Saturday, March 26, 2011

Animals & people: 'bound together'

(This post consists of excerpts from “Animals,” a special Science Times issue in the NYTimes, March 15, 2011.)

Animals. And people. We have always been bound together. Humans are animals, after all. . . . We share behaviors. We share homes and habitats. We consume each other. Mostly we eat them, a moral quandary for many people . . .

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Members of the Family: About 37 percent of American households have pet dogs (78 million dogs), and about 32 percent have cats (94 million).

Keeping Pets Fed: Americans spent almost $18 billion on food for their pets in 2009, an amount similar to what they spend on coffee each year.

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The road to certification as man’s best friend has been long and pitted. . . . dogs have often been a menu item. . . . street markets in South Korea sell dogs meant for meat right next to dogs meant for pets, with the latter distinguished by the cheery pink color of the cages.

As a rule, however, the elevation of an animal to pet status removes it entirely from the human food chain. Other tell-tale signs of petdom include bestowing a name on the animal and allowing it into the house. . . .

In this country, pet keeping didn’t get serious until after World War II. . . . today about two-thirds of American households include at least one pet. . . . (shown above, Cali Lagomarsino, Andy's girl.)

People may even be willing to die for their pets. “In studies done on why people refused to evacuate New Orleans during Katrina, a surprising number said they could not leave their pets behind,” according to Dr. Harold Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat.#

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