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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hymn to Pleasure, 20 April 2010
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This review is from: Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Paperback)
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. I suspect that a life of uninterrupted pleasure would be no more satisfying for an animal than it would be for a human.
It seems begrudging to award this book only four stars instead of five. I enjoyed it immensely, but these shadowless, too-numerous animals hopping in and out of my consciousness failed to touch my heart in the way that, say, Doris Lessing's cats did.
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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 review is from: Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Paperback)
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
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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.

As he points out, carefully tracing what appears to be complex emotion back and back - even to invertebrates, to insects, once we begin to see the adaptive, in evolutionary terms, nature of 'feel-good' and to see that 'dumb animals' not only feel pain, but also the complexities of the pleasurable (a much more individualised, personal identity response than the pain response) we should be forced to change our thinking about the separation between ourselves and other species.

The further I read into this book, the more Jainism, with its deep respect for all that lives, makes scientific, not just ethical sense.

My only cavil about this excellently put together, well-written, carefully argued and researched book is that I wish the extensive bibliography and citing of published research material had been footnote referenced, rather than all the books and studies cited in a chapter collected together at the end of the book, as I wanted to look for the evidence of some of the more surprising information given.

Its possible that this may have been done in the physical text, but certainly is not a feature of the Kindle edition.
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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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, enjoyable, 26 Dec 2009
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M. Martinez Macipe "Sundari" (Barcelona) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Paperback)
I enjoyed it a lot. I love his point of view of animal consciousness and there are a lot of examples which should be taken in consideration before deciding how do you feel about animals. I really recommend it!
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5.0 out of 5 stars obligatory reading, 6 May 2013
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This is one of the best impulse buys I have ever made. The contents are very efficiently organised, the narrative is engaging, and there is a wonderful balance of science and anecdote. And the subject is of great importance. The author postulates that animals are, not unlike us, feeling, unique individuals that deserve to be treated with consideration and respect. They can feel fear and joy, they appreciate beauty and play games, they enjoy relaxation and thrills of risk, they can feel love and resentment. Some of them even develop a sense of humour and morality. "An animal destined for the slaughterhouse still deserves respect and compassion."

I recommend this book to everyone. I would put it on the obligatory reading lists at schools, if I only could.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best behaviour books I have read, 1 Jan 2013
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Lene Houe (Hvalso, Denmark) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Paperback)
I wil absolutely recommend this book to others.
You will perceive the world in an other way, when you have read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Looking at animals from a feeling perspective - an ode to treating animals more humanely, 31 May 2012
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AK (London) - See all my reviews
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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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Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good
Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good by Dr Jonathan Balcombe (Paperback - 29 Jun 2007)
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