Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How Animals Grieve by Barbara J. King

The feeling of emotions and self-awareness in animals other than humans is still a fairly recent topic in science. Historically the science community as a whole and probably much of society assumed that animals did not feel or think. Instead, animals were thought to be governed by instincts. The idea that animals could grieve would have been ridiculed, except possibly by sympathetic pet owners who witnessed behaviors hard to attribute to emotionless beings. A book like How Animals Grieve by Barbara J. King was unthinkable.

After much research, some scientists are now positing that animals (including humans) are complex emotionally. They recognize that members of species do not all behave the same. The consequence is that humans must now consider their actions and the suffering they may cause by inconsiderate acts towards animals. Anthropologist King is part of the movement studying how animals experience life in a world dominated by humans.

How Animals Grieve is a book in a space between disciplines. King is faithful to her scientific training and resists projecting human motivation onto other species, but she also reports many stories, some of them personal, that give evidence to a great variety of animal responses to death of their companions. She also discusses the possibility that animals love. Two chapters near the end look at human grief practices.

How Animals Grieve is published by an academic press but is easy reading for almost anyone who regularly uses a library card. Animal lover will enjoy King's storytelling and concern for the ethical treatment of our companion species.

King, Barbara J. How Animals Grieve. University of Chicago Press, 2013. 193p. ISBN 9780226436944.

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