I found this book to be almost a companion piece to Eating Animals, albeit the more textbook version of it. In the first chapter Urbanik even brings up a similar idea that was in also used in Eating Animals. This was the Orwell quote I believe that “some animals are more equal than others.” The book raises difficult but extremely valid points and centered around our relationships to animals and why some are eaten, some are pets and some are even both. I think this goes back to the Orwell quote about why some animals matter more than others. This kind of reoccurring idea that human dominance over animals casts a shadow over the idea that animals have value that does not have to be validated by people themselves. The first part of the book really highlights the main relationship that humans have with animals and that is generally one of exploitation. Urbanik uses three categories to examine how animals are used for working and benefiting the human experience. These working animals are broken down into education, service or entertainment. Although parts of these categories aren’t always terrible for the animal living through this but the notion that animals serve people and work for people harkens back to the idea that a hierarchy exists and humans are at the top.
The book then goes on to describe kind of main tenets human-animal relations and why they are more complex than most people realize. Human interaction with animals is shaped by a dividing line between the idea of humans versus other animals which is not consistent. Secondly animals play an integral role in the lives of all people. Animals aren’t just an ancillary thing that can be disregarded when not directly engaging with them. This is the idea that animals are central to the lives of everyone because of what they provide us with. Lastly your character as a human being, where you were brought up, where you live and how you choose to interact with animals is the main way that human-animal relationships take shape. These three things all contribute to how people determine the worth of animals and how they understand the interconnectedness between the two groups. Urbanik uses these tools to create a picture that these relationships touch every part of daily life from what we eat, what we wear, if we have pets, aspects of jobs, and sports.
This book made me think of my own dog and how it is just the norm to say something along the lines of “I own this dog/I am its owner.” Yes people can technically own the license for their pet but despite what the confederate south thought you can’t truly own a living animal.