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Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Macmillan Science) [Hardcover]

Dr Jonathan Balcombe
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 April 2006 Macmillan Science
Pleasurable Kingdom marshalls the latest evidence that animals, like humans, enjoy themselves. It debunks the popular perception that life for most is a continuous, grim struggle for survival. Instead it suggests that creatures from birds to bats to baboons may feel good thanks to play, sex, touch, food, anticipation, comfort, aesthetics and more.
Combining rigorous evidence, elegant argument and amusing anecdote, leading animal behaviour researcher Dr Jonathan Balcombe proposes that evolution favours sensory rewards because they drive living things to stay alive and reproduce.
Animal pain and stress, once controversial, are now acknowledged by legislation in many countries. Likewise the possibility of positive feelings in creatures other than humans has important ramifications for science and society and is thus ripe for informed debate, Balcombe concludes.

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Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Macmillan Science) + Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals (Macmillan Science)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (18 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403986010
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403986016
  • Product Dimensions: 19.9 x 14 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 686,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'Pleasurable Kingdom is a touching look at the complex and at times playful lives of the animals with which we share this planet. Fascinating and often moving, this book emphasizes that animals, like us, truly have personalities, minds and emotions.' Jane Goodall

'In Pleasurable Kingdom, Balcombe draws together an extraordinary amount of information to help us to appreciate that we are not the only species that can, if all goes well, live joyful lives.' - Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, USA

'I predicted, in When Elephants Weep, that in ten years better scientists would write better books about the depth of feelings in animals. Well, that time has come, and here is that book.' - Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Author of When Elephants Weep

'For centuries humanity has justified our extermination of fishes with the myth that they do not have feelings or intelligence. Jonathan Balcombe exposes this myth and presents fishes, with other animals, as sensitive, social, feeling, marvellous sentient beings.' - Captain Paul Watson, Founder of Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

'Pleasurable Kingdom is a love affair with our fellow beings. Balcombe tempts us to consider, more open-mindedly than ever before, the experiences of animals in more ways than traditional science has yet acknowledged, perhaps even imagined.' - Professor Jaak Panksepp, author of Affective Neuroscience

'Dr. Balcombe convincingly argues that animals are individual beings with a wide range of emotions and feeling. If he is correct - and I believe he is - it follows that we must grapple with the ethical consequences of his important insights.' - Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO, The Humane Society of the United States

'This impressive book inspires respect and appreciation for all creatures great and small. It should be a standard text for students of biology and behaviour. All who care for animals will be informed and inspired.' - Dr Michael W. Fox, Veterinarian, columnist, author

'Brisk, erudite and enormously entertaining - an excellent, approachable introduction to the basic issues in animal behaviour.' - Publishers Weekly
Reviews for the Hardback Version:

'Entertaining examples of animal bliss - from drunken parrots to the caresses of fiddler crabs - bring a pleasure all their own.' - Psychology Today

'This is a lively, shrewd, well-argued book on the simple theme that animals are able to feel pleasure.' Times Higher Educational Supplement

'This genial scientist's accounts of enjoyment in the other-than-human world will irritate strict behaviorists and profoundly delight animal lovers.' - Orion Magazine

'This entertaining and thought-provoking book is recommended for popular science collections.' - Library Journal

'A warm and enjoyable book - anyone with an interest in animal welfare (or just in animals) ought to read it.' -

'This book is one in which all campaigners for good animal welfare should invest.' - The Ark

'This well-reasoned, engaging book argues that critters share our capacities for humor, empathy and aesthetic pleasure.' - People Magazine

'Reviews a vast body of scientific literature - full of examples both anecdotal and from refereed journals, and a copious bibliography.' - Booklist

'A joy to read - a carefully balanced book - which also includes some humorous, enlightening and intriguing animal tales.' -

'Superb - has set an agenda for future research. This book will change how we interact with other animal beings.' - Marc Bekoff in Trends in Evolution and Ecology

'His arguments may change your opinion of the next lobster that arrives steaming on your plate.' - Wired News

