The Inner Lives of Farm Animals
- Jonathan Balcombe
- Victoria Warehouse
What we know about domesticated animals: how they think, feel and experience their world.
The Feeling Animal
The roots of our attitudes to other animals go back at least 23 centuries to Aristotle’s concept of Scala Naturae (the natural scale), which placed humans above all other life-forms on Earth. Rene Descartes in the 17th Century further diminished animals’ status by arguing that they were soul-less brutes without minds or feelings, and therefore of no moral consequence. To this day, these ideas are deeply entrenched, with animals continuing to be universally legally defined as the property of humans. Paradoxically, while moral concern for animals is unprecedented, current rates of animal consumption by humans are greater than at any time in history, and growing. But all is not lost. As civilizing processes advance—including the rise of literacy and reason, the empowerment of women, and a more connected global community—the time approaches when animals may be given a seat at the moral table. Today, science is revealing aspects of animals’ inner lives that would have been deemed fantasy a generation ago. This illustrated presentation surveys some of the more intriguing discoveries relating to how animals think, how they feel, their experience of pleasure, their social behavior, and their virtue.