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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

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,532 ratings  ·  102 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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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Kristen E.
May 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Mar 06, 2013 rated it did not like it

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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vanessa Wright
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horses, green-living
Does your horse really love you? Are your dogs sincerely sad when you're away? In The Emotional Lives of Animals, internationally renowned biologist Dr. Marc Bekoff pairs scientific research with poignant true stories to make a persuasive case for the existence of emotions in animals.

"...[A]nimals feel," states Bekoff in the book's first paragraph, "and their emotions are as important to them as ours are to us." In the 130+ meticulously-endnoted pages that follow, he documents and interprets exp
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

Samantha Rizzo
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: activism
An exceptional combination of common sense, compassion, and science.
All animals share a similar core of emotions.
There are many examples of what we would call empathy found in non-human animals - which until recently, was thought to be a very human emotion.
Not the human kind, but of the dog/cat/mouse kind.
Short, concise chapters.
We can learn so much from natural observation that doesn’t need to harm or exploit.
I especially like the idea of awe and wonder of nature (chimp waterfall dance) wh
Michelle Hopkins
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I support all defenses of animals and their feelings; in 60 years, I’ve never been without an animal and often have lived with several. Even so, I feel like Marc Bekoff tried to tackle his topic on too many fronts and the result was superficial on all of them. The non-believer will not be sufficiently persuaded and the believer will not learn anything new. I think the author may have realized this when he concluded that he only hopes people will be more reflective about animals and actions that ...more
Mike Collins
Aug 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although a pretty slow slog to get into and the book being fragmented into page long sub chapters which I am not a fan of, I came away from this book with positive thoughts.
Marc Bekoff clearly knows his topic of emotional lives in animals and backs up his arguments and thoughts clearly. It is clear at this point in time emotional capacity exists in a vast number of species.
The highlights of the book include personal anecdotes from his scientific career alongside reports gathered through other j
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“When animals express their feelings they pour out like water from a spout. Animals' emotions are raw, unfiltered, and uncontrolled. Their joy is the purest and most contagious of joys and their grief the deepest and most devastating. Their passions bring us to our knees in delight and sorrow.” 74 likes
“Lacking a shared language, emotions are perhaps our most effective means of cross-species communication. We can share our emotions, we can understand the language of feelings, and that's why we form deep and enduring social bonds with many other beings. Emotions are the glue that binds.” 17 likes
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