Did you know that animals have rich emotional lives? This book, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, written by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy, is based on scientific studies and anecdotal field notes of biologists and many others who work with animals, and it is mind-blowing to learn the spectrum of emotions felt by other animals.
This book is as much about human emotions as it is about the emotions of other non-human species. The authors write, “One of the most common emotions humans feel in the presence of another species is awe. The ability of a hawk to soar, of a seal to race through the waves is marvelous, humbling.” I could relate to that and you probably can too. Many people feel exhilaration when a flock of wild geese flies across the sky, making their amazing honking sounds.
Quite a number of species are reviewed in this fascinating book. In the section on elephants I learned that in India it is widely believed that elephants weep emotional tears. Then in the conclusion, Masson states this about animals: “They are individuals and members of groups, with elaborate histories that take place in a concrete world, and involve a large number of complex emotional states. They feel throughout their lives, just as we do.” And he quotes Jeremy Bentham’s written words from 1789: “The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”
Also in the conclusion, Masson writes, “No one assumes the pig wants to die. It would avoid slaughter if it could. It feels the desire to live and the pain of its sorrow in being killed just as humans do; the only difference is that it cannot say so in words. The crying of the pigs being slaughtered is horrible. People report that they sound like human screams. The pigs are communicating their terrible fear.” And this: “We do know what the cow wants: the cow wants to live. The cow does not wish to sacrifice itself for any reason. That a cow will willingly offer itself as food is a fable.”
I highly recommend this book if you would like to learn more about the emotional lives of animals as well as the emotional lives of humans. It is a very interesting scholarly read.
May All Beings Be Free of Suffering. May All Beings Be Happy!