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Personalities on the Plate - The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat


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About the Author

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.


"As factory farming and meat consumption increase globally, Barbara King's new book makes for crucial reading. Combining new scientific studies, personal experiences, and an honest, compassionate approach, King turns attention to the cognitive, social and emotional lives of species exploited for consumption. She puts firmly on the table the facts about animal sentience that omnivores would prefer not to think about. Brimming with ethological insights and boosted by anecdotes about individual animals (such as Ursula the pig, Mr Henry Joy the rooster, and Olive the octopus), there is no doubt that after reading Personalities on the Plate people will be compelled not just to rethink what to eat for dinner, but who they might be eating. A rigorously researched, eloquent, thoughtful and potentially life-changing book for all consumers of animals."

--Annie Potts, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
"Barbara King has written a gem. With deft, lively writing, she guides us into the inner lives of the animals so often conveniently hidden from our view, and reveals why they deserve a place at the table, not on it. Personalities on the Plate should be read by everyone who eats, and especially the majority who eat others who had a life."--Jonathan Balcombe, author of What a Fish Knows
"In Personalities on the Plate, Barbara J. King uses the latest discoveries about mental capacities and social lives of creatures from insects and chickens to chimpanzees and dogs to make the moral case against meat. Combining first-rate science with personal experience, this book offers a fascinating window into the minds of animals that will make readers think deeply about what they are going to eat for dinner tonight."--Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat
"This thoughtful book is not about whether we 'should' or 'shouldn't' eat meat--but you'll probably have your own conclusion at the end. Barbara J. King looks at the range of values surrounding farming and feasting, and at who we are considering eating. But King also shows that different approaches to meat and to animal farming can be viewed through different lenses, giving us a richer understanding."--Carl Safina, author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel
"Whether we realize it or not, whether we want to or not, with every meal we eat, we choose who gets to live and who will die. We need to look this thrice-daily fact in the face and make decisions we can live with. Here to help us is the compassionate and lyrical voice of Barbara J. King. Never shrill, always revealing, often surprising and even funny, Personalities on the Plate is must reading for everyone who cares about animals, ethics and the earth."
--Sy Montgomery, author of The Soul of an Octopus
"Into this overheated grudge match steps a voice of reason: a retired college professor with a fondness for animal videos on YouTube and a child's sense of wonder about the natural world. . . . Much of Personalities on the Plate reads like a fascinating zoological primer, exploring the social and emotional intelligence of animals. . . . It is not anthropomorphism, Ms. King convincingly argues, to describe animals' emotional experiences with accuracy and precision. 'The animals we have met in these pages, ' Ms. King writes, 'demonstrate decisively that, to varying degrees, they think their way through their days and experience feelings about what they make happen and what happens to them.' We, of course, determine what happens to most animals. Readers will finish the book and resolve to go forward--eating meat, abstaining from it, or consuming less of it--in a more purposeful way. The animal-welfare debate needs more thoughtful, informative and level-headed discussion--not least because it makes for effective advocacy. Personalities on the Plate is a good place to start."-- "Wall Street Journal"
"King illuminates the animal lives and sensibilities that undergird the book's title. . . . King carefully engages recent scientific advances in ethology to document how animals learn, behave, and, to the extent that human systems of observation can hypothesize, feel. In doing so, she challenges the reader to consider that animals can be said to have personality; not to anthropomorphize animals per se, but to draw our attention to how individual animals feel and act so that we can 'train ourselves to see the complexity of animals' lives'. . . . Overall, Personalities in the Plate is a highly valuable, multidisciplinary contribution to the growing body of literature on how we as human beings come to be aware of the creatures we eat, and what kinds of embodied behavioral cues we can observe in animals in order to potentially make different decisions about our consumption."-- "Gastronomica"

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