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March 15, 2011 > Ohlone Humane Society: Books I haven't read... yet

Ohlone Humane Society: Books I haven't read... yet

By Nancy Lyon

I think time is compressing or maybe it just takes longer to do things these days. There was a time when sitting down with a good book and reading it cover to cover was not unusual... but no more. Everything needs to be done yesterday and much loved books have been replaced by a handy Kindle where you can grab a few fractured phrases when time allows.

I'm always hopeful, so I have an ever growing list of books I hope to read... some day. You might also consider reading them too. A theme connects that them is the emotional lives of animals, that they feel sorrow, joy, anger, and pleasure much as you and I; that they are self-aware.

One author that looms large on my reading list is Dr. Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., a compassionate biologist and animal behavior expert who has spent a lifetime observing all types of animals from elephants to crows in their natural environment. As a highly respected scientist, he weaves together stories of animal emotions supported by scientific evidence.

On my "must read" list is a book by Bekoff - The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint. He speaks of how we humans treat other sentient beings that share the planet and why we need to expand our compassion toward animals of all kinds. Whether they are wild, domesticated, or farmed, such awareness will benefit humans as well as the animals. He lists six reasons why we should expand our footprint of caring and respect:

1. All animals share the earth and we must coexist
2. Animals think and feel
3. Animals have and deserve compassion
4. Connection breeds caring, alienation breeds disrespect
5. Our world is not compassionate to animals
6. Acting compassionately helps all beings and our world.

In Reason #1, Bekoff states "That any manifesto on behalf of the animals must begin with the essential proposition, from which everything else flows. All animals, all beings deserve respectful consideration simply from the fact that they exist. Whether animals think or feel, and what they know is irrelevant. Reverence and awe for creation should guide human actions, along with a humble acknowledgement that humans have limited knowledge about the mysteries of our own existence..."

Another on my list is Bekoff's book, The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow and Empathy and Why They Matter, including an inspiring thought-provoking forward by Jane Goodall. It presents a powerful and crucial thesis that if we are not certain about animals' emotions, we should presume that they often feel exactly what we humans do.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama praised the book saying "As a boy studying Buddhism in Tibet, I was taught the importance of a caring attitude toward others. Such a practice of non-violence applies to all sentient beings - any living thing that has a mind. Where there is mind there is such feelings such as pain, pleasure and joy. No sentient beings want pain; instead all want happiness. Since we all share these feelings at some basic level, as rational human beings we have an obligation to contribute in whatever way we can to the happiness of other species and try our best to relieve their fears and sufferings. I firmly believe that the more we care about the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Therefore, I welcome Marc Bekoff's book The Emotional Lives of Animals."

Without phones or obligations - a quiet time near a fire with a cup of tea and a book... someday.

A few Marc Bekoff books of interest:

Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals
Animals Matter: Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect by Marc Bekoff and Jane Goodall
The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do to Care for The Animals We Love by Jane Goodall and Marc Bekoff
Strolling with Our Kin: Speaking for and Respecting Voiceless Animals
If You Tame Me: Understanding Our Connection With Animals (Animals, Culture and Society) by Leslie Irvine and Marc Bekoff

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