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The Emotional Lives of Animals

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4.04  ·  Rating details ·  1,325 Ratings  ·  84 Reviews
Based on Marc Bekoff's years of experience studying communication patterns of a wide range of animals, this important book shows that animals have rich emotional lives. Not only can animal emotions teach us about love, empathy, and compassion, argues Bekoff -- they require us to radically rethink our current relationship of domination and abuse of animals. Bekoff skillfull ...more
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Published February 1st 2010 by New World Library (first published March 2007)
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Adela (Lita)
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Brittany
Apr 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Julie
Feb 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Silvana
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
Doreen
Sep 13, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-research
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
Asoka Selvarajah
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Amber
May 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition

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
Christina Booth
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Erin
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ursula
Mar 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
--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.
Rebekah
May 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Lori
Mar 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Eli
May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Sarah
Jul 19, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Lauren
Mar 06, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Daniel Weissglass
Read if: You want an introduction to animal minds through compelling stories about the emotional lives of animals written for the general public.
Skip if: You a background in animal minds and want something written for professionals or researchers.

A heartwarming, though often superficial, review of the state of the research on animal minds and emotions and the ethical consequences of the consensus that animals have robust emotional lives. Bekoff is extremely good at bringing forth illustrative an
...more
Cláudia
Sempre soube que os animais tinham emoções, tal como o ser humano, mas não sabia da intensidade que essas emoções tinham. Adorei o facto de o autor desta obra calar os cépticos. Desafio qualquer pessoa que chame um animal de "burro" a ler este livro. É praticamente impossível não sentir ternura e afecto pelos animais.
Ashley
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like the overall message of this book, but I am not a fan of the lack of structure that it had. I also did not like that the book seemed to be focused on arguing with people who do not agree that animals have emotions.
Zkoc2076
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is a lovely book, with many charming anecdotes. I think this positive approach to animals, emphasizing their sentience is a refreshing take on the issue of animal rights, which Peter Singer touches upon in the foreword.
Matthew Jensen
This starts well but while it claims to be scholarly research, it is really just a collection of anecdotes. Interesting and enjoyable enough but while in line with my personal opinions on the subject, not really compelling academically.
Ellen
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Couldn't get through the whole thing. I found the content to be too anecdotal and not enough based on research, not really sharing anything new, preaching to the choir about animal rights/benefits of living with animals, and just a shallow/kitschy form of writing.
Carol Turner
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've had liked more stories, less preaching. Anyone picking up this book is already a believer.
Kirsten Cutler
Lots of food for thought, somewhat repetitive, but definitely worth reading.
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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.” 69 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.” 14 likes
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