The Emotional Lives Of Animals By Marc Bekoff, PhD
Scientist Marc Bekoff has early childhood memories of wondering what it would be like to be a fox. His parents often told him that he always “minded animals,” and he’s never lost his fascination with his fellow creatures.
Today, Mark is considered a leading researcher in the fields of animal behavior and cognitive ethology. His work has clearly proven that animals live complex, deeply emotional lives.
Many of his fellow scientists, however, prefer not to accept his conclusions. Doing so would force them to think twice about laboratory and factory-farm animal abuse.
Ironically, many of these same scientists own pets — and enjoy talking about their liveliness and joy. In The Emotional Lives of Animals, Marc writes about witnessing this behavior, specifically at cocktail parties:
“In these settings, scientists will speak freely of their pets’ intelligence and feelings, but those statements vanish once they put on the lab coat on Monday morning.”
Marc dedicated his book to two of his favorite animals, Jasper the bear and Pablo the chimpanzee.
Jasper is a moon bear who was imprisoned on a bile farm in a “crush cage” for 15 years. These coffin-size cages compress bears’ bodies so they are lying completely flat. The goal is to increase the animals’ bile production.
After being rescued and moved to an animal sanctuary, Jasper seems to have recovered emotionally and physically from the abuse. Marc reports, “A mischievous, fun-loving bear today, Jasper is everybody’s friend, bears and people alike.”
Pablo, however, was not so lucky. Confined to a New York University laboratory cage, he received multiple injections of test vaccines. Ultimately, he was given 10 thousand times the lethal dose of HIV.
When Pablo died, the lab’s other chimps responded with intense grief. One eyewitness describes the heartbreaking scene:
“Alone or in pairs, they tug at his arms, open his eyes, groom him, rub his swollen belly… before, the chimps wander off hooting. The hoots blossom into screams, and soon the wall of the chimp house echo with the sound of knuckles pounding steel.”
Chimpanzees also express many other emotions. Marc repeats the account of a researcher who watched a chimp being born.
As soon as the baby arrived, the mother’s closest friend let out a celebratory scream and embraced two other chimps. She then spent several weeks tending to both the mother and her newborn.
Mark wishes he could save every animal in a lab cage or under other terrible confinement. He can’t do that. So, whenever he can, he does the next-best thing: apologizes!
“I make a point of apologizing to each and every individual animal who finds himself or herself being unintentionally or intentionally subjected to inhumane treatment. I believe that even just the expression of compassion can make a difference in the life of someone who is suffering.”
By writing The Emotional Lives of Animals, Marc is challenging us to open our eyes and our hearts.
As he puts it, “We’re not the only sentient creatures with feelings, and with this knowledge come the enormous responsibility and obligation to treat other beings with respect, appreciation, compassion, and love.”