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A Publication of
Catholic Concern for Animals


Selections From The Ark Number 203 - Summer 2006

Pleasurable Kingdom: animals and the nature of feeling good
by Jonathan Balcombe. London and New York: Macmillan, ISBN 1403986010, 2006, $24.95/ £16.99*

This book is one in which all campaigners for good animal welfare should invest. While there is a mass of literature proving that animals feel pain, this book demonstrates – conclusively to my mind – the thesis that animals can experience happiness too. They do not act in order just to survive – they also act in ways which give them pleasure. It is not being anthropomorphic to conclude that animals are like us in feeling positive emotions such as joy and delight as well as negative ones such as boredom and fear. ‘ I aim to illustrate, ‘ says the author, ‘the continuity of human sensory experience with that of other living things.’ This must have implications for the ways in which animals are treated. And when so much of our Church’s attitude towards animals is based on theology developed in days when scholars believed that only human beings had consciousness, this book is needed to help to bring that theology up to date. ‘There is now empirical evidence’, says the author, animal behaviour research scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, ‘for a range of behaviours consistent with consciousness in animals from octopuses to orangutans, including concept formation, anticipation, audience effects (changing one’s behaviour depending on who’s watching), deception, problem-solving, insight, having beliefs, and a sense of fairness. Animals are versatile in response to new challenges, they communicate requests, answer questions and express emotions. ... Debates about animal consciousness and emotions will probably run and run. And as the evidence continues to accumulate in animals’ favour, arguments that deny consciousness to animals will hopefully become increasingly marginalised. Says veterinarian Franklin McMillan:

“Whether each feeling feels the same to animals as it does to humans – for example, does rabbit fear feel like human fear? – is not as important as the more basic issue: feelings feel pleasant or unpleasant for all species.”’

The book is full of anecdontes of animal behaviour. One occurring towards the end of the book is particularly touching:

‘I saw a chimpanzee gaze at a particularly beautiful sunset for a full 15 minutes, watching the changing colours until it became so dark that he had to retire to the forest without stopping to pick a pawpaw for his evening meal.’

When we think of the horrors to which we put chimpanzees and their like, we can only hang our heads and be ashamed of the one species which has the universal and wholesale power to deprive these creatures of their pleasure – homo sapiens.


Note: Pleasurable Kingdom is available to Ark readers (sorry, UK only) at the special discounted price of £12.99 and p&p. To receive the discount, order:

Online: Enter the reference code WPLEASURE06a into the promo box on the checkout page when ordering on 

By Email: Quote the reference code WPLEASURE06a when you order this title by email from  <

By phone - Quote the reference code WPLEASURE06a when you call to order, Palgrave Macmillan Orders 01256 302866.

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