When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  2,793 ratings  ·  204 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....more
ebook, 320 pages
Published October 21st 2009 by Delta (first published 1994)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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."

trash.
Danna
[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...more
Colin
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...more
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
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...more
Carrie
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.
Darcie
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.
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
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.
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
Dinah
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
Tracey
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...more
Lawrence
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,...more
Marie
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...more
Ashley
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...more
h
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
Stephen
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
Marley
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.
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.
Jennifer
Kind of obvious stuff about animals. I was disappointed.
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
Dale
Read by David Ackroyd
Duration: 3 hours, 5 minutes (abridged)

Strengths:

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.

Weaknesses:

The authors are continually preaching against scientists who do not believe that animals have emo...more
Anna
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...more
Ana 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
T.H. Waters
This book is a point by point comprehensive examination of the argument made by the majority scientists that animals, both domesticated and wild (including dogs & cats), are simply not capable of emotion. Do animals experience fear, love, friendship, grief, sadness, joy, and so on? Are they capable of suffering? Before When Elephants Weep was writen, no one had yet offered an in-depth rebuttal that animals' lives are indeed filled with complex sensibility. The author, Jeffrey Moussaieff Mass...more
Caroline
If you’ve ever looked for connections between the emotional lives of humans and animals, look no further than Jeffery Masson and Susan McCarthy’s When Elephants Weep. This insightful and delightful read gives an inside look to the emotional lives, experiences, and actions of species throughout the animal kingdom. From dancing squirrels to bashful gorillas to spiteful killer whales, Masson and coauthor Susan McCarthy discuss enlightening anecdotes and illuminating insights that offer powerful pr...more
Steve
The combative tone the authors take from the start is jarring for what I expected, which, naively, was a positive look at the animal world. And perhaps for audiences 20 years ago when the book first appeared on bestseller lists, such an attitude was necessary to fight the doubters and wake up the masses. The central question of the book isn't "Do animals feel emotions?" but rather "Why are we so convinced they do not feel emotions?" From the start, the authors warns that the science community wo...more
Victoria
This book examines evidence of emotions in animals. Masson constantly plays to his audience - animal lovers, so though he uses a rather vast array of documentation and philosophies to argue both sides of the argument, the reader is constantly told to think of their own experience. And, as a dog owner, it is hard to imagine anyone saying that a dog isn't ecstatic when you come home, or say yes to a long walk, or is seemingly heartbroken when you won't throw the tennis ball for the hundredth time....more
Caroline
I found this book fascinating, although at least in my own case there was a certain amount of 'preaching to the choir'. As Masson argues, any pet owner would argue that of course animals have feelings, of course their dog is excited about a walk, of course their cat is pleased to see them, or gets jealous or angry or sulks. Scientists, however, would argue that we are guilty of anthropomorphism, a cardinal sin of animal behaviourists, the sin of projecting onto animals the emotions that we ourse...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy - and Why They Matter
  • The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do to Care for The Animals We Love
  • Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals
  • Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family
  • The Inner World of Farm Animals: Their Amazing Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Capacities
  • Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food
  • The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them
  • Making A Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights
  • The Parrot's Lament, and Other True Tales of Animal Intrigue, Intelligence, and Ingenuity
  • The Social Lives of Dogs
  • Jane Goodall: 40 Years at Gombe
  • Best Friends: The True Story of the World's Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary
  • Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals
  • Next of Kin
  • Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy
  • The Dog Who Loved Too Much: Tales, Treatments and the Psychology of Dogs
  • Lost and Found: Dogs, Cats, and Everyday Heroes at a Country Animal Shelter
  • The Case for Animal Rights
2984268
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

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…