By Rama Gaind
PS News Books
Us and Them: On the Importance of Animals
By Anna Krien (Quarterly Essay/Black Inc., $19.95, softcover, 125 pages)
Many of us do care about animals, perhaps not as much as some, and certainly not all the time.
Taking a look at our contemporary obsession with animals, award-winning writer Anna Krien endeavours to shed new light on the modern-day state of affairs between man and beast.
Often we are not willing to acknowledge that animals bring out primitive emotions in us.
Why an essay about animals when there are more pertinent topics that need to be investigated? Outlining ‘wrong and intolerable’ examples, she points out that just as the story of the live cattle trade was more complex than it seems, so too is “our nuanced and often contradictory relationship with animals”.
Krien makes a universal claim: “It seems most of us have a minor clause inside of us on the treatment of animals – a ‘that’s not allowed’ but ‘that’s okay’. We have our limits and our permissions”.
It’s about choices and this is what reverberates through her adroitly written essay. QE45 sheds fresh light on our obsession with animals, revealing how they are faring in this new world order with examples that bring joy or are disconcerting.
It outlines options, both trivial and the ambiguous. We are guilty of treating animals unjustly, but Krien asks: “the real question is, just how much of this injustice are we prepared to live with?”
She uses a novel method and delves deeper by taking a tumultuous tour of various junctions between humans and animals in contemporary Australian life. Together with a handful of case studies, Krien presents interviews and conversations with assorted animal testers and researchers and takes an original look at everything from Indonesian abattoirs to animal lawyers.
Above all, Us and Them takes a discerning look at how we should – and do – treat animals.
Edition 405, 15 April 2014
To find out more about Rama Gaind click here.