Through a Vet’s Eyes by Sean Wensley
This book is subtitled “How we can all Choose a Better Life for Animals” and that is one strong theme throughout this book which includes some lyrical nature writing. Sean Wensley is an award – winning vet who has taken part in many projects across the world and over many years into the lifestyle of animals in various conditions. He also writes of the small events that echo his findings, from his actual practice as a vet. Most of all,he writes of his own relationship with the natural word, especially the birds that he encounters in many different settings. The tone is not dictatorial but informative – he leaves his readers to make their own decisions on what to buy and what to avoid, once given the facts of the lifestyles of animals and birds that are “Farmed” for food in the UK.
Some of the information in this book can be regarded as shocking, such as the routine treatment of lambs, but there are explanations and information on the alternatives. There are extensive notes in the back of the book which provide detailed references to further reading, of online reports from further investigations into animal behaviours, welfare and much more. The notes include detailed bibliographic details which explain the relevant section in the chapter; the actual text of the book is clear of numbers and footnotes which could be distracting. There is a clear index and overall the tone is of a non academic book but with notes that would definitely permit further study of so many topics introduced to a very advanced level.
The book is a very readable mix of anecdotal stories of time spent with farmers looking after particular animals, which is followed by a more factual look at the more widespread treatment of certain animals, including developments and studies which explain the way that the food producing “industry” is heading. In the case of pigs and piglets for example, there is a description of how pigs are kept outside in contrast with farrowing crates, and then an explanation of the different labels which are applied to pig products, such as “Outdoor bred” which is different from “Outdoor reared”. Wensley’s national and international knowledge is well demonstrated as he discusses opportunities to improve welfare standards and examples from other countries in terms of what has already been achieved. A session of observing lambing season at a farm links into the way that very young lambs are treated and the ways that may be changing. This flows into a section of especially vivid memories of encounters with birds in a completely natural setting.
My favourite chapter is on “Our Animal Companions” which looks at the pets – mainly cats and dogs – that we share our homes with, but also pet rabbits and their specific needs. It stresses the need to consider the circumstances which animals can be obtained from, the basic needs of pets which would-be owners should consider, and much more. There are comments on certain breeds of animals which have been bred for particular aesthetic reasons rather than their well being. It points out that vets are happy to advise those considering pets and when first becoming owners. It was an informative section, which showed real understanding of what pets and people wanted and needed. In the Foreword, a friend describes how Wensley had given her family information about getting a puppy, but not pressed them in any particular direction.
The final chapter “The power of one” looks at the actions that individuals can take in Britain to influence animal welfare standards and regulations, which is followed by an “UK Farm Assurance Schemes Infographic” which shows the labels on British food and what they actually mean.
This is an informative book which presents what is happening with animals in Britain and the moment, but without dictating what should be done. It is also a beautifully written account of Wensley’s own interactions with the natural world,and as such is a very useful and enjoyable read.