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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review: The Moral Lives of Animals by Dale Peterson

The Moral Lives of AnimalsPublisher: Bloomsbury Press
ISBN: 1596914246
Pages: 352 pages
Genre: Non-Fiction
Challenges-100+ Reading Challenge, Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge
Buy this Book: Amazonclip_image001_thumb_thumb, Powell's, Indiebound clip_image0013_thumb_thumbclip_image0014_thumb_thumb

Summary from publisher:
Wild elephants walking along a trail stop and spontaneously try to protect and assist a weak and dying fellow elephant. Laboratory rats, finding other rats caged nearby in distressing circumstances, proceed to rescue them. A chimpanzee in a zoo loses his own life trying to save an unrelated infant who has fallen into a watery moat.
The examples above and many others, argues Dale Peterson, show that our fellow creatures have powerful impulses toward cooperation, generosity, and fairness. Yet it is commonly held that we Homo sapiens are the only animals with a moral sense-that we are somehow above and apart from our fellow creatures.
This rigorous and stimulating book challenges that notion, and it shows the profound connections-the moral continuum-that link humans to many other species. Peterson shows how much animal behavior follows principles embodied in humanity's ancient moral codes, from the Ten Commandments to the New Testament. Understanding the moral lives of animals offers new insight into our own.
Dale Peterson's biography Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book and Boston Globe Best Book of 2006. His other publications include Visions of Caliban (with Jane Goodall) and Demonic Males (with Richard Wrangham). Peterson lectures in English at Tufts University.
My Review:
I am an animal lover. I think animals trump humans in their capacity for boundless love and compassion. I knew I would love this book the minute I started it.
I have never come across a book that made so much sense to me. It is arrogant of humans to think that we are the only ones with a moral code. Humans are also not the only creatures with the ability to feel love or compassion. Anyone who has a pet knows this. Some of the examples were heartwrenching yet illustrative at the same time. This was definitely an awakening type of experience but not necessarily a pleasure read.
This was not the easiest read. There were some examples that involved animal cruelty that made me a bit sick. It wasn’t disturbing really but my reactions to many of the examples were intense and I consider myself to be very thick skinned.  I think this would be a challenging read for any animal lover but a productive one. I did not feel as if it was gratuitous at all. All of the examples illustrated the author’s point and research perfectly. This is not for the faint-hearted at all but I think anyone who has trouble recognizing the intelligence of animals needs to read this book.
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review.   My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies   made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the  blog.


  1. This does sound very interesting. I would be very interested in this book. I am an animal lover too. ;)

  2. I am typing this with one of my cats on my lap, snuggling. I love animals and they are the reasons I became a vegetarian - I can't discern the difference between the food I eat and the pets and animals I love.

    I'm definitely going to read this book.



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