If the onus on The 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