How animals grieve

Barbara J. King, 1956-

Book - 2013

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Subjects
Published
Chicago ; London : The University of Chicago Press [2013]
©2013
Language
English
Physical Description
193 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages 173-179) and index.
ISBN
9780226436944
0226436942
Main Author
Barbara J. King, 1956- (-)
  • Prologue : on grief and love
  • Keening for Carson the cat
  • A dog's best friend
  • Mourning on the farm
  • Why bunnies get depressed
  • Elephant bones
  • Do monkeys mourn?
  • Chimpanzees, cruel to be kind
  • Bird love
  • Sea of emotion : dolphins, whales, and turtles
  • No boundaries : cross-species grief
  • Animal suicide?
  • Ape grief
  • On bison death in Yellowstone and obituaries of animals
  • Writing grief
  • The prehistory of grief.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Do we just imagine that animals have feelings like our own, that their loyalty springs from something other than the need to be fed? Anthropologist King investigates research and scores of stories of animals grieving the loss of animal companions, speculating that where there is grief, there must be love. She explores a variety of settings, from farms to homes to fields, to detail how creatures as diverse as ants and elephants mourn their dead. Cautious of the human tendency to interpret animal behavior from the human perspective, King offers strong evidence of attachment that leads to grief when a companion dies. Among her stories: a house cat loses her sister and lifelong companion and wails inconsolably; horses gather in a circle to mourn at the burial site of a recently deceased companion; elephants surround their matriarch, keeping vigil as she dies. King recounts stories of cats, dogs, rabbits, goats, and other animals grieving to the point of depression and weight loss. She also points to additional resources, including video clips of animal behavior, in a beautifully written book that will appeal to animal lovers. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Relying on a host of heart-wrenching stories and anecdotes, anthropologist King (College of William and Mary) speculates on what these accounts reveal about animal emotion and the capacity of animals, from primates to turtles, to experience love and grief (including suicidal desire) and to mourn the loss of companions. Certainly, unraveling the nature of animal emotion is no easy task. King suggests that most published scientific investigations of animal behavior suffer an excess of statistical analyses and bare summaries, advocating that only through descriptive reporting will people achieve an understanding of animal emotion. Such reports, of course, suffer the vagaries of subjective interpretation. The author argues that skeptics often cite anthropomorphism as a component of descriptive analysis. Indeed, this text is rife with anthropomorphism, much of which alludes to an "understanding" of animal behavior rooted in an unreasonable certainty of interpretation. It is short on science and long on speculation, subjective and biased interpretation, and emotion. Chapters on human grieving clearly sway reader emotion but have little bearing on the subject. While well written and interesting, King's stories and analyses are unlikely to win over skeptics; however, animal lovers and other like-minded readers will enjoy her work. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers. General Readers. D. A. Brass independent scholar Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Anthropology professor King (Being with Animals) shares facts, anecdotes, and thoughts about rela-tionships throughout the animal kingdom, from birds that return to each other year after year to a baby elephant that mourns its mother. King defines the conditions necessary for animal love to include ani-mals actively choosing to be together and the suffering of the animal when its partner is no longer pre-sent. When these conditions are met, "Grief blooms because two animals bond, they care, maybe they even love—because of a heart's certainty that another's presence is as necessary as air." King's thoughtful, warmhearted prose will raise awareness and amaze readers as they learn about a dog who rescued his canine companion from being buried alive; a baboon's stages of grief and apparent depres-sion following the loss of her adult daughter; and a dolphin that committed suicide, witnessed by her trainer. Though many observations support the concept of grief among animals, King also discusses situations that do not indicate grief and concludes that, though it may be an individual behavior, its significance is not diminished for those mournful individuals. As for humans, "We grieve with human words but animal bodies and animal gestures and animal movements." (May) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Anthropology professor King (Being with Animals) shares facts, anecdotes, and thoughts about rela-tionships throughout the animal kingdom, from birds that return to each other year after year to a baby elephant that mourns its mother. King defines the conditions necessary for animal love to include ani-mals actively choosing to be together and the suffering of the animal when its partner is no longer pre-sent. When these conditions are met, "Grief blooms because two animals bond, they care, maybe they even love—because of a heart's certainty that another's presence is as necessary as air." King's thoughtful, warmhearted prose will raise awareness and amaze readers as they learn about a dog who rescued his canine companion from being buried alive; a baboon's stages of grief and apparent depres-sion following the loss of her adult daughter; and a dolphin that committed suicide, witnessed by her trainer. Though many observations support the concept of grief among animals, King also discusses situations that do not indicate grief and concludes that, though it may be an individual behavior, its significance is not diminished for those mournful individuals. As for humans, "We grieve with human words but animal bodies and animal gestures and animal movements." (May) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An anthropologist proves that animals really do experience emotions, describing through a number of specific cases how elephants, housecats and baboons exhibited signs of grieving upon experiencing a loss of a mate, sibling or child.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Examines the nature of grief in animals, providing examples of how animals as diverse as ants and elephants mourn their dead, and advocates for increased attention to animal emotions.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

