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Do animals grieve?

Do animals grieve?

Something on the emotions of animals for all who have been celebrating their animals companions and all other animals this weekend. What did your church do this year? Add links in comments.

A gallery from Episcopal Church Foundation:

Killing the Buddha website has a review of Barbara King’s new book How Animals Grieve (University of Chicago Press, 2013:

There is a stork whose yearly migration—from South Africa to rural Croatia—brings him to his destination on the same day, at approximately the same time. Humans have begun to call him Rodan. They want a name for him, it seems, because he has become a kind of inspiration. He travels these 8,000 miles in order to be near his mate, who is called Malena. She cannot fly south with him, in the winter, because she harbors permanent injuries from a gunshot wound. Malena winters at the homestead of a local human, who has been witness to this annual reunion of storks. As of 2010, