A chimp’s hug shows it’s time to accept that animals have feelings too

In Mama’s Last Hug, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that we can no longer deny that animals have feelings and we need to look closely at their inner lives

chimp
Darwin believed that animals and humans both had emotional lives

Cyril Ruoso/National Geographic Creative

UNTIL recently, it was heretical for a biologist to argue that animals have a mental life. Because animals can’t tell us what they are feeling, most scientists thought it safest to assume that they don’t feel much at all, or that their behaviours derive from simple instinct or learning. Emotions, empathy and intelligence were considered exclusively human traits – they were what defined us as human.

Frans de Waal, who has been studying the behaviour of primates for more than four decades, has always …

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