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An Unnatural Order: Roots of Our Destruction of Nature Paperback – January 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1590560815 ISBN-10: 1590560817
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Coauthor with Peter Singer of Animal Factories , the classic expose of the cruelty of mechanized animal farming and slaughter, Mason here writes an eloquent, important plea for a total rethinking of our relationship to the animal world. He analyzes the West's "dominionist" worldview which exalts humans as overlords and owners of other life, an outlook that he believes is rooted in millennia of animal husbandry. Speculating that dominionism arose with the transition from ancient mother-goddess religions to patriarchy, he ambitiously links our current exploitation and domination of nature to fears of our own animal nature, repressive antisexual attitudes, misogyny, curtailment of women's power, racism and colonialism. Human brains and thought processes evolved through close contact with animals, Mason argues, and restoring our kinship with animals is central to bridging the rift between humanity and nature. His powerfully argued manifesto will change many readers' attitudes toward hamburgers, animal experimentation, hunting and circuses.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This is one of a number of recent books that trace both environmental destruction and social oppression to the Western world view that sets humankind outside of, above, and in conflict with nature. What makes this work unique is the emphasis he places on the relationship between human beings and other animals as both explaining and symbolizing our dysfunctional way of life with its built-in patriarchy, misogyny, and racism. "Dominionism" justifies merciless exploitation of the earth and its creatures for human wealth and pleasure, but it has left a deep psychic wound. In pursuing his argument Mason (coauthor with Peter Singer of Animal Factories , LJ 6/1/80) piles up powerful and provocative examples and insights. He is less successful in convincing the reader of the sufficiency of his overall thesis. Recommended for libraries with patron interest in animal rights, feminism, or environmental ethics.
- Joan S. Elbers, formerly with Montgomery Coll., Rock ville, MD
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Lantern Books (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590560817
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590560815
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #577,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author


Jim Mason is an author and attorney who focuses on human/animal concerns. His latest book, co-authored with ethicist Peter Singer, is The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter (Rodale Press, 2006). The authors trace the foods eaten by three American families back to their sources and explore the ethical questions that arise along the way. The book discusses factory farming and alternatives, fair trade, buying local, organic farming, commercial fishing, and other food matters of concern to consumers today.

His book, An Unnatural Order: The Roots of Our Destruction of Nature (Lantern Books, 2005), looks at the historical and cultural roots of the Western belief in God-given dominion over the living world. In enslaving animals for war and farming, he says, agrarian society broke the ancient bonds and sense of kinship with them. This makes for an alienated, nature-hating culture, Mason argues. It fouls our relations with nature--especially animals, whom we need, he says, "as companions, as exercisers of human empathy and nurturing, as feeders and informers of the psyche, and as kin and continuum with the rest of the living world."

Mason is best known for his 1980 (and 1990 revised edition) book, Animal Factories, written with philosopher, Peter Singer. The book examined America's brave new world of factory farming in which crowded, drugged animals mass-produce cheap meat, milk and eggs. In the process, Mason and Singer say, animal factories also mass-produce environmental pollution and threats to human health while they destroy independent, diversified farming.

Jim Mason's writings have appeared in a wide variety of publications. He is a contributor to In Defence of Animals (Blackwell's, 2005), edited by Peter Singer. His magazine article, "A Plague of Gypsy Moths" was chosen for the book, Cases for Composition (2nd edition; Little, Brown, 1984). His articles have appeared in The New York Times, New Scientist, Newsday, Country Journal, Orion Nature Quarterly, and other publications. His 1993 story in Audubon about the growing trade in exotic pets was nominated for the National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting. The article sparked national interest and was chosen for the anthology, Preserving Wildlife: An International Perspective (Prometheus Books, 2000).

In addition to writing, Jim Mason speaks about animals, nature and the environment at conferences, churches, and universities. He has appeared on NBC's Today, CBS This Morning, NPR's All Things Considered, CNN, Midday Live, and other radio and television programs in major cities. His books have been reviewed in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, In These Times, The Chicago Sun Times, and The Atlanta Constitution..

