Analysis Of An Animal Place By Michael Pollan


The American author and journalist, Michael Pollan, in his article “An Animal’s Place,” published in 2002 in the New York Times, presents his arguments on the contentious topic of animal abuse after reading Animal Liberation, written by Peter Singer. Pollan introduces the popular idea of animal’s rights to freedom when “eating animals, wearing animals, experimenting on animals, and killing animals for sport” (398) is very common in all parts of the world, making it simple, yet difficult to argue against. He builds his arguments by citing acclaimed animal rights activists and experts who agree with his opinion that Americans should continue to eat animals as long as those animals are treated with a respectful code of ethics, develops logical ideas through examining Singer’s claims from a reader’s point of view, and continues to successfully appeal to the reader’s emotions by questioning their beliefs.

Throughout his article, Pollan uses many significant sources that strengthen his appeal to ethos and to dignify his work. These sources include, “Steve Davis, an animal scientist at Oregon State University” (400), “J.M. Coetzee, the South African Novelist” (401), “Tom Regan, author of The Case for Animal Rights” (408), and others. Citing these sources enhances Pollan’s credibility by showing that he has done his research on the topic and has provided expert opinions to support his rebuttals against Singer’s arguments in Animal Liberation. Although Pollan’s opinion is not neutral, he uses his cited information to provide evidence for both perspectives of the issue. He also uses personal examples from his own time studying the contradictions of animal rights. For example, Pollan visited Polyface Farms where he learned that there were more options besides looking away from the meat industry or becoming a vegetarian (412). This event shows that he has a personal involvement and modern experience with the problem.

Adding to his credibility, Pollan uses common facts and a logical development of ideas to create a strong appeal to logos as he reads Singer’s work. He points out logical knowledge and facts about the differences between human and animal behaviors: “Animals kill one another all the time. Why treat animals more ethically than they treat one another?” (402). These facts serve as supporting evidence for the idea that an animal’s interests are different from the interests of humans and therefore, they should not have the same rights as humans. Pollan continues, “Domesticated animals can’t survive in the wild; in fact, without us they wouldn’t exist at all” (402). Using this relevant reasoning, Pollan was able to come up with evidence that logically supported one of his claims that animals and humans do not think in the same way. The detail he includes in his arguments build an appeal to logos and stresses to the reader that this needs to be considered when debating animal rights.

Another technique Pollan used in his article is that he put himself in a reader’s standpoint, and not in a professional author’s standpoint. As he obtains his arguments, he analyzes them from a reader’s perspective, supporting them with evidence and citing sources. This allowed Pollan to answer some of his own questions that came to mind as he analyzed Animal Liberation while dining alone at a popular steakhouse. To answer many of his questions, Pollan claims, “Granting rights to animals may lift us up from the brutal world of predation, but it will entail the sacrifice of part of our identity - our own animality” (410). These words help the audience establish a concept that is relevant throughout the entire article; the identity of a human is very different from an animal’s.

Along with strong logos appeals, Pollan effectively makes appeals to pathos in the middle and ending sections. His body paragraphs are full of emotionally-charged phrases that create a sense of compassion for animals in the reader's mind. Pollan states, “Half the dogs in America will receive a Christmas present this year, yet few of us pause to consider the miserable life of the pig—an animal easily as intelligent as a dog— that becomes the Christmas ham” (399). This image he calls to mind of a miserable pig, as well as the emotions that come along with it, introduces the major argument that humans do not have enough contact with animals to understand a relationship with another species. To introduce emotion to this idea, Pollan cites John Berger’s essay, “Why Look at Animals?”. “That eye contact, always slightly uncanny, had provided a vivid daily reminder that animals were at once crucially like and unlike us; in their eyes we glimpsed something unmistakably familiar (pain, fear, tenderness) and something irretrievably alien” (400). By inserting statements filled with emotion at the beginning of his arguments, Pollan was able to pull the audience closer to his side of the debate against Singer and other animal liberationists.

To allow the audience to feel more emotion while reading “An Animal’s Place”, Pallon asks the reader directly their opinion on certain areas of the animal rights topic. For example, Pollan asks, “Who would want to be made complicit in the agony of these animals by eating them?” (406). He establishes the animal’s feelings of  “agony” mainly to promote the idea of vegetarianism to those audience members who would consider it after reading his own or Singer’s work. By asking these questions, the reader can explore their own thoughts and express their own emotions. Feeling an emotion while reading can create a connection to the piece, making the reader want to dive in deeper or to get as far away from it as possible.

Though Pollan begins his article by persuading his reader that he is not supportive of animal rights by enjoying a rib-eye steak, he gains power of his changed argument in the end after finding strong sources and gaining personal experiences on Polyface Farm. Throughout the article, the audience can see his opinion change from supporting the slaughtering of animals to slaughtering animals only if they had certain rights to ethical treatment. Pollan allows them to see this through emotional appeal and by using logical reasoning to make his arguments more credible.

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