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Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals (Macmillan Science) [Hardcover]

Jonathan Balcombe
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: 22.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

11 Mar 2010 Macmillan Science
Jonathan Balcombe's follow-up to his successful first book, Pleasurable Kingdom, is an eloquent and scientifically informed account, which shatters the myth that animals eat and reproduce mindlessly and shows how we humans have to learn to treat them as sentient beings capable of feelings and pain and emotions.

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

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan (11 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230613624
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230613621
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 283,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'...fascinating, well-written, consistently thought-provoking, and deserves a wide readership.' – The Guardian

'Jonathan Balcombe has brought together...evidence that animals have far more in common with us humans than we might like to suppose.  As well as cunning and intelligence, they can also show kindness and sensitivity.' - The Evening Standard 
'...captivating and disquieting...' - Human Givens
'...J.M. Coetzee...praises Balcombe as "a scientist who has escaped the narrow orthodoxies of institutional science". This is true." - TLS

Praise for Pleasurable Kingdom: 

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

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

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

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

'Fascinating and often moving, this book emphasizes that animals  - like us  - truly have personalities, minds and emotions.' - Jane Goodall, Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace

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

'A well-argued thesis.' - Scientific American

'… lively, shrewd, well-argued … an admirable contribution.' - Mary Midgley, in Times Higher Education Supplement

Book Description

The full depth and breadth of animal existence is revealed with a foreword by J.M. Coetzee

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this book after hearing Jonathan Balcombe on a BBC radio broadcast talking about the sentience and intelligence of even the "dumbest" animals (chickens and fish), and about the contribution of animal husbandry to environmental problems confronting the world.

I experienced some disappointment when I began his book in that its first came across as a kaleidoscopic collection of abbreviated anecdotes, each amazing in its own right but all too briefly described and often sequenced in disjointed order. However, Balcombe makes up for such failings in the third and final section of his book where he powerfully argues the case for a change in human perceptions and treatment of animals, and in particular for an end to the cruelties inflicted on them in the pursuit of human well-being, economic growth and material greed. Balcombe argues persuasively that animal species, as in the case of humanity, are made up of individuals each with its own sensitivities, memories, emotions and "inner life", no matter how different these might be from our own, and that cruel commercial exploitation of animals is as iniquitous and debasing as cruelty to members of our own species.

Even if one were to disagree with him on that point, it would be much more difficult to refute his proposition that the livestock industry is the most environmentally damaging of all human activities in terms of greenhouse gas production (being significantly higher than that of all the world's transport systems), fresh water consumption and habitat destruction. If one accepts these as undeniable, then one has also to accept Balcombe's deduction that the simplest and most effective contribution that each one of us can make towards improving the world that we inhabit is to stop supporting this destructive industry by changing our eating habits, either by consuming less meat, or cutting it out of our diets altogether. I for one, need no more convincing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars second nature: the inner life of animals 3 May 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent and well thought out book. It is interesting, thought provoking and very well referenced as well as packed with fascinating anecdotal evidence. Everyone who cares about our fellow creatures and our own species survival on this endangered planet needs to read it.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Invite to a New Humanity 28 May 2010
I remember as a child eating meat products with names like `jellied veal', `liver-sausage', `corned beef', `hazlet', `ox-tail soup' and `tongue'. They were just labels at the time, for things I put in my mouth. Only much later would I associate them with animals.

Now, reading Jonathan Balcombe's new book `Second Nature - The Inner Lives of Animals' I'm asking myself why it took so long to make that rather obvious connection. In fact, it's got me thinking about a whole host of issues related to how we as a species perceive and treat other animals - nonhuman beings as Balcombe prefers to call them. For the issues Second Nature addresses have as much to do with human morality and ethics as they do with animal behaviour.

Balcombe wants to open our eyes to the possibility of accepting animals as fellow sentient beings, with feelings and emotions as real to them as ours are to us; beings with lives that are pleasurable and worth living for their own sake; lives worthy of sensitivity and respect. As Balcombe puts it: "My chief aim in this book is to close the gap between human beings and animals - by helping us understand the animal experience, and by elevating animals from their lowly status."

He begins by setting out the evidence for animal sentience, emotion and feeling, then discusses the implications this has for human attitudes and actions.

Part I summarises the findings of numerous field and laboratory studies that demonstrate a range of animal capabilities, experiences and sensitivities we usually associate more with people. Part II is a description of how animals use these qualities to interact and communicate between themselves and with other species, including man.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This book appears to be about animals but is actually a work of philosophy that seeks to displace man from his pedestal - exciting and delightful. Could usefully be read in conjunction with Lydia Millet's irreverent but wrenching Love in Infant Monkeys
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the second book I've read by Balcombe, an animal behaviourist of the right sort. By which I mean that he views animals with respect and empathy, in the same way, I surmise, as he views other members of his own animal species.

Essentially, this is the nub of the book. Balcombe eschews the idea of 'anthropomorphising' because in effect he shows (backed up by good references and citing) how time and again many of the 'higher' behaviours which we arrogantly assume are evidence of our unique 'humanity' - such as altruism, empathy, the ability to reason, language are in fact 'animalistic'. There is not such a clear divide between ourselves and the rest of the, particularly, mammalian and avian world, though Balcombe also shows reptiles, fish and even insects to be more advanced than we might suppose.

In fact, rather disturbingly, the idea cannot help but surface that our unique humanness may rather be a retrograde capacity to delight in the wanton infliction of suffering upon others, whether of our own species or of other, supposedly dumb (sic) animals. Balcombe posits that we may well have introduced the philiosophy of regarding ourselves as separate from other species in order to justify this brutality, to find an excuse for our cruelty towards other animals - and indeed, our cruelty, expressed across cultures, geographies and the centuries, towards individuals and groups of our own species, which the dominant cultural group regards as 'subhuman'. This ability to separate the human from the subhuman has been responsible for some of our most intense acts of racial cruelty.

Balcombe's well written, carefully thought through book ends with an impassioned argument in favour of veganism, on environmental grounds, as much as any other argument against the exploitation of our fellow, though non-human, animals.
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