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The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy - and Why They Matter
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The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy - and Why They Matter

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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  1,647 ratings  ·  111 reviews
Based on award-winning scientist Marc Bekoff’s years studying social communication in a wide range of species, this important book shows that animals have rich emotional lives. Bekoff skillfully blends extraordinary stories of animal joy, empathy, grief, embarrassment, anger, and love with the latest scientific research confirming the existence of emotions that common sens ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 9th 2007 by New World Library
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 ·  1,647 ratings  ·  111 reviews


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Adela (Lita)
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: animal
I had high hopes for this book but I've been disappointed by the frame the author chose for the book. Bekoff is trying to teach people who don't necessarily agree that animals have "emotional lives" about the behaviors and signs that speak for animal emotions. However, he argues for the relevance of the work he and other scientists have done by asserting that the emotional lives of animals are important to humans because we need animals. In other words, the reasons for writing this book come acr ...more
Melodie
The premise of this book is to call for a reassessment of how we view animals and how their emotional lives at least to some point drive their behavior. The author puts forth the belief that animals are thinking, feeling sentient beings as we are. And because they are we need to reassess and change the way we study them,care for them and use them.
The book is short and readable in that I didn't have to have a dictionary beside me to understand it. Having been written for lay people, there were
...more
Brittany
Apr 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: anthrozoology
This was a remarkable and important overview of the emotional lives of animals, what they mean for our worldview and human society. It included some wonderful, touching stories, and some very interesting points.

The book was hampered by the lack of a defined structure, but was readable and enjoyable for all that. The occasional spate of weak writing crept in (and there was some abuse of exclamation points).

The main flaw is that the author seems to suffer from black-and-white vision and an super
...more
Reese
Jun 13, 2011 marked it as read-selected-parts  ·  review of another edition
I started reading Marc Bekoff's THE EMOTIONAL LIVES OF ANIMALS several weeks ago. I was moving through it at my usual snail's pace, reading every word and hoping that my interest in the material would soon equal my interest in the book BEFORE I began reading it. Then I found myself skimming pages, then skipping pages. Still, I resisted conceding the possibility that a book entitled THE EMOTIONAL LIVES OF ANIMALS might be dull. Eventually I got tired of being bored. Not even the joy of discoverin ...more
Asoka Selvarajah
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book that gives many valuable insights.

Don't believe the negative reviews. These are made mostly by non-scientists caught up in the new religion that Science has become. By its very nature, the findings recorded in this book are observational, i.e. of the animals in their normal environment. Hence, you cannot run the same test identically 1000 times as you can do determine the boiling point of water. I am a PhD in Nuclear Physics. I know what Science can and cannot do. In
...more
Parker F
Dec 29, 2011 rated it did not like it
As a neurobiologist investigating the neural substrates of behavior, I was initially very interested in this book. Despite years of education in neuroscience, I have never satisfactorily been able to discuss animal emotion and have worried that I've approached the issue with an anthropocentric arrogance. This book has unintentionally convinced me that we can never fully understand or valuate the emotional lives of animals and that the case for human-like (i.e., complex) emotions in animals is ex ...more
Silvana
Apr 18, 2008 rated it liked it
Most people who read this book probably already have the inclination to respect animals and believe that they experience a myriad of emotions so the author is unfortunately, preaching to the choir. If only the people who really needed to be made aware of the topic of this book would actually pick it up. Most moving/memorable story was that of Jasper, the moon bear - held captive in a rusting "crush cage" at a bear bile farm in China (good old China!) for 15 years! The book did feel a bit abbrevi ...more
Julie
Feb 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
I wouldn't criticize this book for over-reliance on anecdotes, because Bekoff never contends that he is scientifically rigorous in a traditional sense - in fact, he partially rejected accepted scientific method in refusing to perform dissections while still a student. His arguments that animals need to be observed and studied in their natural habitats is a cogent one, supported by other modern scientists and naturalists - including Renee Askins, whose Shadow Mountain is another terrific recent r ...more
Doreen
Sep 13, 2010 rated it liked it
While I agree with many of the reviewers that this book preaches to the choir and doesn't make arguments that move beyond justifying a humane and ethical approach to animals based on what they can offer and provide us, I think the book is worth reading if only to point out not only that animals have a significant range of emotions that may be equal to or even surpass what humans feel, but that we shouldn't judge animals based on their pet-friendliness or their cutesy qualities. Rather, an import ...more
Amber
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it
I really like the *idea* of this book, but I feel like it could have been a third as long (or the same length with better/more data). There was **a lot** of repetition of "it's obvious that animals have emotions" and "there is scientific data to back it up" but not as many actual impressive anecdotes recounting intelligence/sentience/emotion or hard data from studies of neurotransmitters/lab experiments/etc.

Overall I think he basically made his point that animals are more self aware, socially aw
...more
Correen
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it

Bekoff makes his case for the existence of feelings in animals -- I hope scientists soon accept this idea, quit railing about anthropomorphism, and recognize the similarities of our systems. The issue seems so obvious that no book of this sort would be needed but the issue remains.

The author gave interesting examples of animals displaying emotions. Many of these I had read elsewhere but the set of examples enjoyable. There was some cellular explanations to support his thesis -- mirror cells.

