Jonathan Balcombe holds three biology degrees and specializes in the study of ethology with a PhD in this area of study. A leading animal behavior researcher he is also an author and speaker.
Below are excerpts from Alexandra's excellent article about Jonathan:
"It's easy to come away with a sense that it's a hard-struggled life out there, but it's a life worth living," observes Dr. Balcombe. He has found that many species share related physiologies and behavior patterns as humans, and are thus able to feel such emotions as pain, pleasure, and passion.
What's more, Dr. Balcombe firmly believes that animals have many lessons that we humans can learn from. "I am an avid animal watcher… they teach me new things every time I watch them carefully and the more I understand the more there is to learn," says Balcombe.
This is the link to his own site, jonathan-balcombe.com which contains information about his books, writings, courses etc.
Jonathan Balcombe was born in England, raised in New Zealand and Canada, and has lived in the United States since 1987. He has three biology degrees, including a PhD in ethology (the study of animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee, where he studied communication in bats. He has published over 40 scientific papers on animal behavior and animal protection.
He is the author of four books, including Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good, Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals, and The Exultant Ark: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure (pdf).
Jonathan lives with his family in Germantown, Maryland. In his spare time he enjoys biking, baking, birdwatching, piano, and trying to understand his two cats.
This is the main site and contains information about Jonathan's books, writings, courses etc.
MacMillan Speakers: Jonathan Balcombe
Animal behavior expert Jonathan Balcombe is a passionate advocate for animals and their living spaces. His highly acclaimed books Pleasurable Kingdom and Second Nature present animals in a new light and presage a revolution in the human-animal relationship. His most recent book, The Exultant Art: A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure (2011), received a glowing review in the New York Times. A PhD scientist and vegan, Balcombe’s dynamic message resonates with timely issues that affect everyone, including climate change, biodiversity, and personal health. He has given lectures and presentations on six continents.Jonathan Balcombe was born in England and raised in New Zealand and Canada. He studied biology at Canada’s York University and Carleton University before earning a PhD in ethology (animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee. He has written over 40 scientific papers and book chapters, and many lay articles on animal behavior and animal protection.
PCRM: Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., M.S.
Jonathan Balcombe, Ph.D., M.S., is a research scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a nationwide organization of physicians and laypersons that promotes preventive medicine, especially good nutrition, and addresses controversies in modern medicine, including ethical issues in research …
TEM Style: Jonathan Balcombe, ethical man
TEM is proud to present Jonathan Balcombe (seen here with Lucy, the rat) as the first-ever feature in our Ethical Men series. Congrats, Jonathan!
New Zealand Center for Human-Animal Studies: Dr Jonathan Balcombe (USA)
Jonathan Balcombe was born in England, raised in New Zealand and Canada, and has lived in the United States since 1987. He studied biology at York University and Carleton University in Canada before earning his doctorate in ethology (animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee, studying communication in bats. He has written many scientific papers and lay-articles on animal behavior, humane education, and animal research …
Free From Harm: Interview with Jonathan Balcombe
Author, ethologist and biologist Dr. Jonathan Balcombe is breaking new ground in our understanding of and appreciation for animals.
OneKind: Jonathan Balcombe on The Exultant Ark
Jonathan Balcombe is an academic and also a successful author of a number of popular books about animals emotions: specifically animals' pleasure.
Blogspot: Jonathan Balcombe
The musings and reflections of a biologist as enthralled with animal life as he is dissatisfied with humanity's current relationship to it.
Jonathan Balcombe: A Passionate Ethologist
An excellent, concise essay about ethologist Dr. Balcombe and some of his remarkable work.
Humane Society University, a pioneer in the animal studies movement
Moody octopuses, altruistic bats and honeybees that vote are academic fodder for Washington’s newest university.
Farm animals deserve humane treatment (Washington Post)
One often sees the term “extremism” applied to certain acts of animal activism, but never is it used in reference to the extreme cruelties routinely carried out by the animal industries themselves [“As eco-terrorism threat diminishes, governments keep eyes on activists,” front page, March 11]. To list just a few: We take newborn calves from their mothers so that the latter may be milked, crowd hens into tiny cages for egg production, sear off the sensitive beak tips of female chicks, toss the male chicks into meat-grinders or into bins to suffocate, and consign pregnant sows to metal-and-concrete stalls in which they can barely move for weeks.
That these practices remain legal makes them no less cruel. Fortunately, consumers can make the non-extreme decision to refrain from funding factory farming by choosing to purchase alternative products.
Jonathan Balcombe, Germantown
Jonathan Balcombe: 'Stop being beastly to hens' (The Guardian)
Animal behaviour scientist Jonathan Balcombe says that our treatment of animals remains medieval despite a flood of studies shedding light on how they experience the world
How to Have Fun Like Monkeys, Whales and Foxes (Wired Science)
Balcombe surveys a new generation of studies into animal feelings, especially animal pleasure. Accompanying the scholarship are photographs of animals seeming to enjoy themselves: hippos and flying foxes, zebrafish and sharks, parrots and polar bears, a whole animal kingdom of pleasure.
Jonathan Balcombe: "Second Nature" (Diane Rehm Radio Show)
Humans aren't the only beings who communicate, feel emotions and have self-awareness. Drawing on the latest research, an animal behaviorist explains why people need to change the way they treat other living creatures.
Why Vegan? Lessons From An Animal Scientist
As a scientist who chooses a plant-based diet, Jonathan Balcombe is not your typical biologist. In this riveting, richly-illustrated presentation, Balcombe reveals startling new discoveries in the realms of animal cognition and emotional complexity–from optimistic starlings, to choosy fishes, to dogs who object to unfair treatment.
Interview - Jonathan Balcombe
Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals
Interview with Jonathan Bascombe author of "Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals" recorded May 29, 2010 in Seattle.
