From Publishers Weekly
Who knew that chickens and humans find the same faces beautiful? Or that fish choose reliable partners for dangerous predator inspection missions? Referencing such intriguing studies, Balcombe (Pleasurable Kingdom
) builds a compelling case for blurring the line between animal and human perception, thereby questioning the prevailing scientific orthodoxy that humans alone possess the ability to reason. Over the years, studies have shown that animals have intelligence (dolphins have been known to teach themselves to delay gratification to get extra treats), emotions (like humans, baboon mothers show elevated levels of glucocorticoids after losing an infant), cunning (gorillas divert the attention of rivals from food, often by grooming); that they can communicate (nuthatches can translate chickadee chirps), can be altruistic (chimps who know how to unlatch a door help those who can't). Yet philosophers have routinely dismissed animals as unthinking, unfeeling beasts—Descartes grouped non-human animals with machines, a line of logic that has been used to justify callous treatment of laboratory animals. Balcombe's brief, marred only slightly by sermonizing, builds to a passionate and persuasive argument for vegetarianism on both humanitarian and environmental grounds. (Mar.)
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Ethologist and author (Pleasurable Kingdom, 2006) Balcombe discusses the broad range of animal experience in this new examination of how animals view the world. As famous South African novelist J. M. Coetzee asks in his foreward, why should the onus fall on animals, whatever their species, to prove that they are sentient? Balcombe answers this question by showing, through a broad-ranging review of both the scientific and philosophic literature, that animals think and feel, that they are sentient and show morality, and that we can no longer treat animals cruelly and carelessly. By examining animal intelligence, perception, and awareness in the first section of the book, the author brings readers into the animals’ experience and helps create appreciation for that experience. In the second section, Balcombe focuses on animal interactions and sociality, demonstrating the sophistication of communication in animals and their resulting emotions and morality. Finally, the author focuses on human coexistence with other animals and his views about how we need to change our treatment of these other sentient beings. Graceful prose makes this an excellent introduction to the examination of animal minds. --Nancy Bent