking animal experimentation, even though (did she notice?!) my chapter on the subject defends animal experimentation!

She sums up my "conclusion" in a sentence that is utterly without foundation--literally, there is no connection to the moral outlook I defend in the book.
Ultimately she arrives at the tired conclusion that we owe animals [sic!] because they do us favours. “Other species do great things for us”, we learn. “For one, they teach us lessons and give us food for thought.”
You simply could not read chapters 5-8 and interpret me that way.  Just not possible.  What I argue is that we owe respect to animals, but less than to humans, because of their capacities.  The respect we owe them has absolutely nothing to do with anything they do for us.  She's mistaken a casual, peripheral remark for the book's substance. [Update 8/9: more on the quote is here.]

If she'd read my book, she would have seen that I'm both an animal advocate and a critic of much current animal advocacy.  The "sliding scale" approach of the book is unusual--it's not at all what you will find in current pro-animal ethics (has she read any?).   All I can think is that Smith grabbed a stack of recent animal books, made up her mind what was in them, based on cover blurbs (yes, I have great blurbs from Bekoff and Singer, but also from Temple Grandin--and that last endorsement tells you something), and then wrote her review.  And then maybe skimmed a bit.  

As the youngsters say:  fail.


s. wallerstein said...

Book reviewers do skim. My mother was a book reviewer so I know some of the tricks of the trade.

faust said...

M-M-M-MEGA fail.

Aeolus said...

Jean: I hope you will respond to Smith in the comment section below her review.

Jean Kazez said...

I will probably write a letter to editor for the print edition. The level of misrepresentation here is inexcusable.

Unknown said...

Absolutely terrible. I'm sorry, Jean. It supports one of my greater fears, that anything subtle gets lost in popular(ish) writing. You have to swing a sledghammer.

Faust said...

Totally off topic, but Jean if you haven't seen this, put it in your bookmark:


Jean Kazez said...

Thanks for the comments all, esp. the ones over at TLS. I've sent a letter to the editor. Now that I've had a chance to look at my book (I was away), I'm even more appalled. Explanation in letter, hopefully coming soon.