Dr. Jonathan Balcombe on Our Relationship to Animals
Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals
"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 Forward by J.M Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature
Dr. Jonathan Balcombe at the 2010 VSDC Life-Affirming Thanksgiving celebration
Jonathan Balcombe as guest speaker at the 2010 Vegetarian Society of DC Life-Affirming Thanksgiving celebration.
Friends for Life (Jonathan Balcombe)
Composed and performed by Jonathan Balcombe.
Dr. Jonathan Balcombe on Individuality in Fish
Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals
Bshary, R. "Machiavellian Intelligence in Fishes." In Fish Cognition and Behavior , edited by C. Brown et al., pp. 223-242. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.
Dr. Jonathan Balcombe on Animal Virtue and Fairness
Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals
Brosnan, S.F., and F.B.M. de Waal. "Monkeys reject unequal pay." Nature 425 (2003): 297-299.
Books and Reviews
Jonathan P. Balcombe
Nature documentaries often depict animal life as a grim struggle for survival, but this visually stunning book opens our eyes to a different, more scientifically up-to-date way of looking at the animal kingdom. In more than one hundred thirty striking images, The Exultant Ark celebrates the full range of animal experience with dramatic portraits of animal pleasure ranging from the charismatic and familiar to the obscure and bizarre. These photographs, windows onto the inner lives of pleasure seekers, show two polar bears engaged in about of wrestling, hoary marmots taking time for a friendly chase, Japanese macaques enjoying a soak in a hot spring, a young bull elk sticking out his tongue to catch snowflakes, and many other rewarding moments. Biologist and best-selling author Jonathan Balcombe is our guide, interpreting the images within the scientific context of what is known about animal behavior. In the end, old attitudes fall away as we gain a heightened sense of animal individuality and of the pleasures that make life worth living for all sentient beings.
Review in NY Times
True to its subtitle — “A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure” — “The Exultant Ark” showcases surprising, funny, touching, sad, heartwarming pictures by photographers all over the world. Dr. Balcombe’s text is a serious examination of the subject of animal pleasure, a study that “remains nascent and largely neglected in scientific discourse.” But it also delights us along the way with Dr. Balcombe’s observations and examples.
Jonathan P. Balcombe
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 experiencefrom 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.
Review by Kim Stallwood
Balcombe’s writings are a carefully crafted balance of academic rigor and empathic wisdom.
Jonathan P. Balcombe
Pleasurable Kingdom presents new evidence that animals - like humans - enjoy themselves. From birds to baboons, insects to iguanas, animals feel good thanks to play, sex, touch, food, anticipation, comfort, aesthetics, and more. Combining rigorous evidence, elegant argument and amusing anecdotes, leading animal behavior researcher Jonathan Balcombe shows that the possibility of positive feelings in creatures other than humans has important ethical ramifications for both science and society. For more information please visit the author's website at www.pleasurablekingdom.com
Jonathan P. Balcombe
The Use of Animals in Higher Education is well-researched and annotated and international in scope, with a primary focus on the US. It addresses secondary education as strongly as higher education, with quite a focus on elementary education as well. (get pdf)
Beyond Animal Research Articles at PCRM
Heart Attack Experiments in Animals
Heart attacks are virtually unknown in mice and rats, probably because their natural life spans are just two to three years, their heart physiology is different from that of humans, and, of course, they avoid fast-food restaurants. But, unfortunately, some animal experimenters have nonetheless attempted to artificially induce heart problems in these hapless creatures.
Animal Research and Mobile Phones: Getting a Bad Connection
A recent article in the British Medical Journal asks “Where is the evidence that animal research benefits humans?” The authors examined systematic reviews of six areas of animal research and presented evidence that it had not informed human medicine. For two of the six areas, clinical trials were conducted at the same time as the animal studies, and for three others, clinical trials went ahead despite evidence of harm from the animal studies. Overall, the analysis reveals both a practical and a perceived disconnect between animal and human studies. The authors conclude that “new animal studies should not be conducted until…their validity and generalisability to clinical medicine has been assessed.”
Understanding how bones break and heal and developing treatments are all important and worthwhile medical endeavors. Unfortunately, some experimenters deliberately break healthy animals’ bones. Each year dozens of such studies are published; these experiments are conducted on many different animals, including dogs, rats, mice, rabbits, pigs, sheep, and goats.
The Misunderstood Rat
Rats are one of the world’s least understood creatures. Stigmatized as filthy “pests” for centuries, these inquisitive opportunists are actually naturally sociable and make excellent companions. New scientific studies show that there is more to rats than laboratory supply companies would have us believe.
Animal Smoking Experiments
Scientists like to joke that smoking is a leading cause of statistics. It's an amusing observation, but sadly, when it comes to animal experimentation, it’s all too true. Despite the failure of numerous animal studies during the 1950s and 1960s to reveal a clear link between cigarette smoking and cancer—and despite our established knowledge from human clinical data that smoking is deadly - smoking experiments on animals continue.
Animal Smoking Experiments: Part II
Scientists have known for decades that smoking can have devastating effects on human health. Yet researchers continue to conduct smoking experiments on animals. Do such experiments offer new insights? In an earlier column (Part I), I discussed several recent animal smoking experiments that appear merely to confirm what is already known from human studies. To investigate further, I followed up on four of these animal studies (all published in 2004) using the National Institutes of Health’s online PubMed database.
The Guinea Pigs Deserve a Hearing
Many years ago I remember seeing in a physiology textbook two photographs of a guinea pig’s inner ear, taken under a microscope before and after exposure to destructively loud noise. The first image showed the sensitive cochlear hairs arranged in neat rows; in the second they looked like a stand of trees flattened by a violent hurricane.
Animals Still Used in Motion Sickness Experiments
If you’ve ever suffered motion sickness, you know that it’s a miserable feeling. Other animals are also vulnerable, and for at least 50 years scientists have been subjecting monkeys, dogs, cats, rats and other species to experiments designed to make them ill.
