The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter

The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter

The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy - and Why They Matter

Based on award-winning scientist Marc Bekoff’s years studying social communication in a wide range of species, this important book shows that animals have rich emotional lives. Bekoff skillfully blends extraordinary stories of animal joy, empathy, grief, embarrassment, anger, and love with the latest scientific research confirming the existence of emotions that common sense and experience have long implied. Filled with Bekoff’s light humor and touching stories, The Emotional Lives of Animals is a clarion call for reassessing both how we view animals and how we treat them.

If the onus on Emotional Lives of Animals author Marc Bekoff was simply to prove that nonhuman creatures exhibit Charles Darwin’s six universal emotions (anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, and surprise), then his book would be very brief. As anyone who has ever had a pet dog, cat, rabbit, or even bird can attest, animals not only possess such emotions but broadcast them clearly and often. Bekoff’s goal, however, is much grander: To show that wild and domestic species have a kaleidoscopic range of feelings, from embarrassment to awe, and that we dismiss them not only at their peril but our own. And if an endorsement squib by PETA president Ingrid Newkirk and Foreword by renowned animal scientist Jane Goodall doesn’t give it away, then readers quickly learn that Bekoff also has an agenda: showing that using animals for scientific experiments, amusement, food, and the like is reprehensible and unconscionable.

Not that The Emotional Lives of Animals is a polemic. By turns funny, anecdotal, and deeply researched, the book is all the more persuasive because it’s so compelling. As Bekoff (professor emeritus of biology at the University of Colorado) points out, “It’s bad biology to argue against the existence of animal emotions. Scientific research in evolutionary biology, cognitive ethology, and social neuroscience supports the view that numerous and diverse animals have rich and deep emotional lives. Emotions have evolved as adaptations in numerous species, and they serve as a social glue to bond animals with one another.” And with us, as Bekoff argues in this absorbing and important book. — Kim Hughes

List Price: $ 14.95

Price: $ 7.40


3 Comments so far »

  1. J. Branson said,

    Wrote on June 3, 2013 @ 9:43 am

    80 of 84 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    My dogs say, “Bekoff is right.”, May 24, 2007
    By 
    J. Branson (Seahurst, WA United States) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    This is an excellent book, and I don’t disagree with anything he says. However, he makes much of his case based on anecdotal evidence. He does cite scientific studies, but these are peripheral to the stories. I don’t really mind this because I agreed with him before I ever started reading the book, and I enjoyed the stories. If he’s looking to persuade people, which I think he should, he might have gone a little heavier on the science and a little lighter on the stories.

    Regardless of whether he has proven his case about the emotions of animals, his book gives us one pivotal concept we can rely on: if we don’t know for sure, the default assumption should be that animals do have emotions until proven otherwise. To paraphrase: If I assume animals feel pain and pleasure and love, and act accordingly, and then it turns out my assumption was wrong, I will have done no harm. However, if I assume that animals don’t have feelings, and then it turns out I was wrong, I may have caused immeasurable damage.

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  2. SUPPORT THE ASPCA. "PILUM THROWER!" said,

    Wrote on June 3, 2013 @ 9:54 am

    41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Fine Ethical Thesis: Touching Stories., September 10, 2007

    Do no harm is the essence of this book. It provides colorful insight into the real emotional lives of various animals. The author used a wide variety of sources, & field observations from wildlife biologists. The section on neurobiology were the most interesting for me. The fact that animals share several of our neural structures for emotion came as no surprise to this lay person. I have always felt {& have been bashed plenty for it}, that animals often represent the better half of human nature that we sometimes submerge. Dogs, Reptiles, Monkeys, Rats, Moon Bears, Whales & Elephants are all here. The latter are probably the most fascinating creatures in the book? The authors advocacy for animals was very refreshing to this animal lover. His basic thesis gives us a crucial point, “that if we are not certain about an animals emotions, we should presume that they often feel exactly what we humans do.” For that compassionate view I had to up my four star impression to a hearty five.

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  3. J. Madden said,

    Wrote on June 3, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Emotional intelligence in animals, April 17, 2007
    By 
    J. Madden (Colorado) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Marc Bekoff’s The Emotional Lives of Animals is a wonderful book. I was impressed by the scope and depth of the research underlying the book, and by the way that Bekoff makes scientific data interesting and accessible to a general readership. The writing is lively; Bekoff weaves together stories of animal emotions with scientific data supporting his ideas about animal empathy, fairness, grief, pleasure, joy, and sadness. And his thesis is hardhitting: If animals do indeed live the rich emotional lives that Bekoff describes–and we have every reason to believe they do–then we may, by force of logic, be led to reconsider our moral obligations to them. Bekoff is obviously passionate about his subjects, but never does his writing sound strident. Instead, he uses humor and grace to navigate the controversial terrain of animal welfare.

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