Balcombe J. Pleasurable Kingdom: The Animal Nature of Feeling Good. Paper presented at: Alternatives in the Mainstream: Innovations in Life Science Education and Training. 2nd InterNICHE Conference; 2005 May 12-15; Oslo, Norway


The aim of this presentation is to build the case that animals, and not just humans, have richly positive experiences in their lives, and to debunk the popular perception that a wild animal’s life is a continuous, joyless struggle for survival. My approach is to first explain why we should expect that animals have pleasant experiences. Reasons include that 1) pleasure is adaptive, 2) humans experience pleasure, 3) animals show the capacity for other sensory phenomena, namely physical pain and psychological distress, and 4) how animals behave is consistent with their being able to experience pleasures. I then present supporting evidence from scientific study and anecdote, focusing on play, sex, touch, food, and emergent pleasures such as joy, aesthetics, and love. Acknowledging and celebrating animal pleasure has moral import for our relationship with animals, including such harmful practices as factory farming, laboratory research, and classroom dissection. If animals can experience pleasure, it raises the moral burden of depriving them the opportunity to lead fulfilling, enjoyable lives.