Migraine Research, Part 1
According the UK-based Migraine Trust Association (www.migrainetrust.org), migraine is the most common neurological condition in the developed world … There is no cure, but there are many available treatments. Despite this, animals bear the brunt of scientific curiosity about migraine. Cats, monkeys, pigs, guinea pigs, and rats are all being used in headache research. These experimental subjects are not suffering from migraines (at least not that we can tell), but their skulls are opened up and their brains tweaked, probed and drugged in a parade of experiments designed, it seems, more to advance scientific careers than useful knowledge.
Migraine Research, Part II
In last month’s column, I described a small sampling of “migraine” studies on animals, involving usually terminal, invasive procedures on unconscious (anesthetized) animals (cats, monkeys, rats, etc.) who have no way of communicating symptoms. But other researchers are pursuing very different paths. The following sampling of recent studies underscores the broad range of human clinical methods available for advancing our understanding of this important condition …
A Stunning Waste of Pigs
A recent story appeared in New Scientist concerning the use of stun guns for immobilizing dangerous persons … The New Scientist report mentioned that, in response to concerns about human deaths associated with Taser use, animal tests were being initiated to assess their effects on the hearts of anesthetized pigs.
Confining Rodents in Laboratory Cages Has Troubling Consequences
Throughout history, human societies have dealt with criminals by confining them in small cells. Not only does imprisonment remove the offender from daily life, but by taking away the inmate’s freedom and autonomy it constitutes punishment … Animals caged in laboratories find themselves in comparable circumstances.
Chimeras: Beyond Our Moral Depth?
The chimeras I learned about as a biology student—obscure, strange-looking fishes of the ocean depths—are not the same as the ones now at the center of a debate in medical ethics. These chimeras are made by man, not by nature. As stem cell technology marches ahead, science now has the means to create creatures that blur the line between humans and other animals. The specter of a half-chimp/half-man or a mouse with a human brain is no longer the stuff of science fiction.
Sarin: Terror in the Laboratories
Originally developed as a chemical warfare agent in 1938, the nerve gas sarin became a household word when it was used in a terrorist attack on the Tokyo subway system in March 1995 (one of three such incidents in Japan between 1994 and 1998). Long-term health effects on Gulf War veterans have also been attributed to possible low-level sarin exposure. Despite the pitfalls of trying to extrapolate across species, animals have been exposed to sarin in hundreds of laboratory experiments dating back at least to the late 1950s.
Anorexia Nervosa and Animal Experiments
Anorexia is a terrible illness that afflicts some two million Americans, mostly young women. Not surprisingly, there is a concerted effort to understand and address anorexia and other eating disorders. A search for “anorexia nervosa” on the NIH’s PubMed online database yielded more than 8,600 studies. Most are human clinical studies—but not all. Many researchers are being funded to perform experiments on animals, usually (male) rats. But because rodents don’t spontaneously develop eating disorders, experimenters must create “animal models” of the condition.
Anorexia Nervosa: The Potential of Nonanimal Research
In last month’s column, I presented some examples of studies in which rats are starved and exercised in a futile attempt to model anorexia nervosa (AN), a uniquely human condition. As I researched these studies, I also encountered numerous human clinical studies. The following recent examples illustrate just some of the broad range of research strategies available for human-based research into eating disorders.
Homeopathy: Healing Some, Harming Others
My local paper recently profiled the Samueli Institute for Information Biology (SIIB), a nonprofit medical research organization that emphasizes complementary medicine, such as acupuncture and homeopathy, a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in healthy persons produce symptoms similar to those of the disease. The organization’s stated mission is strongly geared towards healing, and its goals include alleviating suffering, enhancing well being, and establishing sustainable healthcare approaches. So far, so good. Then I noticed that the article mentioned animal studies.
Homeopathy Research: Efficacy Studies
Because homeopathy involves giving vanishingly small quantities of ingredients to patients, side effects are rare and treatments essentially harmless. That does not mean they are effective, however. The animal studies I described in last month’s column were trying to address efficacy, not safety. As the following examples from 2005 show, researchers have a variety of means for assessing alternative treatments in humans without resorting to cruel animal studies.
Mice on Soy
A recent study from the University of Colorado made headlines when it was reported that a soy-based diet worsened heart disease in male mice carrying a mutation for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).
Depressed Mice Study Is Inhumane and Clinically Irrelevant
A study published in the prestigious journal Science reported on the apparent role of a protein (called p11) in fighting depression. However, most of the depressed subjects in this study weren’t people—they were mice.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is implicated in about 5,000 to 7,000 infant deaths yearly in the United States … A considerable amount of this research is in the clinical setting … There are also many animal studies …
Blogs and Opinions at firstscience.com (selected)
(Unfortunately, the links to these items are unavailable at firstscience.com presently.)
… one enterprising sparrow had probably stumbled on this available food source (perhaps by accident while trapped?), and it was adopted by other birds. Sparrow culture.
Steve Irwin Stung by the Press
… I think Irwin would have objected to those headlines announcing his death by stingray, in which the ray was said to have "attacked" him. The animal acted in defense. With its poor word-choice, the press succumbed to the lure of sensationalism, or maybe just ignorance, and undid some of the good that Irwin had done.
A widely reported recent study documented evidence that house mice show empathy …
Animal Testing my Patience
A recent BBC news article on the rise in animal use in UK labs contained the following statement from a pro-vivisection spokesperson. "Animal testing for medical research is unavoidable." The person who said this needs an English lesson.
A new study of bird behavior [www.sciencenews.org/articles/20061118/fob6.asp] adds to a burgeoning body of evidence that birds aren't the bird-brains they were once thought to be.
