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Culture of Empathy Builder: Marc Bekoff


Marc Bekoff Homepage:
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society.

 - The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy
- The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint





Marc Bekoff: Dialogs on How to Build a Culture of Empathy

Marc Bekoff  is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder and is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society. He is author of numerous books including: The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy.

How we can go about building a culture of empathy? I think about that a lot, in fact a book that I just sent off that will be out next year called, "Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation". I see a lots of ways that we can build a culture of empathy...
Sub Conference: Science
Sub Conference: Animals


2012-01-18 - Edwin Rutsch & Marc Bekoff: Dialogs on Building a Culture of Empathy and Compassion

  • 00:00 - Introductions

    • Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society

    • Studied coyotes, birds, penguins, etc

    • interested in animal protection

    • always been motivated by compassion for animals and the whole notion of empathy

  • 02:00 Tour of website

    • long list of books

    • Always felt non human animals should be protected

    • don't know if they need rights or if that's the way to go

    • I like to talk about animal protection not animal welfare or animal rights

    • in some way animal welfare is a copout

    • animal welfare

    • animal rights - turns off a lot of people

    • I can make good inroads when I talk about compassion and empathy for animals in terms of animal protection

  • 04:00 I'm looking at How do we build a culture of empathy and compassion in the largest sence? It seems that looking at how do we have empathy and compassion for animals is a part of that. Do you have thoughts about How we can go about building a culture of empathy?

    • I think about that a lot, in fact a book that I just sent off that will be out next year called, "Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation". I see a lots of ways that we can build a culture of empathy, and given my own interests I see "Compassionate Conservation" as being almost like a social movement.  It's acting like a collective, people with common interests to pursue them and to pursue them and act on their feelings of empathy, if you will. It's really hard to find people who don't empathize with animals or care about animals.

    • explain to people  - show them by example how empathy and compassion can be cased out in terms of actions for animals.

    • pay off for humans

      • we feel better

      • we too are animals

    • wellbeing of individual animals - protect spices

      • like empathy for individuals

  • 7:13 - What does empathy for individuals look like?

    • reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone

    • restore and create ecosystems in a more humane way

    • looking at it at the individual level

  • 9:15 - Writing a book now, "Rewilding our Hearts"

    • I see it as a more personal level

    • building corridors between ourselves, among ourselves to allow animals to exist

    • the basic element for Rewilding our Hearts is building a culture of empathy. Where people feel comfortable talking about it.

    • Scientists and many of my colleges shutter when they hear the words empathy or compassion.

    • I see a culture of empathy, in fact I was writing about this today and using your work, saying that the outcome will be waving in a rewilding process of our own hears, our own minds, our own psyches', and making that the paradigm for building a culture of empathy.

  • 11:20 - is the rewilding getting back to our inner nature. Something about connecting to ourselves  to a deeper truth,

    • it's reconnecting to who we are.

    • more data is coming out that we are more compassionate, fair and empathic than we ever though ourselves to be.

    • many books about this

    • animals are very empathic

  • 12:40 The rewilding is almost like getting back to our own inner empathy? It's seeing that empathy is this basic core value in all of us and perhaps in animals as well.

    • exactly, I was writing today that we need to make empathy and compassion social values. exactly

    • It's not asking anyone to do or be anyone other than who we are. 

    • that's a paradigm shift and going to take a while, it's not going to happen overnight.

    • I think it's going to catch on.

    • there's research that shows it feels good to be fair. to be nice

    • when we display empathy the reward systems in our brains fire.

    • empathy and compassion feels good

    • For me it's just about putting out the ideas and thinking about them and talking about them to other people.

  • 14:20 So, one of the ways of building a culture of empathy is bringing up the subject and start dialoging about it, and getting people to think about it, and discuss it.

    • throw the ideas out there and people will grab them

    • story of biology student that doesn't want to harm animals.

  • 16:30 There you go, how do you build a culture of empathy...  I do a lot of work with Jane Goodall's program, with kids. that's how I'm going to build a culture of empathy by getting to youngsters before their education destroys them. They're naturalists, they're compassionate, and not let the education system destroy their empathic  connections to animals in the worlds.

  • 17:00 I was the kid the burned ants with the magnifying glass.

    • yeah, I squashed some ant.. not as many as most people did

    • when I was young I was always minding and caring for animals.

    • came from being raised in a compassionate home.

    • very compassionate and empathic mother,

    • it's there in all of us.

    • I have no idea why people go in different ways

    • one reason is that authorities, like biology teachers, tell them this is what you have to do.

  • 19:00 The use of science for building a culture of empathy?

    • Darwin - evolutionary of continuity, difference in degree

    • we have something, other animals have it as well

  • 21:50 What does that do for us that animals have empathy? How does it affect how we interact with them?

    • It should mandate that we don't harm them.

  • 23:20 - Your animal manifesto - what was that?

    • animals telling us to treat us better or leave us alone.

    • we're asking people to add empathy and compassion to the world.

    • I'm not saying science is the only answer.

  • 25:00 What are some of the other answers?

    • I like going on gut feelings and spirituality

  • 28:50 What about the compassion footprint idea?