From the time of our earliest childhood encounters with animals, we casually ascribe familiar emotions to them. But scientists have long cautioned against such anthropomorphizing, arguing that it limits our ability to truly comprehend the lives of other creatures. Recently, however, things have begun to shift in the other direction, and anthropologist Barbara J. King is at the forefront of that movement, arguing strenuously that we can—and should—attend to animal emotions. With How Animals Grieve, she draws our attention to the specific case of grief, and relates story after story—from fieldsites, farms, homes, and more—of animals mourning lost companions, mates, or friends. King tells of elephants surrounding their matriarch as she weakens and dies, and, in the following days, attending to her corpse as if holding a vigil. A housecat loses her sister, from whom she's never before been parted, and spends weeks pacing the apartment, wailing plaintively. A baboon loses her daughter to a predator and sinks into grief. In each case, King uses her anthropological training to interpret and try to explain what we see—to help us understand this animal grief properly, as something neither the same as nor wholly different from the human experience of loss.  The resulting book is both daring and down-to-earth, strikingly ambitious even as it’s careful to acknowledge the limits of our understanding. Through the moving stories she chronicles and analyzes so beautifully, King brings us closer to the animals with whom we share a planet, and helps us see our own experiences, attachments, and emotions as part of a larger web of life, death, love, and loss.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

From the time of our earliest childhood encounters with animals, we casually ascribe familiar emotions to them. But scientists have long cautioned against such anthropomorphizing, arguing that it limits our ability to truly comprehend the lives of other creatures. Recently, however, things have begun to shift in the other direction, and anthropologist Barbara J. King is at the forefront of that movement, arguing strenuously that we can'and should'attend to animal emotions. With How Animals Grieve, she draws our attention to the specific case of grief, and relates story after story'from fieldsites, farms, homes, and more'of animals mourning lost companions, mates, or friends. King tells of elephants surrounding their matriarch as she weakens and dies, and, in the following days, attending to her corpse as if holding a vigil. A housecat loses her sister, from whom she's never before been parted, and spends weeks pacing the apartment, wailing plaintively. A baboon loses her daughter to a predator and sinks into grief. In each case, King uses her anthropological training to interpret and try to explain what we see'to help us understand this animal grief properly, as something neither the same as nor wholly different from the human experience of loss.  The resulting book is both daring and down-to-earth, strikingly ambitious even as it's careful to acknowledge the limits of our understanding. Through the moving stories she chronicles and analyzes so beautifully, King brings us closer to the animals with whom we share a planet, and helps us see our own experiences, attachments, and emotions as part of a larger web of life, death, love, and loss.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

For years, we have assumed that among the most fundamental lines between humans and other animals is the way we respond to death. But with videos of scrub jay funerals, accounts of elephant mourning, and baboon's carrying their dead, the science of animal grief has opened the proverbial floodgates. And there is no better guide to the kingdom of animal grief and mourning than Barbara King. In this book she takes us to the Serengeti, to duck farms, and sanctuaries, and into the homes and hearts of those who have watched their pets mourn loss. The stories and science she shares range from chimpanzees to sea turtles, to horses and dogs, and her compassion and curiosity bring to life a range of emotions, in the animals and in those who will read this book. The human experience of grief may still be unique, but this book shows that around loss lies yet another connection between us and the living world around us.