Fish Scale New Heights of Social Sophistication
These studies add to a growing body of evidence that fishes are nothing like the thoughtless, unfeeling automatons they were once thought to be. That's no comfort to anyone concerned about humankind's voracious plundering of the world's fish populations, but nature has her own agenda, and easing humanity's conscience isn't on the list.
One Man's Waste
We owe a lot to insects for helping to keep the world clean. Were it not for the flies and beetles, the world would soon be awash with organic waste, and disease and squalor would run rampant.
Tea: Black is Beautiful
A new study reported in the European Heart Journal finds that adding milk to one's tea may blunt its cardiovascular benefits
An Elephant Talks - Are We Listening?
The English intellectual Cyril Connolly once quipped that: "imprisoned in every fat woman [or man] a thin one is wildly signalling to be let out." I find that sentiment rather apt for a teenaged elephant who made international news last week for having mastered eight words of human speech
A Negative Review Ain't Necessarily So
I consider myself fortunate that nearly a year passed before my latest book (www.pleasurablekingdom.com) received a negative review. BioScience [Vol. 57(1): Pp. 83-84] has published a review titled "Feelings do not a science make" by Oxford University biologist Marian Stamp Dawkins which takes me to task for a variety of perceived mis-steps. A colleague posted Dawkins's review on his list-serve and it generated a fusillade of responses in defense of animal experiences …
Sharp Weapons, Sharp Minds
Recent news of chimpanzees fashioning and using deadly weapons grabbed headlines last week … Less headline-grabbing was the latest in a series of elegant studies of food caching and recovery in scrub jays …
It's Time the Fur Flew
Each time I see someone wearing fur, a little bit of my faith in humanity dies … Perhaps there's still hope for the demise of an industry that should have gone out with the arrival of the loom.
What Does A Rat Know, Anyway?
Those who defend animal research often like to point out that about ninety percent of the animals used are rodents, namely mice and rats. The upshot is that we should all breathe a sigh of relief. "Oh, they're just rodents. Why should we be concerned?"
A Chimp Haven
Earlier this week I visited a facility for chimpanzees given over to retirement by research laboratories that no longer want them.
A Dog Named Chester
What is special about this "dog" is that he isn't the coddled canine whose ancestors barked at lurking predators and accepted scraps at stone-age firesides … He is a rodent … When I think of Chester's cousins being obliterated for someone's amusement, I wonder which species is more noble: ours or his. For all our technology and culture, humankind has a knack for moral fickleness.
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for apes?
In late April, an Austrian judge denied personhood status and legal guardianship for 26-year-old Matthias Pan, who was kidnapped as an infant in Sierra Leone after his mother was shot. Brought to Austria illegally, Pan was sold to a research laboratory where he lived alone in a cage and was experimented on for many years before finally being released to a sanctuary. In her concluding statement, the judge explained that she never doubted that Pan should be considered a person, but she did not want to set a precedent that might weaken the case of humans with legal guardians.
Man Bites Shark, Apes Publish Paper
I recently reviewed a book (Anthrozoos, Vol. 20(1)) with the charmingly buoyant title of "Killing Animals." The book's introduction includes the sobering news that we humans kill more animals today than we have at any point in history.
Siding with the Amphibian
… as I stood there looking at this frog and contemplating her grim outlook in this man's clutches, empathy for the frog overcame me and I quickly released her in the grass … Last week my 13-year old daughter spared another leopard frog through a noble act of conscience. She asked to use alternatives instead of dissecting a dead leopard frog in her 7th grade science class.
Blogs from Psychology Today (selected)
Falling for Birds, One at a Time
Nearly 3,000 Red-winged Blackbirds fell dead from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas on New Year's Eve.
From Skinny Bitch to Bill Clinton: The Rise of Veganism
Have you noticed the word "vegan" lately? If you live in America and you read a newspaper or popular magazines, the chances are you have. If you watch television, you probably even know how to pronounce it properly.
Extinction Folly - Review of Paper Tiger: A Visual History of the Thylacine
Today, rewards offered for a living specimen seem like wishful thinking.
Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls, and the Violent Nature Myth
A few months ago, surfing the television, I happened upon a scene in which a fit-looking young man forcibly removed a rattlesnake from beneath a shrub and smashed its head in with a rock. As he did so, he warned of the danger posed by these reptiles. How ironic.
Peter Singer, Vioxx, and the Future of Animal Testing
No human enterprise illustrates our deep-seated sense of superiority than the use of animals in product and drug testing.
It’s Time (magazine) to Respect Cows
Animal minds made big news this month with Time magazine dedicating its cover story to the topic. "Inside the minds of animals," by Jeffrey Kluger, provides an engaging glimpse into some of the exciting recent discoveries in animal cognition. That title is an improvement over that of a February 2006 Scientific American article which asked meekly, "Do Animals Have Feelings?" as if there should remain any doubt about that.
Jane GoodAll Things Wonderful
I dedicate this blog entry to Jane Goodall on the 50th anniversary of her groundbreaking research on wild chimpanzees.
Whales, Whaling, and Humanity
In Morocco this week, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) decided to uphold its international moratorium on commercial whaling. That decision just might be a litmus test for the evolution and maturity of humankind. Lifting the ban would have been a symbolic reminder that we remain mired in a way of thinking that sees other sentient animals merely as resources for humans to treat as we please-a recapitulation of an arcane might-makes-right mindset that justified colonialism and slavery, the subjugation of women, and the denial of civil rights.
Beneath the Surface of an Oil Spill
As the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico hemorrhages toward its third month, there's a big question about which very little is being said: How is it making the fish feel? How is the quality of life for individual fishes being impacted by this latest marine ecological disaster?
Sometimes it hurts when you duck
I walked into the office of the owner of Hudson Valley Foie Gras (HVFG). Since opening in 1989, HVFG has become America's largest producer of the fatty duck livers treasured by gourmets and reviled by animal advocates. I wasn’t there to purchase foie gras. I was there on a covert assignment for PETA … But like slavery and the denial of votes to women before it, foie gras is vulnerable to exposure as an abomination in civilized society.
