Journalist and author Henry Mance has ruined a lot of things Pricewatch holds dear and isn’t even sorry.
When we stumbled across a new book from the Financial Times’ most entertaining editor with the gripping title How to Love Animals in a Human-Shaped World, we imagined it would be a light Billy escapade. Bryson through the animal world looking at how we love them and how they love us.
It’s not that kind of book at all. And we’re not thrilled to announce that steak, spring lamb, bacon, sausage, roast chicken, lobster, salmon, eggs, milk, ice cream, zoos, shoes , puppies and kittens were all removed from the Pope’s menu as a result of this.
At least for now.
That’s not to say the book isn’t good or important – it’s both – but once Mance becomes a slaughterhouse worker and – without any training – is tasked with butchering lambs, it’s impossible. to take shelter from pain. reality that our relationship with animals on virtually every imaginable level is so often just plain wrong.
His thesis is that if we don’t change the way we think about animals, we will make the climate catastrophe even worse than it will be and the lives of all animals even more infinitely bad than they are now. In short, it’s a book that should be read by anyone who cares about animals or the planet.
But beware: it can ruin the surf and the turf, and the ice cream for you.
Speaking to Pricewatch for the In the News podcast – which can be found anywhere you get your podcasts – Mance said he’s motivated to write the book after his children are born. “Having loved animals all my life, loved animals, I suddenly found myself surrounded by animals. You have the story books. you have the teddy bears, you have the cartoons on television.
Her children had the idea that “not only do we love animals, but we are not shy about our relationship with them, that we must have found a way to treat them kindly.” So with that in mind, he started to ask himself a tricky question. “Animals have done so much for me, what have I done to improve their lives? What did I do to make sure they are still there in 10 or 20 years?
And that’s how the book was born.
In it, he expresses his disbelief that 95% of us eat meat and so few people ask where it comes from. “It’s a question of circularity. The people at the slaughterhouse are doing their job because they know someone wants to buy this meat. And the farmers will produce pork, chicken, eggs or beef in a certain way because they know someone wants to buy it. And then we buy it at the supermarket because we say, well, the farmers produced it. So it must be fine. “
He wonders why no one is looking at the situation and asks, “Is this system necessary? And is it sustainable?
And is it?
“I don’t think we can continue to eat meat and animal products like we are. I mean, I think the environmental cost is huge. And I also don’t think that fits the way we really want to treat animals. All over the world we are killing millions if not billions of animals and we are trying to do so at very low cost. I think the way we treat animals in their last moments, and also for some parts of their life on the big farms, is really not acceptable and is not in line with our values. “
He pointed out an essential reason: “There are millions of animals in danger of extinction because we are cutting down forests. And this is especially because of the expansion of agriculture and the expansion of animal husbandry around the world. So eating less meat is, you know, up to the mark of things you can do if you love animals. Habitat loss is the number one threat to animal species. and agriculture is the number one component. We are just producing our food in an incredibly inefficient way. I mean, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions but also in terms of the amount of land needed.
But how inefficient is it? “It’s six or seven times more resource intensive to depend on animal products and what I really hope is that in countries like Ireland, all of Europe, really, where we are. very dependent on animal products, we can reduce our consumption, and that we can do this knowing that there is not much you can get out of the earth.
“This is not a book to try and make you feel bad about things… Taking small steps is definitely what I would advocate. I mean, I gave up the fish, then I gave up on the meat. And then my wife said to me, if you go vegan, you can get a divorce and then I went vegan, and I’m still married. So you know, it worked. Okay. But you know, little ones not are definitely the way.
His book – and the ideas it contains – are unlikely to be welcomed in farming circles, especially in Ireland, where cattle and dairy farming is so central to the lives of so many.
Mance is understanding but shameless. “There are better ways of farming for animal welfare and there are better ways of farming for the environment and the two are often at odds. If you want to do better with animals and give them a better quality of life, then you give them room to roam. You might have breeds that grow a bit slower, you can keep dairy calves with their mothers a bit longer, but it actually increases the amount of land used.
“And so some of the most efficient forms of meat production are, for example, chicken farms, where welfare is worse. I think if you care about those two things – wellness and the environment – you always sacrifice one.
So, is there a way that agriculture can coexist with the ideology behind veganism? Or are they just completely disagreeing? “I know a lot of people who come from an agricultural tradition feel threatened by veganism and they feel that vegans don’t understand all the work and all the tradition and all the nutrition that goes into food.”
But, he stressed, “The land will always be valuable and we will always need farmers to produce food, and also to take care of this land. And so it’s not like in the oil industry where, you know, the oil wells will come to a point where they’re stranded assets, but the land and the knowledge that goes with it will never be a wasted investment.
“And there are a lot of farmers that I have met who feel uncomfortable with the way their animals are treated, but also because they can see climate change better than anyone, they can see them. difficulties in which we find ourselves. what we need to do is change the incentives and subsidies, so that there is a realistic income from a wider range of services to keep the land in good condition, to store carbon in forests and grasslands. And the farmers, I hope, will have a lot to do with it.
What about consumers who buy organic milk or free-range corn-fed chickens in an attempt to do better with the animals that produce them? Are we doing something for the animal welfare of the chickens or the cows? Such an approach is positive at least in the “signals” it sends, he said.
He stressed that people should not think that they are powerless to change the system or even improve it a little. “If you think there’s nothing I can do, I’m just one person, then I really urge you to try going vegetarian for a week or two and see conversations start in the right direction. People will often say, ‘Oh yeah, I thought about that too.’ And, you know, right now there are some really good meatless burgers, the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger and these companies were started by vegans. What is fascinating is that their personal commitment then becomes a ripple effect that led them to create these companies, which can now change the way everyone eats.
Only around 5% of Irish people follow a vegetarian diet – the number of vegans is again much lower. “I would like to get to a position where 20 or 30 percent of people choose not to eat meat and then you can get into more interesting political discussions. I have certainly had more people who came to tell me that they had become vegans or vegetarians much more often, that they were convinced of the deal. And they just make the changes at their own pace. And I was really encouraged by that.