Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals

Jonathan Balcombe, Author, J. M. Coetzee, Foreword by , foreword by J.M. Coetzee. Palgrave $27 (242p) ISBN 978-0-230-61362-1

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.)

Reviewed on: 12/21/2009
Release date: 03/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
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