BOOKS: Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2006:

Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good
by Jonathan Balcombe
Palgrave/MacMillan (175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010), 2006.
256 pages, hardcover. $24.95.

Balcombe writes, “When animals are stereotyped, the public
is done a disservice. Reinforcing the myth, we perpetuate a
one-dimensional perception of the animal kingdom….It is only when
we get close to animals, and examine them with open minds, that we
are likely to glimpse the being within. Natural history writing is
strewn with incidents in which writers are moved to awe by the
intelligence, sensitivity and awareness of animals they have lived
with.”
Balcombe points out many aspects of pleasure-seeking animal
behavior. As all vertebrates have a nervous system very much the
same as ours, it is reasonable to assume that all are alive to both
pain and pleasure, contrary to the derision that greeted authors who
suggested this in earlier times. As Balcombe points out, “In the
face of these discoveries, the position that pleasurable states are
the sole domain of the human species is narrow and anthropocentric.
To deny animals conscious experiences is to deny that they plan,
desire, anticipate, tease, grieve, enjoy, tolerate, and gauge.
It is to reject that they make decisions.”

With such evidence as this book has to offer, we as a
species need to take a deeper look into our own morality, to give
thought to whether that little mouthful of flesh which we put on the
plate justifies depriving a sentient being of the many pleasures of
life.
“If animals feel more than pain but are also capable of
pleasure,” then surely we have an even greater responsibility to
them.
Of minor note: on page 20, figure 1.3 illustrates an eriolobis or
camel-thorn branch, not Zisyphus mucronata or wait-a-bit thorn,
which has hooked barbs, not the long white thorns shown in the
picture.
–Beverley Pervan

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