Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Second Nature

Second Nature

The Inner Lives of Animals


Jonathan Balcombe, foreword by J. M. Coetzee

St. Martin's Press



For centuries we believed that humans were the only ones that mattered. The idea that animals had feelings was either dismissed or considered heresy. Today, that's all changing. New scientific studies of animal behavior reveal perceptions, intelligences, awareness and social skills that would have been deemed fantasy a generation ago. The implications make our troubled relationship to animals one of the most pressing moral issues of our time.

Jonathan Balcombe, animal behaviorist and author of the critically acclaimed Pleasurable Kingdom, draws on the latest research, observational studies and personal anecdotes to reveal the full gamut of animal experience—from emotions, to problem solving, to moral judgment. Balcombe challenges the widely held idea that nature is red in tooth and claw, highlighting animal traits we have disregarded until now: their nuanced understanding of social dynamics, their consideration for others, and their strong tendency to avoid violent conflict. Did you know that dogs recognize unfairness and that rats practice random acts of kindness? Did you know that chimpanzees can trounce humans in short-term memory games? Or that fishes distinguish good guys from cheaters, and that birds are susceptible to mood swings such as depression and optimism?

With vivid stories and entertaining anecdotes, Balcombe gives the human pedestal a strong shake while opening the door into the inner lives of the animals themselves.


Praise for Second Nature

“The book offers readers much to think about in terms of moving away from the usually human-centered view of life... Recommended.” —CHOICE

“Graceful prose makes this an excellent introduction to the examination of animal minds.” —Booklist

“In this engaging book, Balcombe marshals wide-ranging and up-to-date evidence to demonstrate that animals do indeed experience the world as richly as us and may well feel and suffer more intensely than we do.” —New Scientist

“Balcombe builds a compelling case for blurring the line between animal and human perception...a passionate and persuasive argument for vegetarianism on both humanitarian and environmental grounds.” —Publishers Weekly

“Balcombe's previous book, Pleasurable Kingdoms, described how animals enjoy themselves, from masturbating monkeys to pigs lounging in the sun. Drawing on a similarly wide range of examples, Second Nature describes how animals experience the world as sensitively and intensely as humans, if not more so ...It is fascinating, well-written and consistently thought-provoking, and deserves a wide readership.” —The Guardian

“Jonathan Balcombe is a rare being, a scientist who has escaped the narrow orthodoxies of institutional science, an intelligent human being who is more than ready to recognize intelligences of other kinds, an intuitive and empathetic observer who nevertheless does not abandon the highest standards of intellectual inquiry.” —from the foreword by J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and author of Disgrace

“If you care at all about animals, this book is a must-read. Balcombe's previous book has already become a classic, and this one will astonish and fascinate you, and will leave you a wiser and more compassionate person. I wish I could have read this book twenty years ago. It would have changed my life. Maybe it will change yours.” —Jeffrey Masson, co-author of When Elephants Weep

“Alive with gems, both blunt and persuasive, Second Nature will topple any illusion that we humans are the king of the species hill. ... Dr. Balcombe's well-researched book makes the case that we are all important players in the great orchestra of life and that when humans stop looking down on all the other musicians just because their instrument isn't the same one we play, the result will be sweet music indeed.” —Ingrid Newkirk, President and Founder, PETA

Second Nature's rich treatment of animal awareness, cognition, emotion, and perception, and virtue provides the foundation for Balcombe's powerful core argument -- that we humans can do better, that we must do better, by the other inhabitants of Planet Earth.” —Wayne Pacelle, CEO, The Humane Society of the United States

“Although my entire career is devoted to advancing animal welfare, I learned much from this book I had not known and even more importantly, was sufficiently touched to thoroughly invigorate and reinforce my commitment to working for animals.” —Bernard Rollin, Professor of Animal Science, Colorado State University

“The book was so interesting and accessible that I almost felt guilty reading it at work. Dr. Balcombe provides entertaining anecdotes and objective research results that reveal the magnificent sentience of so many species that we often think of as operating on survival autopilot…I highly recommend this book.” —Population Connection

“This is a book with a five star theme and important message.” —Brian Clegg, author of The God Effect and Infinity

Second Nature goes well beyond Pleasurable Kingdom in giving us an understanding of the complex ways in which animals perceive and react with other animals and the environment…If you are interested in natural history and animal consciousness issues, this book is a must-read.” —Peter Spendelow, Northwest Veg President

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Jonathan Balcombe, foreword by J. M. Coetzee

Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., is a former animal behavior research scientist for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, and currently a consultant based in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Pleasurable Kingdom.

Jonathan Balcombe

by Amie Chou / For the HSUS

Jonathan Balcombe

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From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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