The Inner Life of Animals
In "The Inner Life of Animals" author Peter Wohlleben sets out to paint a picture of how animals think, feel and act in ways similar to humans using a mix of research studies and personal observations. Throughout the book Wholleben focuses on the question: do animals have consciousness?
Each section focuses on what is perceived as a uniquely human trait such as stealing, lying, seeking comfort, waging war and even altruism. Wholleben proceeds to show the reader varied examples where animals demonstrate these traits. One striking example put forth include bees’ attacking neighbor hives to steal their honey, which is not unlike human wars waged for control of oil. Even more fascinating was the altruism of vampire bats. Yes, vampire bats are quite altruistic. When bats return to the cave at night, the bats who successfully fed will regurgitate food for others in the colony. Not all bats can find food each night, so the altruistic behaviors ensure all members are fed. I think the peak of human behavior belongs to magpies. Magpies mate for life similar to humans, however when the male magpie thinks he is outside of his mates hearing range he will actively try to couple with other female magpies. Within hearing range, the male magpie will ferociously defend his territory against female intruders. So I guess cheating husbands can use the excuse, “It’s not my fault! It’s my biology!”
I found "The Inner Life of Animals" fascinating. Wholleben’s passion for nature seeps through each page. Using his experience as a forest manager, he provides credible experience with woodland creatures that might otherwise be hard to believe. I do wish that Wholleben was able to included more research studies to reinforce his personal observations. He points out that there is not enough research on the psychology of animals. In the epilogue Wholleben argues that scientists and politicians willfully stick their heads in the sand when it comes to the intelligence and feelings of animals. They have to do avoid research because they answer to the agricultural industry who worries about rising costs of animal care.
Wholleben dispels conventional wisdom that animals are guided by instincts. In fact, most do have a thinking brain. The Inner Life of Animals can teach us more about being human than it does about being an animal. Animals will lie, cheat and steal. Animals will also care for neighbors, lament free-loaders, and seek comfort. When wild boar cross the Rhone river to flee French hunters, how is it different from migrants fleeing war-torn countries? By all accounts both groups seek a life away from gunfire. People try to claim we are separate from animals, but when we observe the world around us, it is clear that we are one and the same.
The Inner Life of Animals – Peter Wholleben
Published by Greystone Books (November 7, 2017)