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The Emotional Lives Of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy - and Why They Matter [Hardcover]

Marc Bekoff , Jane Goodall
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 9 2007
Based on Marc Bekoff's years of experience studying communication patterns of a wide range of animals, this important book shows that animals have rich emotional lives. Not only can animal emotions teach us about love, empathy, and compassion, argues Bekoff - they require us to radically rethink our current relationship of domination and abuse of animals. Bekoff skillfully blends extraordinary stories and anecdotes of animal grief, joy, embarrassment, anger, and love with the latest scientific research confirming the existence of emotions that commonsense experience has 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.


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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

From Publishers Weekly

Any dog owner knows that her own pet has feelings, but what evidence exists beyond the anecdotal, and what does this evidence teach us? Bekoff, professor emeritus of biology at the University of Colorado, pores through decades of animal research-behavioral, neurochemical, psychological and environmental-to answer that question, compelling readers to accept both the existence and significance of animal emotions. Seated in the most primitive structures of the brain (pleasure receptors, for example, are biologically correlative in all mammals), emotions have a long evolutionary history. Indeed, as vertebrates became more complex, they developed ever more complex emotional and social lives, "setting rules" that permit group living-a far better survival strategy than going solo. Along the way, Bekoff forces the reader to re-examine the nature of human beings; our species could not have persevered through the past 100,000 years without the evolution of strong and cohesive social relationships cemented with emotions, a conclusion contrary to contemporary pop sociology notions that prioritize individualism and competition. He also explores, painfully but honestly, the abuse animals regularly withstand in factory farms, research centers and elsewhere, and calls on fellow scientists to practice their discipline with "heart." Demonstrating the far-reaching implications for readers' relationships with any number of living beings, Bekoff's book is profound, thought-provoking and even touching.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional Lives of Animals May 5 2009
Format:Paperback
As an animal-lover and a therapist I am interested in reading about the inner lives of animals and how this compares with humans. My personal observations of and opinions about the animals I have lived with, observed in the wild, or read about were validated by this author's research. This book is full of excellent factual information and argues gently for a shift in our thinking about the capacity of animals to feel and what this means in terms of our behaviour toward them. The statement I liked best in the book is that it is not a question of a difference in kind between humans and other animals, just a difference in degree. This is contrary to what I was taught in university but I never believed it. This is a book for anyone who has affection for animals. It provides compelling evidence for all of us to rethink how we treat and relate to all animals.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Emotional Lives of Animals July 10 2008
By Tami Brady HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Animals and emotions. It's a touchy subject. Most people can readily admit that most animals have primary (fight or flight) type reactions. However, opinions begin to change when researchers start discussing secondary emotions, like love, compassion, sadness, etc.

Anyone who has ever had a pet knows for a fact that their cat, dog, snake, etc has such emotions. We know for a fact that they have very distinct personalities and preferences. Yet, somehow the same people, find it difficult to believe that a chimpanzee, an elephant, a wolf, a magpie, or a fish might also be capable of something beyond primitive reactions.

The Emotional Lives of Animals gives accounts of animals displaying what would seem to be primary emotions. As one would expect, the author discusses big brained animals such as elephants, higher primates, whales, and dolphins. However, the most interesting studies look at unexpected animals such as fish to examine their capabilities.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very moving stories April 10 2014
By Rachel
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am an animal lover and saw this book advertised on PBS and decided to buy it. It is filled with heartwarming stories that are honest and surely eye openers for those that can look at an animal and think that they don't feel emotions just as us humans do.
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4.0 out of 5 stars lovely idea for children Feb. 21 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I gave this as a gift to my grandchildren and they were very pleased and surprised
about the animals. they love it.
thank you Veronica
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Christmas gift Dec 10 2011
Format:Paperback
This lovely book is a Christmas gift for a relative who loves animals. I am sure she will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed giving it to her.
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