on December 31, 2010
Turkeys are some of the most underestimated animals in our culture and, in this book, Karen Davis does a nice job of showing the depth, intelligence, and personality that turkeys really have. I have spent time at a number of farm animal sanctuaries and the turkeys are always a crowd-pleaser - people have no idea how interesting and social they really are! Davis also looks at our cultural ideas about turkeys, the place of the turkey at Thanksgiving, and the behavior of wild turkeys. A phenominal book for anyone open to having their mind changed!
on July 23, 2003
"More Than a Meal" is an incredible book, examining not just the nature of the turkey (behavior, intelligence, emotions, etc.), but also our cultural construction of it. Ms. Davis eloquently describes the many ways in which the turkey is dehumanized and demeaned in modern society. Such atrocities go far beyond the obvious (farming and killing turkeys for food), at times bordering on the ridiculous (for instance, the annual presidential pardoning of a Thanksgiving turkey that will soon die prematurely anyway, as it was bred for grotesquely rapid growth that its body cannot withstand). She also delves into the human psyche, in a quest to figure out just why we hate this particular bird so (yet schizophrenically honor it every fall).
Karen Davis is an asset to the animal rights community. While anti-ARAs may disparage her with childish nicknames (Karen "Bird Brain" Davis is a popular one), Ms. Davis is clearly deserving of her PhD. She's an excellent writer, transforming what at first glance might be a mundane subject into a fascinating examination of our dysfunctional attitudes towards the nonhuman animals with which we share this planet. "More Than a Meal" is a must-read for anyone interested in the humane treatment of animals.
on October 26, 2002
When it comes to the other species with whom we share this planet, humans are often ignorant and lacking compassion. This characterization is also one that humans have tried to place on turkeys. Frequently this remarkable animal is wrongly portrayed as stupid and clumsy. Part of the reason for these incorrect descriptions of the turkey has to do with our species having cruelly bred this animal for fast growth and unnaturally large size. Turkeys' dependence on humans is often cited when people state that these birds are not intelligent. However, Karen Davis points out in her book More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality that these animals are dependent on humans for survival because we have made them so. By breeding fast growing, overweight turkeys we have created birds who are unable to walk fast or fly into trees and who commonly experience "lameness, respiratory congestion, mating infirmities, and heart disease, and most have white feathers that prevent them from camouflaging themselves." Besides intelligence, Davis offers fine examples to illustrate that turkeys are good parents and very protective of their young.
If human animals are going to begin respecting and living in harmony with nonhuman animals, we must learn about these animals and treat them with the compassion and respect all species deserve. We must also learn from our mistakes and cruel past and start righting these wrongs. In More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality, Karen Davis provides considerable knowledge on these fascinating animals and our deplorable relationship with them.--Reviewed by N. Glenn Perrett
on March 3, 2002
In her latest book, United Poultry Concerns President Karen Davis goes well beyond the basics when it comes to "talking turkey." As would be expected, Davis provides a wealth of facts about turkeys in their natural state and about the perverse abuses against turkeys perpetrated by hunters and on factory farms. Davis also shares many of her own often quite moving experiences living with and caring for turkeys. But Davis also dares to go deeper, probing the sociological and psychological meanings of such rituals as turkey shoots, turkey drops, and the thanksgiving dinner. Probably, most readers will be shocked to learn about spectacles of humiliation performed by modern communities in the name of "good clean fun" and about the everyday brutalities practiced by the poultry industry. Surely, every reader will be provoked to think hard about the often quite subtle arguments Davis puts forward concerning such issues as the oddly sexualized manner in which hunters of wild turkeys interact with their prey. Whether or not you think you will end up agreeing with Davis, you should read this book to learn more about an important American symbol and exercise your mind at the same time.