Books  General Natural History  Philosophy, Ethics & Religion 

In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human-Animal Relationships

By: James Serpell

283 pages, 22 b/w Photos

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Sep 1996 | Edition: 2 | #59546 | ISBN: 0521577799
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NHBS Price: £24.99 $34/€28 approx

About this book

In his study of human-animal relationships Serpell analyses the background behind this unusual rapport, with a series of social and environmental insights into the evolution of human attitudes towards animals and nature across history.

'Arguing by copious example in a thoroughly well-researched and well-written book, Serpell demonstrates that pet-keeping appeals both to a wide variety of cultures throughout the world, and to all social classes within Western society.' Stephen Jay Gould, The New York Review of Books 'In the Company of Animals is a work of cross-cultural panache. Serpell writes passionately and well about a subject that seems to have fallen between the cracks of specialisations. His overview is sweeping and provocative.' R. Z. Sheppard, Time Magazine '... why did James Serpell feel the need to write a book in defence of pet-keeping? Surely this is one aspect of human behaviour that requires no advocacy. But read on. Indeed, read his book, for it is full of fascinating comments on a subject that many of us have taken for granted.' Desmond Morris, BBC Wildlife


Part I. A Paradox: 1. Of pigs and pets; Part II. The Case Against Pets: 2. Substitutes for people; 3. Instruments of follie; 4. Pets in tribal societies; 5. A cuckoo in the nest; Part III. An Alternative View: 6. Pets as panacea; 7. Health and friendship; 8. Four-legged friends; Part IV. Exploitation and Sympathy: A Conflict of Interests: 9. The myth of human supremacy; 10. Killer with a conscience; 11. Licensed to kill; 12. The fall from grace.

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James Serpell is the Marie A. Moore Professor of Humane Ethics and Animal Welfare at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, where he also directs the Center for the Interaction of Animals & Society. He received his bachelor's degree in Zoology from University College London (UK) in 1974, and his PhD in Animal Behavior from the University of Liverpool (UK) in 1980. He moved to his current position at the University of Pennsylvania in 1993. Dr. Serpell is the current President of the International Society for Anthrozoology (ISAZ). He serves on the editorial boards of most of the major journals on animal welfare, applied animal behavior, and human-animal interactions. His research focuses on the behavior and welfare of companion animals, the development of human attitudes to animals, and the history of human-animal relationships. In addition to publishing more than 70 journal articles and book chapters on these and related topics, he is the author, editor, or co-editor of several books including Animals & Human Society: Changing Perspectives (1994), The Domestic Dog: Its Evolution, Behavior & Interactions with People (1995), In the Company of Animals (1996), and Companion Animals & Us (2000).

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