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When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,870 Ratings  ·  265 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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Charlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteWatership Down by Richard AdamsAnimal Farm by George OrwellBlack Beauty by Anna SewellWhere the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Ethan Fixell
Aug 01, 2007 rated it did not like it
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."

Apr 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
[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
Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Tippy Jackson
Apr 07, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: animalia, abandoned
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
Nov 05, 2007 rated it did not like it
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.
Jun 09, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 26, 2011 rated it did not like it
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,
Jan 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Carole Gropl
Apr 29, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Jul 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, advocacy
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
Nina Bradley
Dec 19, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 14, 2016 marked it as xx-dnf-skim-reference
So much work has been done since this was written, over two decades ago, that all I can say is Yay! I don't have to resort to trying to read this. Right now I'm starting Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures and it promises to be more informative, and at least as important and entertaining, as I imagine this was back in the day. I also recently finished, and enjoyed, The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness and The Minds of Birds.
May 08, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Jun 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2016
Fascinating read about animal emotion. The book provides anecdotal evidence to support the belief that animals, like humans, have complex emotional lives. It does show its age, however (this was first published in 1994), as, from what I know, the proposition that non-human animals also experience things like love, grief, joy, and wrath, among others, is already widely accepted in the scientific community. Wasn't it just last year when a study found that dogs also release oxytocin, the "love horm ...more
Jun 10, 2015 rated it liked it
The concept of this book is pretty simple. It's just basically saying that animals have emotions, in many different aspects. How they face embarrassment, love, joy, etc.

And that's all in the form of many different anecdotes.

I loved reading about animals doing these human like things but it was getting a little repetitive in some areas. I get it-animals experience emotions.

Nonetheless, this was still intersting to read. Not really informational, but good for animal lovers and I guess it's also p
Jan 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2008
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.
Natasha O'rourke
Aug 15, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
Kind of obvious stuff about animals. I was disappointed.
Morgan Podraza
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
WHEN ELEPHANTS WEEP largely uses anecdotal evidence to discuss the wide range of emotions that animals may experience. The book groups similar emotions together within each chapter; though, the categories were sometimes misleading or underrepresented. While I learned a lot from WHEN ELEPHANTS WEEP, Masson's narrative often felt repetitive and unnecessarily long, and by the end of the book, I was definitely ready for it to be over.

Aug 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
Read for a book club. To be fair, this is not a book I would have chosen to read. I kept looking for a plot and a story. Instead I feel that I was being nagged at for little reason. I am a vegetarian but admit that I have killed insects and I prefer leather for my shoes. On the positive side, it was easy reading
Rita O'Connell
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
I got more out of Masson's book "The Pig Who Sang to the Moon," than I did this. "TPWSTTM" was my catalyst for going Vegan from vegetarian--extremely important. This book, however, was too wishy-washy about making statements that Animals DO have emotions. Duh.
Sheila Nielson
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Tons of anecdotal stories about animals that were fun and interesting to read. But in the end there was no clear evidence on the emotional lives of animals. It read like a long scientific journal and I wanted it to be over long before it was.
Amber Rose
May 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a terrible book, I just wasn't intrigued and I lost interest. But to be fair I really don't like non fiction so this is kind of biased
Fran Hickey
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good info interesting,but very dry
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an early (1995) look at the emotional lives of animals, attempting to counter the attitudes that they have no emotions. Although there are more recent books in the same vein, Masson is very readable and makes good points.
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
May 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book examines examples of animals displaying emotions and argues the case for humans to treat animals with more respect.
It is an astounding read in many ways, the ignorance (and arrogance) of some scientist and the cruelty they inflict is distressing. I was also surprised to read that up until the 1980s (yes, that’s 19..) it was believed human babies did not feel pain, so when they performed operations on them they gave them paralytic drugs (to stop them moving) but no aesthetic.
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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...

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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?” 3 likes
“A lion is not a lion if it is only free to eat, to sleep and to copulate. It deserves to be free to hunt and to choose its own prey; to look for and find its own mate; to fight for and hold its own territory; and to die where it was born—in the wild. It should have the same rights as we have.” 1 likes
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