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Colleen E Holland on August 25, 2000
Format: Paperback
In 1892, Henry Salt published the book Animals' Rights. While it was not totally ignored, it took nearly another century for the modern "Animal Rights" movement to begin, after the appearance of Peter Singer's Animal Liberation in 1975.
When reading An Unnatural Order it will be difficult to not get the impression that Jim Mason is a visionary, on par with Henry Salt. We are privileged to have Mason as a contemporary. Years from now people could easily look back on him as the spark that helped reverse the course of destruction humans were on at the end of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, as with the ideas in it-and like Salt's work-An Unnatural Order has been largely ignored. Like a great movie that no one has seen, the fault for this must lay with lack of promotion. This review is appearing several years after the book's publication. This is unfortunate. An Unnatural Order is an important book.
"This book is written in hope and celebration. My hope is that we have the strength to rid ourselves of the destructive strands in Western culture," Mason begins. These destructive strands manifest themselves in the "Nature Question." Grossly simplified, the Nature Question is the intellectual belief that somewhere in our evolutionary past our ancestors broke their bonds with the living earth and put Homo sapiens above all other life on the planet, resulting in our species having no sense of kinship with other life nor any sense of belonging. The earth is beneath us; we are alienated from nature.
Mason continues "It is now time to bring this question into popular discussion, and I hope this book is a start." The roots of our alienation are deep-and deeply explored. Thirty pages are devoted to identifying dominionism.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By don lutz on August 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Why are we the most violent and destructive species on this planet? In "An Unnatural Order", Jim Mason tells us. He opens with a clarification of the philosophy of 'dominionism' as expounded in most religions, and declares it as the principle at the root of human violence and warfare. He presents the case that there was a time when humans got along rather well with each other and the rest of nature. It was the time of the forager, mistakenly called the time of the hunter/gatherer by those looking through the filter of western philosophy and religion. For many thousands of years, Homo sapiens did not do much meat-eating or hunting, until widespread, organized hunting appears some 20,000 years ago. When foragers became hunters, and hunters became herdsmen, their view of nature changed from one of provider to one of enemy, and the notion of human supremacy was born. The non human animals, once seen as ancestors, neighbors, teachers and kin, began to be thought of as inferior, dangerous and evil, or simply commodities. With the advent of agriculture, and especially animal agriculture, ideas about a hierarchy of being, ownership of property, patriarchy, domination and exploitation begin to take over human culture. The idea of a male god, with man just below, and women, 'primitive' people and the other animals, below men, became the mindset of the "northern tribes." It was eventually sanctified by western religions and remains the dominant worldview today. Mason takes us on a journey through human history, unfettered by human ego, thoroughly explaining our dissociation from nature and animals, and the resulting losses, both pyschologically and spiritually. He probes deep, and finds the origins of warfare, racism, sexism, religionism and colonialism.Read more ›
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By sarahjoe@chicagotoday.com on January 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
Joe Gaziano from Chicago, Illinois , November 24, 1998 An excellent book that explains human/animal relations Unnatural Order establishes Jim Mason as one of the important intellectuals of the Animal Rights Movement. Mason provides a thoughtful and readable analysis of the relationship of people to animals throughout history. In this book Mason demonstrates how the changes in animal/people relationships have, over time, dramatically altered human existence. In much of the early history of humanity people lived in harmony with animals. Nature was viewed as containing fellow creatures with many of the same characteristics as people. Animals were revered and respeced. The move to an agricultural society where increasing numbers of animals became food resulted in a shift of consciousness. The culture became one in which humans were seen as dominant over and superior to animals. Humans increasingly separated themselves from nature and the animals, often denying their own animal nature. The result is a human culture divorced from nature and suffering from all the ill effects that such a society produces. Mason's book should be read by every vegetarian and animal rights advocate. It is sure to be a classic in the field.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sally Kneidel on November 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book influenced me more than any book I've read in the last several years. It profoundly changed the way I understand our culture's treatment of animals and our alienation from nature. As a biologist and a writer, I've spent my life thinking and writing about nature and animals. But Mason caused me to reflect differently on many of the experiences I had at universities, caused me to understand differently the detachment that many science professionals practice when studying their subject animals, even in relatively humane ways.

Mason examines the origins of the myths that sustain our need to dominate and control nature, and our separation from nature. Before I read this book, I regarded Americans' abuse of animals as a self-contained problem. Now I understand it to be just one facet of our estrangement from our own basic needs, and from nature, that has led not only to the grossest mistreatment of animals, but to racism and misogyny. Mason pulls it all together in a brilliant cohesive portrait of perhaps our most serious modern dilemma.
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