When you think about the future — whether that’s your own, your family’s or our planet’s — how often is the future of animal life part of that?
In his new book, “How to Love Animals: In a Human-Shaped World,” British journalist Henry Mance argues that if we considered the happiness and health of pets and wildlife more, we could change life for the better and maybe even save the planet.
“We have to start taking animals a lot more seriously because our future as humans really depends on other species doing well.” — Henry Mance, author of “How to Love Animals: In a Human-Shaped World”
The births of his children caused him to rethink his entire relationship to the animal world. He began to ask himself: “Am I living in a way that’s good for animals, and am I leaving a positive impact?”
“I felt I was presenting a slightly misleading image to my young daughters,” he says. “We have to start taking animals a lot more seriously because our future as humans really depends on other species doing well.”
Fundamentally, people do love animals, which is evident in the amount of money people spend on their pets, but we don’t think the same when it comes to wildlife and farm animals.
“We have to find a new ethic, a new way of living in this century, which respects that love, and which will also make our lives better,” he says.
While researching the book, he took on different roles to explore this relationship further, such as working at a slaughterhouse where he saw the process of animals going from “living, breathing sentient animals to cuts of meat in a few minutes.” He also spent time on a farm where pigs were allowed to roam free versus pigs who are grown in concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), but even then, the pigs at the farm were living a life that goes against their natural way of being.
“The pigs themselves have been bred to a size which is really uncomfortable. And unfortunately, the mother pigs often smother their young, because they’re just too big,” Mance says. “… And to have this many offspring, they behave in this way, and on a pig farm, pigs simply can’t exercise the decisions that … [would make] life satisfying. We would hate to be cooped up in the way they are.”
“We have to find ways of limiting ourselves, because otherwise we’ll be the only species … and our survival will be less assured.” —Henry Mance
Mance, whose moment of reflection for change was the births of his daughters, says just small steps like cutting down on dairy and moving to plant-based sources for protein can make a big difference, especially amid climate change.
“Livestock farming is estimated to be responsible for about 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and there are just far more efficient, more sustainable choices to beef,” he says. “You need 20 times as much land and, and it creates 20 times as much greenhouse gas emissions.”
Mance says we take for granted animals live among us and that they will always be there. For example, giraffes are a familiar image to us on TV and in zoos, but over the past few decades their numbers have dropped dramatically.
He says humans can’t continue to expand their footprint by cutting down rain forests and grasslands and destroying wild spaces.
“We have to find ways of limiting ourselves, because otherwise we’ll be the only species that really thrive and many other species will go extinct and disappear, and our survival will be less assured.”
Listen: Henry Mance on how the future of our planet depends on how we treat animals.