THE SILENCE OF ANIMALS: On Progress and Other Modern Myths, by John Gray. Allen Lane, 2013, 240 pp., £18.99 (hardcover)

"The more I see of men," said Madame de Stael, "the more I like dogs." Always excepting the pit bulls and Rottweilers that slather and snap at the heels of yobs, I agree with her. So does John Gray, who introduces this anti-humanist tract with a quote in which Arthur Koestler imagines some undescended apes swinging playfully through the trees while a brutish prehistoric man plods along the ground below, clubbing innocent creatures and gorging on their raw flesh. Rather than promoting evolutionary progress, our uncouth ancestor represents "a barbaric relapse of history."

Gray later brings that primal scene up to date. Starving Neapolitans in 1944 hunt and consume alley cats, or feed on tropical fish scavenged from the city aquarium; Soviet prisoners interned by the Nazis gobble the corpses of other inmates like ravening hounds.