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When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals
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When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  3,188 ratings  ·  222 reviews
This national bestseller exploring the complex emotional lives of animals was hailed as "a masterpiece" by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas and as "marvelous" by Jane Goodall.

The popularity of When Elephants Weep has swept the nation, as author Jeffrey Masson appeared on Dateline NBC, Good Morning America, and was profiled in People for his ground-breaking and fascinating study.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 21st 1996 by Delta (first published 1994)
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Ethan Fixell
so disappointing. i had such high hopes. but every page was like, "maybe animals have feelings. but we're not sure yet. i mean, cats seem to. but who knows? elephants look like they're crying sometimes. are they really? we may never find out."

While I agree with the principles in this book, that's all I agree with. There are several reasons.

First and most obvious to many who read it: he has a huge amount of anger towards scientists. I can appreciate this to a large extent, animals have been and are still used in experiments which are horrible. His anger has transcended the normal boundaries to become fanatical. The problem with this is twofold. On the one hand he often makes generalizations which are not always fair (his attacks on an
[Readers note: the author is a professor of Sanskrit and a trained Freudian analyst who has a passion for animals and exploring our relationships to animals from a philosophical point of view. He is not a practicing biologist, animal behaviorist, or any other -ist within the zoological/anthropological realm. I believe his intent is to help make this area of science more compelling, interesting, and accessible to the lay public. Best to read it with that understanding in mind.]

I fell right into t
Andrew Sydlik
- A mother giraffe fends off a lion for an hour to defend her child.
- A male chimpanzee dies shortly after his mother.
- Koko the gorilla cares for a “pet” kitten she names “All Ball.”
- A male falcon displays uncharacteristic behavior, including sounds that sound like cries of anguish, when his mate is killed.
- A gorilla who is given orange juice as a treat, gives it instead one day to a researcher who complains of a stomach ache. When she returns ten days later, the gorilla insists on the resear
Tippy Jackson
Repetitive. No science. Reads something like this-scientists suck because I think my pets have feelings and they really do because I can just tell and how can anyone say they don't? Also, other people think their pets have feelings. So there. Flawless argument. Horribly misinterprets or over interprets behaviors and actions. Everything right up to the looks dogs give and of course, from a look you can read their mind because it's not possible they could be thinking anything other than the anthro ...more
I was hoping this would be more like "Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior," with lots of interesting facts backed up with evidence. Instead, it reads like an essay arguing that ethologists are all wrong because they don't ascribe animals' actions to emotional causes. Granted, I didn't read the whole book, but the part I did read repeated itself over and over. I felt like I was being beaten by a dead, unhappy horse.
About as scientific as Googling "amazing animal stories." Had some good anecdotal evidence, but in the end, the answer to the question "Do animals have emotions?" still remains "maybe." The reader must take into account while reading this that the author is not an animal psychologist, but a vegetarian with a PhD in Sanskrit. Seriously.
Masson explores "the sin of anthropomorphism" - attributing emotions (& behaviour in response to emotions) to animals, both in terms of his own observations and those of biologists and animal trainers & researchers, all the way back to Charles Darwin. He starts with a general discussion of the topic, then spends a chapter on one of about a dozen different emotional states; including fear, anger, love, joy and compassion.

