Books  Animal & General Biology  Animals: Behaviour 

Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good

By: Jonathan Balcombe (Author)

360 pages, illustrations


Paperback | Jun 2007 | #206183 | ISBN-13: 9781403986023
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £15.99 $20/€18 approx
Hardback | Apr 2006 | #157751 | ISBN: 1403986010
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £28.99 $35/€32 approx

About this book

Pleasurable Kingdom marshalls the latest evidence that animals, like humans, enjoy themselves. It debunks the popular perception that life for most is a continuous, grim struggle for survival. Instead it suggests that creatures from birds to bats to baboons may feel good thanks to play, sex, touch, food, anticipation, comfort, aesthetics and more.

Combining rigorous evidence, elegant argument and amusing anecdote, leading animal behaviour researcher Dr Jonathan Balcombe proposes that evolution favours sensory rewards because they drive living things to stay alive and reproduce. Animal pain and stress, once controversial, are now acknowledged by legislation in many countries. Likewise the possibility of positive feelings in creatures other than humans has important ramifications for science and society and is thus ripe for informed debate, Balcombe concludes.

"Pleasurable Kingdom is a touching look at the complex and at times playful lives of the animals with which we share this planet. Fascinating and often moving, this book emphasizes that animals, like us, truly have personalities, minds and emotions."
– Jane Goodall

"In Pleasurable Kingdom, Balcombe draws together an extraordinary amount of information to help us to appreciate that we are not the only species that can, if all goes well, live joyful lives."
– Peter Singer, Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University, USA

"I predicted, in When Elephants Weep, that in ten years better scientists would write better books about the depth of feelings in animals. Well, that time has come, and here is that book."
– Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Author of When Elephants Weep

"For centuries humanity has justified our extermination of fishes with the myth that they do not have feelings or intelligence. Jonathan Balcombe exposes this myth and presents fishes, with other animals, as sensitive, social, feeling, marvellous sentient beings."
– Captain Paul Watson, Founder of Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

"Pleasurable Kingdom is a love affair with our fellow beings. Balcombe tempts us to consider, more open-mindedly than ever before, the experiences of animals in more ways than traditional science has yet acknowledged, perhaps even imagined."
– Professor Jaak Panksepp, author of Affective Neuroscience

"Dr. Balcombe convincingly argues that animals are individual beings with a wide range of emotions and feeling. If he is correct – and I believe he is – it follows that we must grapple with the ethical consequences of his important insights."
– Wayne Pacelle, President & CEO, The Humane Society of the United States

"This impressive book inspires respect and appreciation for all creatures great and small. It should be a standard text for students of biology and behaviour. All who care for animals will be informed and inspired."
– Dr Michael W. Fox, Veterinarian, columnist, author

"Brisk, erudite and enormously entertaining – an excellent, approachable introduction to the basic issues in animal behaviour."
Publishers Weekly

"Entertaining examples of animal bliss – from drunken parrots to the caresses of fiddler crabs – bring a pleasure all their own."
Psychology Today

"This is a lively, shrewd, well-argued book on the simple theme that animals are able to feel pleasure."
Times Higher Educational Supplement

"This genial scientist's accounts of enjoyment in the other-than-human world will irritate strict behaviorists and profoundly delight animal lovers."
Orion Magazine

"This entertaining and thought-provoking book is recommended for popular science collections."
Library Journal

"A warm and enjoyable book – anyone with an interest in animal welfare (or just in animals) ought to read it."

"This book is one in which all campaigners for good animal welfare should invest."
The Ark

"This well-reasoned, engaging book argues that critters share our capacities for humor, empathy and aesthetic pleasure."
People Magazine

"Reviews a vast body of scientific literature – full of examples both anecdotal and from refereed journals, and a copious bibliography."

"A joy to read – a carefully balanced book – which also includes some humorous, enlightening and intriguing animal tales."

"Superb – has set an agenda for future research. This book will change how we interact with other animal beings."
– Marc Bekoff in Trends in Evolution and Ecology

"His arguments may change your opinion of the next lobster that arrives steaming on your plate."
Wired News

"Marvelous – as the first book in this field, scholarly or popular, we also have one that sets a high bar."
Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science

"Highly readable [...] I hope Pleasurable Kingdom encourages study of animal pleasure, because it worked for me."
– Nicola Robinson,


Survival of the Happiest: The Adaptive Basis for Pleasure
Forbidden Pleasures: Our Reluctance to Acknowledge Animal Pleasure
Feeling Smart: The Intelligence of Pleasure

Play: Fun for Its Own Sake
Food: The Pleasures of Sustenance
Sex: Procreation and Recreation
Touch: Making Contact with Pleasure
Love: The Ripening Warmth of Intimacy
Other Pleasures: Esthetics, Humor and Beyond
Fish and Thrips: At the Margins of Pleasure

Feeling Good, Doing Good: Implications of a Pleasurable Kingdom


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Jonathan Balcombe is Animal Behaviour Research Consultant for the Washington DC-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. He has published numerous scientific papers and magazine articles on, among other things, bat communication, turtle nesting and bird breeding. His first book, The Use of Animals in Higher Education: Problems, Alternatives and Recommendations was published by Humane Society Press in 2000.

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