I met a vulture once. She had been on the losing end of a collision with a car. Unable to fly again, she went on occasional outings where people could see her up close. I met her at an animal welfare fair in a high school gymnasium. She was a black vulture, Coragyps atratus. She stood on a wooden perch, and seemed perfectly at ease in these unnatural surroundings. She was remarkably unlike my preconceptions of vultures. She had deep, black eyes. She blinked. She moved her head slowly to observe the goings on. She wasn't smelly or scruffy as I had shallowly imagined vultures to be. She looked immaculate. She had a presence. If I had to choose one word to describe her it would be dignified. She wasn't an object but a subject – a thinking, feeling being.
Papers (with abstracts)
Some of these items have been found through Google Scholar. Certain links are unavailable, but we will try to locate the articles through other means.
Laboratory routines cause animal stress
Balcombe, Jonathan P.; Barnard, Neal D.; Sandusky, Chad
Eighty published studies were appraised to document the potential stress associated with three routine laboratory procedures commonly performed on animals: handling, blood collection, and orogastric gavage. We defined handling as any non-invasive manipulation occurring as part of routine husbandry, including lifting an animal and cleaning or moving an animal's cage. Significant changes in physiologic parameters correlated with stress (e.g., serum or plasma concentrations of corticosterone, glucose, growth hormone or prolactin, heart rate, blood pressure, and behavior) were associated with all three procedures in multiple species in the studies we examined. The results of these studies demonstrated that animals responded with rapid, pronounced, and statistically significant elevations in stress-related responses for each of the procedures, although handling elicited variable alterations in immune system responses. Changes from baseline or control measures typically ranged from 20% to 100% or more and lasted at least 30 min or longer. We interpret these findings to indicate that laboratory routines are associated with stress, and that animals do not readily habituate to them. The data suggest that significant fear, stress, and possibly distress are predictable consequences of routine laboratory procedures, and that these phenomena have substantial scientific and humane implications for the use of animals in laboratory research.
Vocal recognition of pups by mother Mexican free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana
JP Balcombe - Animal Behaviour, 1990 - Elsevier
The ability of Mexican free-tailed bat mothers and pups to recognize vocalizations of their presumptive kin (pup isolation calls and mother echolocation calls, respectively) was tested using playbacks of recorded calls. Captive individuals were presented with calls of two bats, one presumptive kin and the other a stranger, from opposite sides of a circular wire arena. Response was determined by amount of time spent on each side of the arena, time spent in contact with a cloth bat model in front of each speaker, and number of separate contacts with each model. For the latter two measures, mothers showed a significant preference for the calls of their presumptive pups. Pups were attracted to adult echolocation calls, but did not show preference for calls of different mothers. The ages of pups appears to have had no effect on the responsiveness of either pups or mothers to the playbacks. This study demonstrates vocal kin recognition by mothers, and suggests an important role for acoustic cues in mother-pup reunions in this species. The findings do not preclude the possibility that vocal recognition of mothers by pups also occurs.
Vocal recognition in Mexican free-tailed bats: Do pups recognize mothers?
JP Balcombe, Gary F. McCracken - Animal Behaviour, 1992 - Elsevier
Mother Mexican free-tailed bats, Tadarida brasiliensis mexicana, produce ‘directive’ calls while searching for pups inside cave maternity roosts. These calls consist of highly repetitive pulses of sound uttered in rapid sequence. Calls are sufficiently intense that they are perceptible above the substantial background noise within roosts at distances of at least 1 m. Calls are stereotyped within individuals, and statistically discriminable between individuals. These characteristics are expected for vocalizations that function for mother—pup reunions, and are shared with directive calls described previously in other bats. Mother T. b. mexicana directive calls are statistically no less discriminable than are the isolation calls of pups. Playback experiments, using recordings made inside the cave colony, show that pups perceive directive calls and are strongly attracted to them.
Eavesdropping by bats: the influence of echolocation call design and foraging strategy
JP Balcombe, M. Brock Fenton - Ethology, 1988 - Wiley Online Library
We used playback presentations to free-flying bats of 3 species to assess the influence of echolocation call design and foraging strategy on the role of echolocation calls in communication. Near feeding sites over water, Myotis lucifugus and M. yumanensis responded positively only to echolocation calls of conspecifics. Near roosts, these bats did not respond before young of the year became volant, and after this responded to presentations of echolocation calls of similar and dissimilar design. At feeding sites Lasiurus borealis responded only to echolocation calls of conspecifics and particularly to “feeding buzzes”. While Myotis, particularly subadults, appear to use the echolocation calls of conspecifics to locate feeding sites, L. borealis appears to use the calls of a foraging neighbour attacking prey to identify opportunities for ‘stealing’ food.
Student/teacher conflict regarding animal dissection
J Balcombe - The American Biology Teacher, 1997 - JSTOR
IN 1993, a medical student at the University of Colorado was compelled to transfer to another university when she failed a course for refusing to participate in a required laboratory exercise that involved performing lethal procedures on anesthetized dogs.
Animal carcinogenicity studies: 1. Poor human predictivity (pdf)
Andrew Knight, Jarrod Bailey and Jonathan Balcombe
The regulation of human exposure to potentially carcinogenic chemicals constitutes society’s most important use of animal carcinogenicity data. Environmental contaminants of greatest concern within the USA are listed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) chemicals database. However, of the 160 IRIS chemicals lacking even limited human exposure data but possessing animal data that had received a human carcinogenicity assessment by 1 January 2004, we found that in most cases (58.1%; 93/160), the EPA considered animal carcinogenicity data inadequate to support a classification of probable human carcinogen or non-carcinogen. For the 128 chemicals with human or animal data also assessed by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), human carcinogenicity classifications were compatible with EPA classifications only for those 17 having at least limited human data (p = 0.5896). For those 111 primarily reliant on animal data, the EPA was much more likely than the IARC to assign carcinogenicity classifications indicative of greater human risk (p < 0.0001). The IARC is a leading international authority on carcinogenicity assessments, and its significantly different human carcinogenicity classifications of identical chemicals indicate that: 1) in the absence of significant human data, the EPA is over-reliant on animal carcinogenicity data; 2) as a result, the EPA tends to over-predict carcinogenic risk; and 3) the true predictivity for human carcinogenicity of animal data is even poorer than is indicated by EPA figures alone. The EPA policy of erroneously assuming that tumours in animals are indicative of human carcinogenicity is implicated as a primary cause of these errors.
