Anne Dunford reviews – How to Love Animals in a Human Shaped World by Henry Mance

This is a book that I would love to give to as many people as possible. I wish that someone had written something similar many years ago. However, with the increasing concern about climate change and more people becoming aware of a plant-based diet or veganism, this is probably a more opportune moment for a book such as this to be launched.

Henry Mance is an award-winning features writer for the Financial Times who also contributes to other publications including GQ and Tatler. For this book he took a real ‘hands on’ approach to research and embarked on a quest involving working in an abattoir, visiting pig and chicken farms, and meeting with chefs, farmers, scientists and philosophers. He determined to discover why we, as humans, are appalled at the thought of eating some animals, yet happily accept the factory farming approach. Why is it acceptable that cows are kept indoors, pigs and chickens are kept in unnaturally cramped conditions – all to make it possible for us to eat cheap meat?

I found this a compelling read. Despite covering some very challenging topics and not holding back on presenting uncomfortable facts, it was a thought provoking read yet not without humour. 

Henry Mance asks what we can do for the other sentient beings on land and sea; how can we say we love animals and accept the horrors of modern farming methods and the cruel way they are dispatched? At the end of the book, he does list a number of things we can do as individuals that would hopefully change things for the better.

When I discovered that he would be appearing at the Wigtown Book Festival, I made sure that I had a ticket for that event. It was heartening to see how enthusiastic he was about the impact we could make on climate change and the future wellbeing of the animal world by becoming vegan. When he started to write the book, he was vegetarian and he told how his wife had accepted that but had said that becoming vegan was ‘divorceable’. However, he has taken over the planning and cooking of meals for the family to prove to his wife and two young children that being vegan does not mean giving up tasty food and, yes, they are enjoying his cooking!

No one can fail to be impress by the enthusiastic and dedicated way Henry Mance set about tackling the research for this book

In discussion, he was asked about his attitude towards hunting and how he had come to some surprising conclusions that not all hunting is bad. I for one began to see that in some cases there can be benefits.

Zoos were also discussed and, as in the book, he related how he loved going to zoos as a child, but now sees that his two young children don’t need zoos to experience the wonder and excitement of wildlife. He held up a book that he had bought for them in one of Wigtown’s bookshops. It was all about the wonder of mini-beasts that can be found in ponds!

He realises that some farmers are already willing to reconsider how they can earn a good living from their land without for instance erecting huge barns to house cows and feeding them on crops that could feed people (which would make more economic sense and be better for the planet). He is hopeful that more will adopt a change in attitude, but acknowledges that it will take time.

I must confess that as I’ve been vegetarian for fifty years and vegan for the last thirty, the author had a sympathetic reader. However, no one can fail to be impressed by the enthusiastic and dedicated way Henry Mance set about tackling the research for this book. 

If I could, I would buy a lorry load of How to Love Animals In a Human-Shaped World and distribute it to as many folks as possible. The best I can do is to say – please, find a copy and read it! 

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