Every day we are learning new and surprising facts about just how intelligent and emotional animals are—did you know rats like to play and laugh, and also display empathy, and the ears and noses of cows tell us how they’re feeling? At times, we humans translate that knowledge into compassion for other animals; think of the public outcry against the fates of Cecil the lion or the captive gorilla Harambe. But on the whole, our growing understanding of what animals feel is not resulting in more respectful treatment of them.
Renowned animal-behavior expert Marc Bekoff and leading bioethicist Jessica Pierce explore the real-world experiences of five categories of animals, beginning with those who suffer the greatest deprivations of freedoms and choice—chickens, pigs, and cows in industrial food systems—as well as animals used in testing and research, including mice, rats, cats, dogs, and chimpanzees. Next, Bekoff and Pierce consider animals for whom losses of freedoms are more ambiguous and controversial, namely, individuals held in zoos and aquaria and those kept as companions. Finally, they reveal the unexpected ways in which the freedoms of animals in the wild are constrained by human activities and argue for a more compassionate approach to conservation.
In each case, scientific studies combine with stories of individual animals to bring readers face-to-face with the wonder of our fellow beings, as well as the suffering they endure and the major paradigm shift that is needed to truly ensure their well-being.
The Animals’ Agenda will educate and inspire people to rethink how we affect other animals, and how we can evolve toward more peaceful and less violent ways of interacting with our animal kin in an increasingly human-dominated world.
Jessica Pierce, author of Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets, is faculty affiliate at the University of Colorado Center for Bioethics and Humanities. She lives in Lyons, Colorado, with her husband, daughter, two dogs, and a cat.