In g
...more
Ursula
Mar 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
--ABANDONED--

It's an interesting topic, which makes it seem like it should have also been an interesting book. I made it just over halfway through, but the writing was tedious and although I enjoyed the anecdotes he included, the book didn't hold together that well overall. Positive: I liked the foreword by Jane Goodall. Negative: I found myself skipping paragraphs at a time once Bekoff's writing started.
...more
Sarah
Jul 19, 2009 rated it did not like it
Supposed scientific studies were rarely cited, and the ones he did explain were flimsy at best. I actually agree with what he's saying, I just feel like he did a disservice to his cause by writing this book. ...more
987643467881
Nov 14, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
I should preface this review with the fact that it's coming from someone who believes that if people have “emotions” then so do other sentient animals, whether or not science could ever prove this - I happen to be a big softy who just doesn't see the point of bending science in order to either validate/justify my emotional responses or to prove them to be superior/more ethical to those of others. Of course depending on what you classify as proof, or even what you define “emotions” as (e.g. behav ...more
Kristen E.
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing!!!!
Emma
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The most important practical takeaway from this book is that "well-being centers on what animals feel, not what they know" (knowledge, intelligence, and emotions aren't necessarily correlated, and the ability to suffer depends on emotions, so we shouldn't base our moral judgments on knowledge or intelligence the way a lot of people do when they say things like "it's okay to eat a fish but not a cow").

Bekoff is more focused on practical considerations than a lot of people. He's aware that the res
...more
Christina Booth
Nov 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Marc Bekoff takes his scientific research, that he has accumulated for over thirty years, and turns it into a charming book proving that animals do in fact have emotions. It is clear that he is trying to prove to his readers that animals have feelings and these feelings need to be respected. Bekoff proves his findings through several anecdotes and first hand experiences he’s had over the years. His lighthearted humor and touching stories is what gave this book life. It wasn’t a boring essay fill ...more
Tami
Jul 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Emily
Jan 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
I love this book! Marc Bekoff is a leading scientist in the area of cognitive ethology (the observation of animals under natural conditions). As an animal lover, I found myself nodding along to all of his statements. Even though Marc Bekoff presents scientific content, his writing style is simple and straight-forward. He thoroughly explains the scientific terms he uses. I walked away from the book having learned several new terms. My favorite is anthropomorphism, which is the attribution of uniq ...more
Lucia
Jan 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature
I skimmed parts. I was mostly reading for the sweet and fascinating stories and anecdotes.

I've read or skimmed other books in this vein, and they seemed really obvious. (duh, we've all witnessed family pets exhibiting joy, grief, fear, jealousy.)
This book wasn't "obvious," and it was an easy and pleasant read.

The implications of 'yes, pigs are smart,' 'yes, cows play games and act vain,' and 'yes, the creatures you eat feel pain and fear,' were pretty clear and thought-provoking, so I skipped t
...more
Lizzy
Aug 05, 2019 rated it did not like it
This is not a scientific book (despite the author’s claims). Bekoff cherry picks data and shoves anecdotes down your throat and it’s gaggingly saccharine. While I do believe animals have emotions, he goes way extreme. I wouldn’t mind if he supported his data well but his arguments are so lazy, repetitive and not convincing. A lot of his stories don’t even really demonstrate the point he’s going for well.

It would be interesting if he delved into the complexities of animal behavior - the good and
...more
Erin
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
The first half he tries to convince you that animals have feelings. (I think if you're reading this book, you probably already believe that.) The second half he segues into arguments for improved treatment of animals across the board. This book is not at all scientifically rigorous, if that's what you're looking for. Having said that, it's a very quick read, with many cute animal anecdotes, so why not. ...more
Emma
Although I appreciate what Marc Bekoff was trying to do, he relied too heavily on anecdotes to illustrate his arguments, probably in an attempt to create a book that would appeal to the general public. While these anecdotes were interesting and often extremely moving, I don’t think they would be enough to convince anyone who didn’t already agree that animals have rich emotional lives of their own.
Rebekah
May 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
finally finished this. while not a light read (it goes a little overboard with scientific "data" at times), it was very enjoyable, and at times, a little heartbreaking. it never ceases to astound me just how deep the bonds animals can create go. a wonderful read.
And I really think elephants are amazing creatures!
...more
Lori
Mar 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
For animal lovers everywhere...
This book delves into the ethnology and emotions of animals ranging from the elephant to the mouse. The author uses scientific research to back his theories. Jane Goodall writes a compelling introduction.
Shelly
Jan 22, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: book-group
In a world full of dynamic, well crafted books this isn't one of them. There isn't enough time in the universe to read everything, so I think I will leave this to others with more interst and tolerance. ...more
Eli
May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
everybody should read this along with Bekoff's other books, Wild Justice, Animal Manifesto, and combine it with reading the Bond by Lynne McTaggart. We, the human animal, need a new paradigm to live by, and these offer insight as to how to get there.
...more
John Taylor
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written piece which to my thinking called into question more about the science aspects of how animals are treated during their lives in research facilities and the like. I thoroughly enjoyed the book but wouldn't recommend it to someone who's not interested keenly in cognitive ethology. ...more
Lauren
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Animal-lover/determined reader
I’ve been trying to think of a simple way to describe this book and here it is: sometimes succulent, but elsewhere hard to swallow. It isn't necessarily the ideas that you can't get down, but the styling and tone of the author.

Before I began reading, I had done previous research about the author's topic—animal emotions—so I was familiar with his point of view. I knew I knew Marc Bekoff (the author) is considered a radical so I expected a strong point of view. However, I consider myself a champ

...more
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