'Marvelous - as the first book in this field, scholarly or popular, we also have one that sets a high bar.' - Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science

'A touching look at the complex and at times playful lives of the animals with which we share this planet. Fascinating and often moving, this book emphasizes that animals - like us - truly have personalities, minds and emotions.' Jane Goodall
'This wonderful book provides new and truly inspiring evidence that non-human animals experience enjoyment, and that their lives are impoverished when they are denied play, the freedom to roam, companionship, sex, touch and other pleasurable things.' - The Vegan Society

About the Author

JONATHAN BALCOMBE is Animal Behaviour Research Scientist for the Washington DC-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. He has published numerous scientific papers and magazine articles on, among other things, bat communication, turtle nesting and bird breeding. His first book, The Use of Animals in Higher Education: Problems, Alternatives and Recommendations was published by Humane Society Press in 2000.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hymn to Pleasure 20 April 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There is a chapter in 'Pleasurable Kingdom' entitled 'Transcendent Pleasures' which has a section headed 'Mad with joy'. Here we learn about the delight of chimpanzees, released from their winter quarters at Arnham zoo, and that of other chimps given shelter from rain, about the raptures felt by mules brought to the surface after years working in a coal mine, about the joy of dolphins escaping from purse seine nets, of dogs anticipating walks and cattle let into fields after long winters confined in byres. When elephants meet again after a period of absence they can create pandemonium.
Jonathan Balcombe has created a magnificent hymn celebrating the pleasures experienced by animals, from their delight in play, to the enjoyment they find in food, touch, uninhibited sex and love, to the happiness they derive when exhibiting their skills and intelligence and in appreciating those of others. For too long, those of us who thought of such things at all, have dwelt on the harshness of nature and have not allowed the sweet notes to enter our consciousness.
As we listen to the glorious music the images presented before us in rapid succession seem to contain no shadow, until we are finally shown the long, dark shadow thrown by cruel man. We have to look very closely to see any other darkness, but it is there. We see it when we realise that the pleasures described in 'Mad with joy' would not exist were it not for hardship and loss. The apparent bliss of crows standing in the smoke stream of a chimney or spreading their wings over discarded cigarette butts in a railway terminus, may not be because of intoxication, but simply the relief experienced after removal of the fleas which had been driving the birds to distraction.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasurable Read 3 Oct 2010
This is an excellent book for those who are concerned about the welfare of animals. I you are unsure whether or not animals actually have feelings - just as humans have - then this book provides the evidence. You will forever look at all animals in a different light after a pleasurable read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A challenge to blinkered speciesism 10 April 2012
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a terrific book, giving the lie to those who dismissively accuse those of us who ascribe emotions to animals as 'anthropomorphising' Its always seemed to me to be rather crucially the other way round. As human beings are after all also animals, and as we can see clearly the development of anatomical structures across aeons of time, and across species, its absolutely obvious that all the aspects of physiology have also been a-developing. Animals - not just other mammals, but other vertebrates, have neurological and endocrine systems like ours. It has always seemed to me to be supreme arrogance to interpret human behaviour and human emotion one way, and deny that complex behaviour and emotion also exist in animals. Why should we interpret the playful human one way, and see other animals, both wild and domesticated, behaving in a manner which looks playful, and looks as if the animal is enjoying itself, and not draw the conclusion that he/she is also having fun. I have used the term he/she deliberately, as Balcombe does, pointing out that our language, calling animals 'it' removes them from individuality. His tenet in this book is that we have failed to investigate the clear evidence that animals feel 'pleasure' in all its many guises - pleasure from companionship and social bonds with other animals, pleasure in play, a sense of beauty, enjoyment in the feel-good of sex - not just a mechanical urge, but pleasurable, like it is for humans. Even, in one startling image, he presents the idea that certainly other primates may experience a sense of awe. Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting book 7 May 2011
This book taught me about curiosities of the animal world I would have never thought of. Filled with anecdotes and scientific facts, an entertaining read. Five stars out of five.
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