    • what actions would expand this footprint

    • a work in progress

    • re-wilding our hearts - re-empathizing our hearts

    • we are the re generation

    • need to get out of the re mindset

    • we need to do what's natural

    • just start being,

    • exactly,,

  •  I think this culture of empathy had an amazing amount of force and its going to take a lot of work, but because we're tapping into our basic nature, it may not be as difficult as some think it is. It's going to be frustrating. You just have to keep doing it, and never say never. Leap and the net will appear.


2013-11-13 - Professor says science justifies compassion for animals
"Dr. Marc Bekoff isn’t just a compassionate person; he’s a scientist who presents plenty of evidence to make a practical case for compassion toward animals. Tonight he will speak on the topic at the Tattered Cover Bookstore on 16th Street in Denver as he promotes his newest book on animal behavior: “Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation”.  Yes, Bekoff is as honest and upfront as he is analytical, and while he keeps a practical, professional tone in his approach, he makes no bones about being compassionate toward all creatures great and small. "



2010-02-10  Empathic Civilization': Why Animals Deserve Our Empathy Too
"A number of recent books in addition to Jeremy Rifkin's "The Empathic Civilization" have been concerned with the importance and prevalence of human empathy. These include

  • Dacher Keltner's "Born To be Good," D. Keltner et al. "

  • The Compassionate Instinct: The Science of Human Goodness," and

  • Frans de Waal's "The Age of Empathy."

Given my own background in animal behavior and cognitive ethology, I've written about empathy and its relationship to fairness and moral behavior from the nonhuman animal's (animal's) point of view in

  • "The Emotional Lives of Animals,"

  • "The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons For Expanding Our Compassion Footprint," and

  • with Jessica Pierce in "Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals."

These books show that the competitive "nature red in tooth and claw" paradigm doesn't accurately reflect the way in which animals interact, and that we truly can be called Homo empathicus with clear evolutionary roots of our own empathic behavior present in other animals. "




January 22, 2014 - Empathic Rats Free Trapped Buddies From Restraints (Op-Ed)

"There are always "surprises" emerging from studies of the cognitive, emotional, and moral lives of nonhuman animals (animals) and among the discoveries that received a good deal of attention was detailed research published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals that showed that chickens, mice and rats displayed empathy." Empathic Rats and Ravishing Ravens" has some strong examples, and in that essay I noted how over the past few years scientists have learned much about the moral lives of animals. Now we know rats display this same empathy."


2012-01-12 -  Do Rats Feel Empathy?
A new study finds rats prefer helping others over eating sweets. What does that mean for the way we treat animals? Anyone who’s kept up with the latest and greatest about the cognitive, emotional, and moral lives of nonhuman animals knows surprises are being uncovered almost daily, and that many non-primate animals are showing intellectual and emotional capacities that rival those of the great apes. Some fascinating new results about empathy in laboratory rats caution against our tooting our “we’re so special” horn too loudly or proudly.

2011-12-08 - Empathic Rats and Ravishing Ravens
Rats and ravens caution us about proudly tooting our "aren't we special" horn. A new study shows rats display empathy-driven behavior to help other rats in distress while another has demonstrated that ravens use body language and gestures to communicate with other ravens. Best to keep an open mind about the amazing cognitive and emotional capacities of other animals. Read More


2011-03-09 - Empathic chickens and cooperative elephants: Emotional intelligence expands its range again
Chickens feel one another's pain and elephants know when they need help
The more we actually study animals the more we learn about their emotional lives and cognitive skills. A few years ago a prestigious research group discovered that mice displayed empathy but caused a good deal of pain to the mice being studied. Now we've just learned that chickens also feel one another's pain.


2010-09-20 - Compassionate Conservation Finally Comes of Age: Killing in the name of conservation doesn't work

A forward-looking and long overdue symposium called Compassionate Conservation will be held from September 1 - 3, 2010 in Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford. The meeting, sponsored by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and the Born Free Foundation, will focus on major themes including animal welfare and the conservation of wild animals, captive animal welfare and conservation, conservation consequences of wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and release, and the international trade in live wild animals.


2010-04-20  - Using hamsters to save ferrets: The need for compassionate conservation
 In September  there will be a much-needed conference on Compassionate Conservation in which these and other questions will be discussed and debated. 


2010-03-10 - Empathic Civilization': Why Animals Deserve Our Empathy Too
I've written about empathy and its relationship to fairness and moral behavior from the nonhuman animal's (animal's) point of view.. Many animals are far more empathic and fair than many people realize. Even mice are empathic beings and capuchin monkeys and domestic dogs expect to be treated fairly. Individuals who are short-changed during a bartering transaction by being offered a less preferred treat refuse to cooperate with researchers.


Our relationships with animals are wide-ranging. When people tell me that they love animals and then harm or kill them I tell them I’m glad they don’t love me. Many individuals, including scientists, ignore their responsibility when they interact with animals and  fail to recognize that doing something in the name of science, which usually means in the name of humans, is not an adequate reason for intentionally causing suffering, pain, or death. “Good welfare” usually is not “good enough.” Existing regulations allow animals to be treated in regrettable ways that demean us as a species. Compassion is the key for bettering both animal and human lives. A good way to make the world a more compassionate place for animals is to increase our compassion footprint. We could begin by deciding that we will not intrude on animals’ lives unless our actions are in the best interests of the animals irrespective of our desires. It is simple to make more compassionate choices about what we eat and wear and how we educate students, conduct research, and entertain ourselves at the expense of animals. The time to make these changes is long overdue.....

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