Book of the week: The Case of the Married Woman

Antonia Fraser’s biography takes on a life that ‘reads like a Victorian sensation novel’

Caroline Norton

This is a book you might not enjoy very much, but it’s one you should almost certainly read, said Emma Beddington in The Spectator. Henry Mance, a journalist at the Financial Times, sets out to unpick a glaring “paradox”: how a world in thrall to animal cuteness – in which videos of kittens are watched by millions – “can remain indifferent to the suffering of almost all other animals, whether farmed, in captivity, or in the wild”.

Most of us prefer not to think about the horrors of livestock farming, but Mance doesn’t flinch from detailing them, said Sophie McBain in the New Statesman. During a spell working at an abattoir, he describes pigs panicking and squealing before they are stunned because they “can smell blood”, and can communicate with one another. At a pig farm known for its welfare standards, he describes picking up “overlays”: piglets accidentally crushed by their mothers, which have been bred to be three times their natural size. Yet the book also has its lighter moments: in San Francisco, Mance visits “Corgi Con”, where Corgi owners dress up as their pets (and vice versa).

Although Mance is himself a vegan (partly because of what his research led him to find out about the dairy industry), he isn’t doctrinaire or sanctimonious, said Ben Cooke in The Times. “For instance, he’s not that perturbed by hunting”: he even thinks big-game hunting is a good idea, because the money earned from selling licences can “provide hefty funding for national parks”.

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Ultimately, what he wants is for people to stop dividing animals into “would-be humans” and “milk machines”, and see them for what they are – as “creatures valuable in their difference”. We may be a long way from achieving that now – but this thoughtful book ought to move us in the right direction

Jonathan Cape 400pp £20; The Week Bookshop £15.99

How to Love Animals

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