Henry Mance headshot

“Factory farming is a complete disaster” – FT Journalist Henry Mance

Find our conversation here on YouTube or here on Podcast.

Henry (@henrymance) is the chief features writer for the Financial Times newspaper. He is the author of “How to Love Animals in a Human Shaped World.”

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?” Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” In addition to the video linked above, the audio is on our Podcast here on Apple and here on the other platforms​​​​​​.

We discuss:
0:00 Welcome

1:27 Henry’s Intro

  • Studying environmental policy
  • Photography and the natural world
  • Working for a biodiversity think tank in Colombia
  • Journalism at the Financial Times
  • Writing “How to Love Animals…”
  • “It hasn’t really been about changing my values… it’s been about trying to align my behaviours.”

3:25 What’s Real? Anglican Christianity

  • Keith Thomas’ “Man and the Natural World”
  • Different Christian perspectives on non-human animals
  • Is the Noah’s Ark story one reason why we find zoos acceptable?
  • “Noah’s Ark is not a particularly good model for conservation”
  • “We think we’re Noah but in fact we’re the flood”
  • Interviewing the Archbishop of Canterbury “Pets do go to heaven!”
  • Animal Interfaith Alliance
  • “Nobody has a monopoly on wisdom or compassion”
  • Talking to Mongolian Buddhists about eating meat “if you don’t see the killing it’s less of a sin”
  • How distance means we allow animal farming to continue
  • JW: “The Dalai Lama isn’t vegan and he has no excuses”
  • How Anglicanism focuses on compassion & love rather than dogmatic rules
  • Obedience vs. compassion in religious ethics
  • The church has often been behind the curve in ethics
  • “Iris Murdoch’s idea of love helped me more than any direct religious underpinning”

13:00 What Matters?

  • At first “I wanted animals to be OK because I liked looking at them.” Polar bears and orangutans
  • The impact of humanity on wild animals
  • Shifting to take the animals’ point of view
  • Being forced to think about animal farming in Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens
  • How viewing species of animals as “eaten” reduces our assessment of sentience
  • We spend money on our pets medical bills that could save human lives
  • “If it happens like this it must be tolerable”
  • “Sentience is a pretty good starting point”
  • Are bivalves & insects sentient?
  • The richness of bee behaviour & the risks of insect farming
  • “Surely people can see for themselves – that is a conscious animal”
  • Edge cases vs. the core issue of animal farming
  • “There is something really special about consciousness” vs biocentrism & ecocentrism
  • Whether you care about sentience or ecosystems what you have in common is “Factory farming is a complete disaster”
  • Invasive species, hunting as more challenging issues
  • Fishing. From “sustainable population levels for human food” to concern for sentient fishes. Seaspiracy
  • Darwin and David Attenborough. From collecting samples to recognising individuality
  • Zoos: “These giraffes do not belong in this very expensive shed”
  • Taking the perspective of “the other”
  • Would our non-human animal ethics work for humans? If not, why not?
  • Breeding deer, then “culling” them blaming overpopulation & selling their bodies for money
  • Working on a pig farm for the book & realising “even on a ‘decent’ pig farm” life isn’t worth living
  • Farming human toddlers for food?
  • People are willing to have the debate. They have views. That’s exciting because they can be changed

40:25 A Better Future

  • “Love for animals is one of society’s core values. Rationality is another.”
  • “The book I wrote was partly inspired by having kids”
  • Storybooks pretending that we know how to live alongside animals
  • Lynda Korimboccus‘ “Peppa Pig Paradox” (previous guest!)
  • Change has to happen because we can’t feed ourselves this way
  • “The evidence all points one way”
  • Improving welfare in animal farming can be worse for the environment & vice versa, so let’s just “cut it all out”
  • The “West” spread its love of meat around the world
  • Individual change is really crucial. We need to reject animal farming, not just feel uneasy about it
  • Parallels with smoking
  • Political & corporate change starts with personal change
  • “If you ask a cafe owner for oat milk – the 3rd time you ask they’ll have it”
  • #JustTransitions for animal farmers
  • Thoreau: “Do the things which lie nearest to you which are difficult”
  • Purity, perfection & journeys
  • Greenwashing & ethicswashing
  • Effective Altruism & Peter Singer. Obligation or opportunity?
  • Tipping the system & switching the default
  • The role of journalism.

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at sentientism.info​​​​​​​​​​​​​. Join our “I’m a Sentientist” wall using this simple form.

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