How to Love Animals in a Human-Shaped World by Henry Mance Book Review
Do you like animals? Most of us would say yes. We love pets, watch videos of pandas rolling down ramps, and get mad at Borneo orangutans mourning forests lost to logging.
In his first non-fiction work, Financial Times Editor-in-Chief Henry Mance puts our infatuation to the test and shows a magnifying glass to the myriad industries and experiences that depend on interspecies relationships, weighing our treatment of animals against each other. report at our discretion. In short, can we ever accept animal suffering and – if not – why do we continue to not only allow it, but support it?
It is a far-reaching book that ranges from arguably “necessary” ailments – agriculture and animal testing – to pet ownership, rewilding, and hunting. Mance dons overalls for a slaughterhouse stint, jumps in the mud to try his hand at pig farming, and even takes a gun with deer in his sights to examine the ethics and sustainability of our interactions. interspecies.
The shock factor motivates the book’s argument that we are failing our fellow planet citizens. Chapter by chapter, Mance offers vignettes of the unintentional and intentional cruelties of humans against animals. We run Frankensteinian farming practices, raising pigs so grotesquely large that they suffocate their own piglets. Our beloved French Bulldogs can barely breathe thanks to extensive pedigree breeding. We’ll gladly pay to watch rocking elephants in cramped zoo enclosures, but we won’t spend a dime to protect their actual habitats. His examples are not taken from the worst of the system: these persecutions are taking place on British soil, in institutions which meet accepted standards. Zoos, in particular, are doomed – the statistics on how little real value for conservation efforts compared to the damage caused by captivity to animals is revealing. Essentially, this is the PETA manifesto rewritten to inspire a less radical audience. But unlike PETA, Mance sees an undercurrent far more damaging than explicit cruelty. His accusation is that we already knew all of this. The statistics can be shocking, but they are not new. We simply refuse to recognize our impact on animals in the Anthropocene.
The fishing chapter is particularly unpleasant: between 800 billion and 2.3 billion wild fish are killed each year; a tenth of those catches are credited to just 12 giant fishing companies. What about humane slaughter? Let’s just say that we do not extend our fears of animal suffering to marine life: the fish are crushed to death for hours in the trawler nets; unexpected decompression can cause swim bladder explosions; most are left to suffocate.
Hunting is getting easier than you might think. After attempting both, the writer elevates ecologically focused deer and boar hunting as a necessary sacrifice to protect larger environments. Even hated trophy hunters fare better than you might think: after all, they pay African game reserves thousands of dollars for the privilege of shooting “charismatic” wildlife. Their contribution to the protection of species undoubtedly outweighs the signing of an annual petition.
As a feature-length writer at a prestigious publication, Mance’s writing is crisp and witty, as you’d expect, but too often there’s a pivot to weird patterns and characters – those who try to change our relationship with animals through science, technology or surrealist philosophies. Sometimes these distant alternatives seem like a distraction, although elsewhere they are a welcome relief from barbarism.
Obviously, Mance’s responses to improve our relationship with animals are mediocre: he seeks but struggles to find concrete solutions. Each chapter highlights the fact that our very system of life is fundamentally broken. The conclusions are borrowed from old arguments: ditch meat, dairy and seafood, try to realign once again with nature, reduce your footprint, and speak out against unethical animal control in our community at large (reluctant vegans might be encouraged by the tentative argument in favor of remaining bivalves on the menu; scientists believe mussels, oysters, and clams lack the ability to feel pain, so makes one of the few creatures we can eat with a clear conscience).
The dominant charge in this book is our hypocrisy: we love our pets, we enjoy frolicking spring lambs, but we knowingly turn a blind eye to animal suffering in factory farming, fishing, and at the expense of of our entertainment and our comfort of life. .
We tell stories and believe the stories we know are inconclusive or false. Mance couldn’t live with the guilt – and he wants to know if you feel the same way.
Does this book offer anything new? It depends on the reader’s background. Those familiar with the current environmental disaster will find much of the shock factor statistics unsurprising. But that’s almost the point – it’s our willful blindness and unwillingness to accept obvious issues that crush Mance’s gears. For large format readers of the writer, How to love animals may well turn out to be a red flag; there are more than a few references to millionaires spending big on conservation and the benefits it would have for UK wildlife.
At the very least, it is a panoramic glimpse into our current relationship with those with whom we share our planet and a basis on which to envision both their future and ours, in a warming climate. Mance thinks it’s time to admit our impact and show restraint. Only then can we protect the animals we claim to love.
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