Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Review: Being A Beast

Being A Beast Being A Beast by Charles Foster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Have you ever wondered just what it would be like to be an eagle soaring on thermals or a stag surveying your territory? Some of us may have whilst walking in the countryside or over a contemplative drink, but Charles Foster wanted to know what it was like. Really, really wanted to know… So he chose five different animals; swift, deer, fox, otter and badger, and would try to live their lives as best he could.

He spent six weeks with his son living as a badger inside a hill in Wales in a sett that a friend of his with a JCB had excavated. His friend would leave meals for them to scavenge; but they went for it, eating earthworms and other things that the forest provided, trying to move around on all fours to get a badger’s eye view of the woods they were in. Trying to mimic what an otter does, meant that he spent quite a while splashing around in rivers failing to catch fish, and leaving his own spraints along the banks. Living as an urban fox was easier, sleeping rough in back gardens and scavenging for food in bins, but it did nearly get him arrested! He spends time deep in woods being a deer, imagining what it would be like to be tracked by hounds. Becoming a swift was possibly the hardest, as flying unaided has evaded humans., but he did have a go with a parachute to get a feel of the wind in his hair, and the flies in his teeth.

The human view of the world has some parallels to these creatures; we share the same senses; sight, smell, taste and sound, but their adaption has made them specialists in very particular ways, enhancing their senses so that they survive and thrive. This book is very different to the usual ones that you will read on wildlife. By making the effort to see things from the animal point of view, he has given us a very, very different perspective on the natural world. That and he is a little bit mad… But it works; drawing on neuroscience and psychology his efforts to emulate the lives of the five animals, give him an insight to their daily struggle for survival. There are some amusing moments, and there were parts that I found revolting; but it was refreshing to read something with a very different perspective to the usual natural history books. 3.5 stars overall.

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