By Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Bloomsbury, $26.00, 224 pages

Jeffery Moussaieff Masson, author of the acclaimed novel When Elephants Weep, sets out to discover the origins of human violence in his new book Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil. Masson explores why the human animal has developed inhumane traits, in contrast to the “beasts” with whom we share the planet. Focusing on apex predators and charismatic megafauna, Masson searches for the root of human violence and cruelty by closely examining the emotions and behaviors of animals. Distinguishing between “us” and “them” and questioning why humans act with cruel intention, Masson looks back to the beginning of agriculture and the effects of trauma for answers.

Beasts is a compelling book that weaves intimate stories of animals together with tales of humanity’s darkest deeds. Masson writes with a strong and persuasive voice, urging humans to practice compassion with each other and animals. While some parts of Beasts may cause the reader to feel guilt about their dietary choices or even for visiting a zoo, there is no need for the reader to agree with all of Masson’s strong opinions to learn from his thought-provoking writing. Masson’s fascinating newest book will pique the interest of ethicists, and is an excellent book for any animal lover or activist.

Reviewed by Kristin Urban

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