Apr 16, 2019

Mama's Last Hug

Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves
by Frans de Waal

We are not separate from animals in our ability to feel emotion, and now science is finally able to prove this. Studies show that animals have the exact same chemicals and structures in their brains that produce emotions in people, so why do we assume they don't experience the same types of feelings? He discusses how our culture and assumptions of superiority have stood in the way of this understanding for centuries, but also (more interesting to me) describes many incidents and experiments that show animals are capable of feeling anger, unfairness, jealousy, disgust, shame, affection, guilt and empathy (to name just a few). They laugh. They deceive each other. They manipulate power struggles. They learn from their experiences, support their friends, and wait for chance at revenge on their enemies. The author studied chimpanzees so a lot of his examples are about great apes, but many other animals are also included- dogs, elephants, even fish. It's an very thoughtful and eye-opening book that will make you see animals in a different light- they are so much like us. Which- particularly in light of a recent book I read- makes you feel consternation about how we treat thousands of them in captivity and on factory farms- the author addresses this a bit as well, in his final chapters.

I feel like I skipped something reading this book before Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? but the author says he wrote them as companion volumes to each other, though I feel this one probably builds a lot on ideas and facts presented in the former. Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5                   326 pages, 2019


bermudaonion said...

I don't know how anyone who's ever had a pet could possibly think animals don't have emotions.

Jeane said...

I agree with you. But a lot of people still think animals are not self-aware, able to make choices or feel as we do, creatures just driven by instincts and automatic responses to stimuli. I think that mindset is fading, though.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

Oh man, I am really excited to read this -- I thought the preceding volume was excellent, and I think this one's only going to make me more emotional. And yeah, I think it's really going to make me think a lot about the way we treat animals.