The future of teratology research is in vitro
Bailey, Jarrod; Knight, Andrew; Balcombe, Jonathan
Birth defects induced by maternal exposure to exogenous agents during pregnancy are preventable, if the agents themselves can be identified and avoided. Billions of dollars and manhours have been dedicated to animal-based discovery and characterisation methods over decades. We show here, via a comprehensive systematic review and analysis of this data, that these methods constitute questionable science and pose a hazard to humans. (get pdf)
Animal carcinogenicity studies: 2. Obstacles to extrapolation of data to humans (pdf)
Andrew Knight, Jarrod Bailey and Jonathan Balcombe
Due to limited human exposure data, risk classification and the consequent regulation of exposure to potential carcinogens has conventionally relied mainly upon animal tests. However, several investigations have revealed animal carcinogenicity data to be lacking in human predictivity. To investigate the reasons for this, we surveyed 160 chemicals possessing animal but not human exposure data within the US Environmental Protection Agency chemicals database, but which had received human carcinogenicity assessments by 1 January 2004. We discovered the use of a wide variety of species, with rodents predominating, and of a wide variety of routes of administration, and that there were effects on a particularly wide variety of organ systems. The likely causes of the poor human predictivity of rodent carcinogenicity bioassays include: 1) the profound discordance of bioassay results between rodent species, strains and genders, and further, between rodents and human beings; 2) the variable, yet substantial, stresses caused by handling and restraint, and the stressful routes of administration common to carcinogenicity bioassays, and their effects on hormonal regulation, immune status and predisposition to carcinogenesis; differences in rates of absorption and transport mechanisms between test routes of administration and other important human routes of exposure; 4) the considerable variability of organ systems in response to carcinogenic insults, both between and within species; and 5) the predisposition of chronic high dose bioassays toward false positive results, due to the overwhelming of physiological defences, and the unnat- ural elevation of cell division rates during ad libitum feeding studies. Such factors render profoundly difficult any attempts to accurately extrapolate human carcinogenic hazards from animal data.
Alternatives to the use of animals in higher education (pdf)
Jan van der Valk, David Dewhurst, Ian Hughes, Jeffrey Atkinson, Jonathan Balcombe, Hans Braun, Karin Gabrielson, Franz Gruber, Jeremy Miles, Jan Nab, Jason Nardi, Henk van Wilgenburg, Ursula Zinko and Joanne Zurlo
This is the report of the thirty-third of a series of workshops organised by the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM). ECVAM’s main goal, as defined in 1993 by its Scientific Advisory Committee, is to promote the scientific and regulatory acceptance of alternative methods which are of importance to the biosciences and which reduce, refine or replace the use of laboratory animals.
Dissection: The scientific case for alternatives
J Balcombe - Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2001 - Taylor & Francis
This article presents the scientific argument that learning methods that replace traditional nonhuman animal-consumptive methods in life science education-so-called alternatives to dissection-are pedagogically sound and probably superior to dissection. This article focuses on the pedagogy, a learning method's effectiveness for conveying knowledge.
Animal carcinogenicity studies: 3. alternatives to the bioassay (pdf)
Andrew Knight, Jarrod Bailey and Jonathan Balcombe
Conventional animal carcinogenicity tests take around three years to design, conduct and interpret. Consequently, only a tiny fraction of the thousands of industrial chemicals currently in use have been tested for carcinogenicity. Despite the costs of hundreds of millions of dollars and millions of skilled personnel hours, as well as millions of animal lives, several investigations have revealed that animal carcinogenicity data lack human specificity (i.e. the ability to identify human non-carcinogens), which severely limits the human predictivity of the bioassay. This is due to the scientific inadequacies of many carcinogenicity bioassays, and numerous serious biological obstacles, which render profoundly difficult any attempts to accurately extrapolate animal data in order to predict carcinogenic hazards to humans. Proposed modifications to the conventional bioassays have included the elimination of mice as a second species, and the use of genetically-altered or neonatal mice, decreased study durations, initiation–promotion models, the greater incorporation of toxicokinetic and toxicodynamic assessments, structure-activity relationship (computerised) systems, in vitro assays, cDNA microarrays for detecting changes in gene expression, limited human clinical trials, and epidemiological research. The potential advantages of non- animal assays when compared to bioassays include the superior human specificity of the results, substantially reduced time-frames, and greatly reduced demands on financial, personnel and animal resources. Inexplicably, however, the regulatory agencies have been frustratingly slow to adopt alternative protocols. In order to decrease the enormous cost of cancer to society, a substantial redirection of resources away from excessively slow and resource-intensive rodent bioassays, into the further development and implementation of non-animal assays, is both strongly justified and urgently required.
Non-breeder asymmetry in Florida scrub jays
JP Balcombe - Evolutionary Ecology, 1989 - Springer
The data of Woolfenden and Fitzpatrick (1984) show a statistically significant asymmetry in the sex ratio of non-breeders when one of the breeders is not the non-breeder's parent. I propose that the asymmetry is attributable to a combination of two factors acting on non-breeders: the value of inheriting a territory, and incest avoidance. Although natal territories are only occasionally inherited by non-breeders, and then apparently only by males, therate of inheritance is significantly higher for parent/step-parent breeders (n=6) than when both breeders are the non-breeder's parents (n=1). An alternative hypothesis, that stepparents determine the non-breeder asymmetry by ousting potential rivals, might also explain the data, but evidence is currently lacking.