He's definitely writing with an agenda; he's a vegetarian and very a
This could easily be a five star book, as I believe it can change the life ofmany people who do not give enough credit to animals. However in my case I was already in agreement with the fact that animals do have emotions and feel just as much as we do, so it was not a life changing book per say.
However this book is very intelligent. It's well written, very scientific in its approach, and while at times can be a bit snarky, is justifiably so. This is not the feel good "let's read stories about a
Carole Gropl
This is a re-read. I first read this book when it came out in 1995. I enjoyed it the second time as well. I don't agree with some of the reviewers of this book who say the author does not make his point. No, he does not scientifically prove that animals have emotions and that these emotions, rather than pure instinct, influence their behavior. I don't think he was trying to do that. I believe he was trying to get people to see animals as sentient beings who feel - and I think he succeeds at that ...more
Nina Bradley
This book was frustrating to read. It was anecdote after anecdote and even though I agree with the author that animals do have emotions, I found myself disagreeing with his arguments. He likes to present a story of an animal behaving in such a way as to convince us that it is having some sort of emotional experience, of which I have no doubt. The problem is that he is pulling emotions out of his butt and saying "It could be this...or this... or this..." This is why science has little to say abou ...more
This book has a fatal flaw, which I believe is the crux of its argument and usefulness: In the discussion of whether or not animals can be said to have feelings, Masson is forced to wrestle with the definition of emotion, its origin and symptoms and causes and ontology. Is emotion mutually exclusive to evolutionary function, as one would come to believe from the tone of scientific discourse? If a mother protects her cubs, can we assume she feels love for them? Why would we possibly assume otherw ...more
I am a lion hungry for a piece of meat, but I can't seem to get it across to Mr. Masson. I stood up on my hind legs and mewed and whined and begged, but no nice red meat. All of which is to say that I got to about page 55 and said to myself that this book was not worth the investment in time and energy.

The book is actually a polemic fueled by Mr. Masson's dislike about something or other in the scientific community and inflated by his speculations and rhetorical questions in the form of "If so,
I found this book to be fascinating, as well as somewhat disappointing. The author makes the argument that the fear of committing anthropomorphism has biased the scientific study of animals- with this I can agree. However, the author's own bias against scientists who avoid making observations of what appears to be emotions in animals is reflected in the writing. His own bias hinders a comprehensive look at the emotional lives of animals.
Aside from his (understandingly) jaded viewpoint the book
I enjoyed this book largely because of the anecdotal stories about animal behavior. However, as the author himself points out early on, there isn't a great deal of science in the book to back up those anecdotes. Instead, the book discusses various theories of animal behavior, and the pitfalls scientists and animal observers strive to avoid, such as anthropomorphism. Then the book puts those things in context, and more or less poses a question: how much do we really know about what/whether animal ...more
Humans pride themselves on not being animals, going so far as to describe any behavior we’re shamed of as ‘animal’. Beasts have rude instincts; we have exalted Emotions, gifts of the gods. We may begrudgingly grant animals fear, or perhaps even affection – but love? Joy? Aesthetic reverence? In When Elephants Weep, authors Masson and McCarthy explores the spectrum of animal emotions, from recording the patently obvious to flirting with anthropomorphism. In their view, animals across the kingdom ...more
I have a feeling I'm not going to finish this one. The writing is dense and not that accessible... but maybe if I skip to the interesting anecdotal stuff about animal emotions? It starts with a justification of the book, the idea that animals have emotions that are at least somewhat comparable to human emotions and that this deserves study. But that goes on for too long.

Interesting anecdotes about animals; I enjoyed it.
Eh. I read the first few pages and had to stop. There was nothing to back up what the author was saying. Most of what he said was that scientists don't want to ascribe emotions to animals because that would harm their research because they wouldn't be able to do painful tests on animals. At least that's what I got from it.

Another thing he brought up was the fact that no scientist wants anecdotal evidence in their research. No they don't. Scientists don't want anecdotal evidence because it is ba
This book is on the philosophical side of things. It basically asks the question if animals can feel certain emotions. It does this in a variety of ways through different people & the animals they have encountered or actually researched. There is alot to ponder when you think about certain species & how the react to things like prey, predators & humans. I mean when you have companion animals you like to think that they can communicate w/ you or each other. Do they have a sense of tim ...more
Natasha O'rourke
I wanted to like this more than I did. It has some interesting tidbits and case studies, but the author is kind of all over the place and contradicts himself a lot. I believe animals have emotions, but I didn't feel like he made his case as compelling as he could have. But it's an interesting read.
Karyn Schwitters
This book revolutionized the way I saw animals. I think it is the responsibility of every human to make themselves aware of the capacity of animals' to love, grieve, play, and ponder.
Susan Clark-cook
All I have to say is this is a great book, I loved reading it and learned a lot about animals and elephants. I realize I am behind times with this book, as it was extremely popular years ago and I believe it had all sorts of coverage, on TV and from other animal experts like Jane Goddall (spelling) So I won't rehash a lot of other better reviews but just say I think this is another book everyone should read, and the world would be a better place if the ideas and thoughts and facts presented in t ...more
Too vague and lacking in detail to be of much use. It reads like a whole lot of knew-this-already.

