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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. This rigorous and stimulating book challenges that notion and shows the profound connections – the moral continuum – that link humans to many other species. 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 the English Department at Tufts University.
"Well written, well researched, and forward looking [...] The Moral Lives of Animals is eye opening, original, wide-ranging, and ambitious book [...] "
– Psychology Today
"This book challenges readers to absorb new information in an area unfamiliar to most. It is definitely worth the effort and is highly recommended"
– Library Journal
"Mr. Peterson does develop a provocative case for the existence of a broadly shared evolutionary imperative that under pins human moral instincts [...] "
– Wall Street Journal
"[Peterson's] skills as a chronicler of animal goings on are highly developed"
– American Scholar
"This is a book that could actually change readers' assumptions, opinions and beliefs about the differences between Homo sapiens and other animals [...] "
The Moral Lives of Animals will change the way many think of animals, and it will vindicate what others have always known intuitively. It deserves to be an instant bestseller"
– Jane Goodall
"Without question the most fascinating book I've read in many, many years-a marvelously written page-turner about an important subject which until now has received little if any attention [...] Everything in the book is riveting. You will read it with your hair on end and your eyes wide [...] "
– Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Secret Life of Dogs
"A breathtaking tour-de-force of enormous scope and deep importance. Filled with vivid and compelling stories, backed by numerous scientific studies, these pages should change the way we look at other species – as well as our own. Every literate human on earth should read it."
– Sy Montgomery, author of The Good, Good Pig and Birdology
" [...] this book provides a convincing argument that animals have rich moral lives that remind of us of our own. It will change the way in which 'mere animals' are viewed and open our eyes to who these beings truly are."
– Mark Bekoff, author of The Animal Manifesto