Animal pleasure and its moral significance
J Balcombe - Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2009 - Elsevier
This paper presents arguments for, and evidence in support of, the important role of pleasure in animals’ lives, and outlines its considerable significance to humankind's relationship to other animals. In the realms of animal sentience, almost all scholarly discussion revolves around its negative aspects: pain, stress, distress, and suffering. By contrast, the positive aspects of sentience – rewards and pleasures – have been rarely broached by scientists. Yet, evolutionary principles predict that animals, like humans, are motivated to seek rewards, and not merely to avoid pain and suffering. Natural selection favours behaviours that enhance survival and procreation. In the conscious, sentient animal, the drives to secure food, shelter, social contact, and mates are motivated by desire (appetitive behaviour) and reinforced by pleasure (consummative behaviour). This is reflected in animals’ behaviour in the realms of play, food, sex, and touch. Despite the heuristic value of interpreting animal behaviour through the proximate (experiential) lens, scholarly study of animals remains entrenched almost exclusively in the ultimate (evolutionary) sphere. Not just science but also ethics suffer for this, for when we see animals as only the products of a competitive struggle for survival, we risk overlooking the positive qualities of their lives. Pleasure has moral import for such practices as factory farming and laboratory research, for it amplifies the moral burden of depriving animals the opportunity to lead fulfilling, enjoyable lives.
Animals Society Courses: A Growing Trend in Post-Secondary Education
J Balcombe - Society and Animals, 1999 - ingentaconnect.com
A survey of college courses addressing nonhuman animal ethics and welfare issues indicates that the presence of such courses has increased greatly since a prior survey was done in 1983. This paper provides titles and affiliations of 67 of 89 courses from the current survey. These courses represent 15 academic fields, and a majority are entirely devoted to animal issues. The fields of animal science and philosophy are proportionally well represented compared with biology and wildlife-related fields. An estimated 5000 or more North American students are now receiving instruction in these issues each year. While the availability of courses in animal issues is still sporadic, it is unprecedentedly high and seen as an important component of changing social values toward nonhuman animals.
Animal carcinogenicity studies: implications for the REACH system (pdf)
Andrew Knight, Jarrod Bailey and Jonathan Balcombe
The 2001 European Commission proposal for the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH) aims to improve public and environmental health by assessing the toxicity of, and restricting exposure to, potentially toxic chemicals. The greatest benefits are expected to accrue from decreased cancer incidences. Hence the accurate identification of chemical carcinogens must be a top priority for the REACH system. Due to a paucity of human clinical data, the identification of potential human carcinogens has conventionally relied on animal tests. However, our survey of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) toxic chemicals database revealed that, for a majority of the chemicals of greatest public health concern (93/160, i.e. 58.1%), the EPA found animal carcinogenicity data to be inadequate to support classifications of probable human carcinogen or non-carcinogen. A wide variety of species were used, with rodents predominating; a wide variety of routes of administration were used; and a particularly wide variety of organ systems were affected. These factors raise serious biological obstacles that render accurate extrapolation to humans profoundly difficult. Furthermore, significantly different International Agency for Research on Cancer assessments of identical chemicals, indicate that the true human predictivity of animal carcinogenicity data is even poorer than is indicated by the EPA figures alone. Consequently, we propose the replacement of animal carcinogenicity bioassays with a tiered combination of non-animal assays, which can be expected to yield a weight-of-evidence characterisation of carcinogenic risk with superior human predictivity. Additional advantages include substantial savings of financial, human and animal resources, and potentially greater insights into mechanisms of carcinogenicity.
Which drugs cause cancer? For and against: Cancer bioassays
Andrew Knight, Jarrod Bailey, Jonathan Balcombe
FOR Despite President Nixon's War on Cancer, launched in 1971, and billions of dollars spent since then, cancer remains the second-leading killer of Americans. Around 40% of us will get cancer, and half of us will die from it. 1 This cease-less tide of human suffering …
Medical training using simulation: Toward fewer animals and safer patients (pdf)
J Balcombe - ATLA-NOTTINGHAM-, 2004 - Citeseer
This paper presents the current status of computer-based simulation in medicine. Recent technological advances have enabled this field to emerge from esoteric explorations in academic laboratories to commercially available simulators designed to train users to perform medical procedures from start to finish. Today, more than a dozen companies are producing virtual reality simulators and interactive manikins for training in endoscopy, laparoscopy, anaesthesia, trauma management, angiography, and needle insertion. For many of these procedures, thousands of animals are still being used in training. Yet simulation has many advantages that can transcend scientific, ethical, economic and logistical problems that arise when using animals. The first validation studies of medical simulators began appearing in the late 1990s, and the early results indicate that these devices measure what they are intended to, and that they can improve performance relative to traditional learning methods. In addition to expanded use for new and existing minimally invasive procedures, medical simulators began appearing in the late 1990s, and the early results indicate that these devices measure what they are intended to, and that they can improve performance relative to traditional learning methods. In addition to expanded use for new and existing minimally invasive procedures, medical simulators will probably soon be used in physician credentialing, and they may someday allow surgeons to rehearse procedures in a patient-specific operating environment. Replacing animals with simulators in medical training is limited no longer by technical feasibility but by a willingness of the medical community to embrace it.
Laboratory rodent welfare: Thinking outside the cage
J Balcombe - Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2009 - Taylor & Francis
This commentary presents the case against housing rats and mice in laboratory cages; the commentary bases its case on their sentience, natural history, and the varied detriments of laboratory conditions. The commentary gives 5 arguments to support this position: (a) rats and mice have a high degree of sentience and can suffer, (b) laboratory environments cause suffering, (c) rats and mice in the wild have discrete behavioral needs, (d) rats and mice bred for many generations in the laboratory retain these needs, and (e) these needs are not met in laboratory cages.
