1st Edition

In Defense of the World’s Most Despised Species Why we love some species but hate most, and why it matters

By Ernest Small Copyright 2024
    750 Pages 797 Color Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    750 Pages 797 Color Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    Some animals and plants injure or kill millions of people annually, others cause trillions of dollars in property damage and loss. Such harmful species are understandably hated. However, the vast majority of the planet’s millions of species are disliked simply because of how they look and act. This bias is endangering numerous species that play important roles in maintaining both the natural ecosystems and the human economies of the world. In Defense of the World’s Most Despised Species examines the psychological motivations that lead people to make judgments about the attractiveness of species, noting the overwhelming importance of visual cues. It describes in considerable detail the physical and behavioral traits of species that lead us to love or hate them. Full color illustrations throughout present beautiful, charming animals and plants, species that seem loathsome, behavior of people in relation to such divergent species and their characteristics, and numerous explanatory diagrams of relevant biological and psychological phenomena. The aim of this book is to give readers insights into how we humans arrive at biased judgments and to promote the welfare of valuable, albeit sometimes unlovable animals and plants that consequently suffer from discrimination. Many of the ugliest, most disgusting, and feared species, such as vultures, toads, hyenas, sharks, spiders, and even the vast majority of cockroaches, in reality are some of our most valuable friends.


    • Theme of the book – human preferences for and against species – is novel, scarcely examined to date
    • Multidisciplinary analysis, especially psychology, biological conservation science, and ecology, as well as philosophy, agriculture, urban planning, human health, and law
    • Text is accessible, user-friendly, concise, and well-organized, making numerous complex topics comprehensible, readable not only by specialists, but also by students and the educated layperson
    • Includes over 2,000 high-quality, entertaining, and informative color figures

    1. Introduction And Chapter Summaries

    2. The Cruel And Compassionate Sides Of Human Nature

    3. Human Prejudice Against Other Species (Speciesism)

    4. Size, The Most Important Determinant Of Human Prejudice Against And Preference For Species

    5. Visual (‘Beauty’) Determinants Of Human Prejudices Against And Preferences For Species

    6. Non-Visual Determinants Of Human Prejudices Against And Preferences For Species

    7. Symbolic (Representational) Creatures: Reflections Of Human Prejudices Against And Preferences For Species

    8. Indispensable Values Of Species For Human Welfare

    9. How Biased Elimination Of Species Endangers Humans

    10. Bias And Prejudice In Species Conservation

    11. Dealing With Dangerous Species

    12. Reforming Agriculture – The Greatest Threat To Species

    13. Reforming Urbanization – The Second Major Threat To Species

    14. Advancing Technologies And The Fate Of The World’s Species

    15. In Defense Of The World’s Most Reviled Invertebrate ‘Bugs’

    16. In Defense Of The World’s Most Despised ‘Lower’ Vertebrate Animals

    17. In Defense Of The World’s Most Despised Mammals

    18. In Defense Of The World’s Most Despised Toxic Plants

    19. In Defense Of The World’s Most Despised Agricultural Weeds

    20. In Defense Of The World’s Most Despised Environmental Weeds

    21. In Defense Of The World’s Most Despised Urban Weeds

    22. Epilogue: Tolerant Co-Existence Vs. Justifiable Biocide


    Dr. Ernest Small received a doctorate from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1969. He has since been employed with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the country’s national department of agriculture, where he presently holds the status of Principal Research Scientist. He specializes on the evolution and classification of economically important plants, dealing particularly with food, forage, biodiversity, and medicinal species. The species Trigonella smallii (Small’s sweetclover) was named in his honor, and he himself has named dozens of new species. He is the author of 15 previous books, six of which received or were nominated for major awards. He has also authored over 400 scientific publications, mostly on economically important plants. Dr. Small’s career has included dozens of appearances as an expert witness in court cases, acting as an adviser to national governments, presenting numerous invited university and professional association lectures, participating in international societies and committees, journal editing, and media interviews. He has been an adjunct professor at numerous universities, and continues to supervise doctoral candidates. Dr. Small has received several professional honors, including: election as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London; the G.M. Cooley Prize of the American Association of Plant Taxonomists for work on the marijuana plant; the Agcellence Award for distinguished contributions to agriculture; the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for contributions to science; the George Lawson Medal, the most prestigious award of the Canadian Botanical Association, for lifetime contributions to botany; the Lane Anderson Award, a $10,000.00 prize for science popularization; the Industry Leadership Award of the Canadian Hemp Trade Association (subsequently renamed in his honor); the Outstanding Paper in Plant Genetic Resources Award of the Crop Science Society of America; and appointment to the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest recognition of achievements.