Many of us who have animals in our lives know that they experience emotion, we know because we’ve seen it. We’ve witnessed our dogs express joy when we walk through the door, watched them display jealousy toward another animal, or we’ve seen them mourn the loss of a companion. When someone asks, “how do we know?” usually, most of us say something along the lines of, “we just know... it’s obvious.” But, that’s not how it works in science.
Science needs proof and for too many years proof wasn’t an option, as a large majority of the scientific community avoided any research or any studying of the inner lives of animals, classifying the entire idea that they even have inner lives as anthropomorphic. Fortunately, for many species, science has started to come around. Research and studies are expanding every year and scientific circles have become increasingly accepting and supportive of the idea that many species do indeed have emotions.
Barbara King is a biological anthropologist who has studied the complex emotions throughout the animal kingdom – from orcas to elephants to ducks to dogs, with a focus on grief and love. Her work is centered on how the science of animal thinking and feeling can help us better understand and advocate for the rights of animals. The more that humans know about animal’s intelligence and emotional lives, the harder it becomes to harm them.
Barbara is an emerita professor of anthropology at the College of William and Mary and the author of several books, including How Animals Grieve and Personalities on the Plate. Her books are loaded with impassioned stories of animal’s emotional lives and inner worlds, all backed with the scientific rigor that builds the case toward changing the way in which the world treats animals.
She also gave an incredible TED talk this year, which has already been seen by a million and a half people.