The author does open with a defense of the anecdotal, which I don't disagree with. I can deal with anecdotes. Anecdotes are fine.
But everything here is so... cursory. It feels like a rapid-fire bullet-point list of things that happened at one time or another.

Maybe the core problem is that it's trying to cover animals in general, as opposed to an animal (or a select few species). There's simply too m
Kind of obvious stuff about animals. I was disappointed.
Nick Escobar
The book makes a strong case for advocating against the myopic views the scientific community, including researchers and behaviorists, take when discussing the behaviors and feelings of animals in both the wild and in captivity. Though the book presents the 'holes' in dealing with animals by humans it doesn't present many options for scientists to rectify their biases and shortcomings. However, if you care about animal welfare and understanding their plights and lives I would recommend the book. ...more
Sarah Pavlina
The writers of this book ascribe emotions to animals, but not to anyone with a background in science. They admonish us to be kind to those unlike us and appreciate their unique gifts, but they do not accord that respect to members of their own kind. As a member of the scientific community,who has participated in animal research, I was highly offended by the preachy tone of this book. According to the authors,anyone who associates with animal research is unfeeling and invariably cruel. Most scien ...more
Read by David Ackroyd
Duration: 3 hours, 5 minutes (abridged)


When Elephants Weep is full of moving anecdotes concerning animals and the possibility of them having emotions. It is a pleasant listen and usually not "over the top" in its preachiness. It was well read by narrator David Ackroyd. The authors make a compelling, if not scientifically rigorous argument for animal emotions.


The authors are continually preaching against scientists who do not believe that animals have emo
Makes some good points, using lots of real-life examples, without the mistake of making animals out to be flower-children. Puts into words the annoying, infuriationg, ridiculous canon in the scientific realm that Animals Can't Have Emotions ("they've just evolved to act as if they do"?!) and it is anthropomorphic to say they do--comparing this to the not-so-long-ago scientific stand that animals (and, by the way, human infants!) can't feel pain as we do and it is anthropomorphic and stupid to sa ...more
Kalie Lyn
Every pet owner will admit to committing anthropomorphism – ascribing human emotions to animals – on a daily basis; I know I sure do! We can see that our dog feels happy, that our cat feels playful, or that our turtle feels content; most people do not deny that non-human animals share some basic human emotions. However, in the scientific community, committing anthropomorphism is essentially looked upon as a sin.

In When Elephants Weep, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson challenges people – scientists, res
Marília Domingos
"Quais as implicações de descobrirmos que os animais têm vida emocional? Deveríamos mudar o nosso relacionamento com eles? deveremos deixar de comer animais que possuem uma vida social complexa, que são capazes de relações apaixonadas entre si e que amam desesperadamente as suas crias?" É esta a descrição que se encontra na contra-capa deste livro e que me despertou a atenção. "Os animais têm emoções? É claro que sim, isso nem se pergunta." foi o que pensei imediatamente e é, certamente, a respo ...more
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He has written several books books critical of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and psychiatry as well as books on animals, their emotions and their rights.

He currently lives in New Zealand with his wife, two sons, three cats and three rats.
More about Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson...
Dogs Never Lie About Love: Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats: A Journey into the Feline Heart Slipping into Paradise: Why I Live in New Zealand

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“Voltaire responded that, on the contrary, vivisection showed that the dog has the same organes de sentiment that a human has. "Answer me, you who believes that animals are only machines," he wrote. "Has nature arranged for this animal to have all the machinery of feelings only in order for it not to have any at all?” 1 likes
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