J Balcombe - Organization & environment, 2000 - oae.sagepub.com
This commentary revisits and provides some further analysis on Dunayer’s critique of language use by the animal research community. Without question, such language is often used to distort and soften certain harsh realities of vivisection. The commentator elaborates on the terms consent, sacrifice, euthanasia, and vivisection and reflects on the particular challenges faced by any writer who sets out to assail the use of language by another interest group. For in doing so, the writer risks falling into the same traps of manipulative or prejudicial language that are being denounced. Dunayer is not immune to this, but she raises some valid and provocative points along the way.
J Balcombe - 1998 - eric.ed.gov
Killing animals for classroom dissection causes animal suffering, cheapens the value of life, and depletes wild animal populations, yet it remains commonplace. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) addresses the issue in this information packet which includes a fact sheet and three resource lists "on Dissection." The fact sheet discusses the numbers of animals killed for dissection in schools, kinds of animals used, sources of animals, industry methods, lack of industry oversight, student feelings, legislation, available alternatives, educational pros and cons, and suggestions for student action. An annotated list of studies on attitudes toward dissection includes 13 studies of student attitudes from elementary school through medical school. A second annotated bibliography addresses comparative studies of dissection and other animal uses in education. These studies include comparisons of student performance between groups performing dissection and those learning using models, computer simulation, lecture, or sequential slides. The studies also review field-based animal research as opposed to laboratory-based studies of animal behavior.
Intelligent, social rat can find joy in a hostile world
J Balcombe - Nature, 2005 - nature.com
One has to admire the guile and tenacity of the lone rat described by James Russell and colleagues (“Intercepting the first rat ashore”, Nature 437, 1107; 2005). This rat lived for ten weeks on a small, booby-trapped island, visited by trained rat-killing dogs, before swimming a quarter of a mile to a neighbouring island, where he survived a further two months of concerted efforts to eliminate him.
EuroNICHE 10th Anniversary Conference
J Balcombe - Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 1998 - Taylor & Francis
The European Network of Individuals and Campaigns for Humane Education (EuroNICHE) held its 10th conference November 28 through 30 in Hoek van Holland, The Netherlands. EuroNICHE describes itself as" an international network of students, teachers, and other …
Laboratory animals deserve better legal protection
J Balcombe - Nature Medicine, 2008 - nature.com
Given that she is head of the National Association for Biomedical Research, Frankie Trull's professed concern for animal welfare in her interview is disingenuous considering her organization's history of campaigning to ensure that rats, mice and birds be excluded from Animal Welfare Act (AWA) protections. The idea that these animals are not worthy of AWA coverage is unscientific and unethical. Rats and mice, in particular, continue to be exposed to such torments as inescapable electric shocks and force-feedings. Are these really what anyone would consider "the most humane conditions"?
Dissection: The Scientiﬁc Case for Alternatives (pdf)
J Balcombe - 2001 - my.psychologytoday.com
This article presents the scientiﬁc argument that leaming methods that replace tradi-tional nonhuman animal-consumptive methods in life science education——so-called alternatives to dissection-are pedagogically sound and probably superior to dissection.
ECVAM Workshop on Alternatives to the Use of Animals in Higher Education
J Balcombe - Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 1999 - Taylor & Francis
The movement for alternatives to the use of animals in laboratories has focused primarily on testing and research and relatively little on education, yet educational use of animals is substantial-numbering annually many millions of animals worldwide. The potential for …
Humane Science Projects: Suggestions for Biology Studies
Balcombe, Jonathan P., Comp.
This paper lists 35 studies in biology which can be tailored to suit the full range of student age groups and are designed to involve most or all of the key elements of the scientific process (study design, data collection and presentation, and experimental manipulation). Examples of some studies are: (1) study the growth of molds on food items under different growing conditions; vary foods and growing conditions; (2) study absenteeism in school; relate to colds, flu, other illnesses; (3) visit a local pond where bats forage at dusk; time of arrival of the bats on different nights and compare with time of year; estimate insect abundance by counting sudden changes of flight direction; and (4) conduct a behavioral study of your companion animal(s) at home: e.g., to what sounds do they respond; compare response to different vocal inflections; examine play behavior, etc. (get pdf)
Toward Genuine Rodent Welfare: Response to Reviewer Comments
J Balcombe - Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2009 - Taylor & Francis
I'm grateful to the editors for soliciting critiques of my commentary and for the opportunity to respond. Because one of the respondents (Patterson-Kane, 2010 12. Patterson-Kane, E. 2010/this issue. Thinking outside of our cages. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science …
Self-Harm in Laboratory-Housed Primates: Where Is the Evidence That the Animal Welfare Act Amendment Has Worked?
J Balcombe, H Ferdowsian,D Durham - Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2011 - Taylor & Francis
The 1985 amendment to the United States Animal Welfare Act (AWA) to promote psychological well being of primates in the laboratory represents an acknowledgment of an important welfare problem concerning nonhuman animals. How effective has this amendment been? Perhaps the best-known contributor to psychological distress in primates in the laboratory is nonsocial housing; yet, available analyses suggest that little progress has been made in avoiding single-caging of these animals. Another way to assess psychological well being is to examine rates of self-abusive behavior in laboratory primates. If the AWA has been effective, then post-AWA self-harm rates might be lower than pre-AWA rates. However, when we attempted to determine those rates from published studies, data were too sparse to allow a rigorous statistical analysis; of 139 studies reporting primate self-harming behavior, only 9 contained data allowing estimation of self-harming behavior rates. We conclude that the current system of laboratory animal care and record keeping is inadequate to properly assess AWA impacts on primate psychological well being and that more is required to ensure the psychological well being of primates.