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Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (MacSci) [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Balcombe
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The recognition of animal pain and stress, once controversial, is now acknowledged by legislation in many countries, but there is no formal recognition of animals' ability to feel pleasure. Pleasurable Kingdom is the first book for lay-readers to present new evidence that animals--like humans--enjoy themselves. It debunks the popular perception that life for most is a continuous, grim struggle for survival and the avoidance of pain. Instead it suggests that creatures from birds to baboons feel good thanks to play, sex, touch, food, anticipation, comfort, aesthetics, and more. Combining rigorous evidence, elegant argument and amusing anecdotes, leading animal behavior researcher Jonathan Balcombe proposes that the possibility of positive feelings in creatures other than humans has important ethical ramifications for both science and society.

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

'Highly readable...I hope Pleasurable Kingdom encourages study of animal pleasure, because it worked for me.' - Nicola Robinson,

Professor Jaak Panksepp, author of 'Affective Neuroscience'

'Balcombe tempts us to consider…the experiences of animals in more ways than traditional science has yet acknowledged, perhaps even imagined.'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 614 KB
  • Print Length: 285 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1403986029
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade (2 May 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001BNT4C0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #388,154 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
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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
By Ita
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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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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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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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book's main premise is that animals are not, as long postulated in research, unfeeling automatons driven by instinct alone but very much individuals, capable of feeling and emotion and that they need to be treated as such. While this may seem intuitively appealing to a lot of animal owners, it is still a relatively fresh avenue of research in animal study.

The author brings a multitude of research findings on the topic to the table and produces a hybrid between a scientific publication and impassioned plea for treating animals as feeling individuals. While certainly interesting and easy to read, he is more or less preaching to the choir, while I am not sure that skeptics will be convinced by the largely case study based observations presented.

The number of examples is certainly high - ranging from feelings of pain, joy, love, companionship, addictive behavior, etc. after a while I could not help thinking that the point would be brought across more poignantly and strongly, if fewer examples were treated in more depth. As it is, it starts feeling more like a collection of which additional species have been observed displaying which additional emotion.

Still, it is a book worth taking the time for (even if you do not read it cover to cover) and while one cannot describe it as a scientific meta study, the author takes care not to deny the current evolutionary viewpoint but rather enriches it with the 'feeling' aspect. The very substantial bibliography and index at the end is a good place to start for readers, whose interest has been piqued by the book and who would like to explore the subject in more depth.
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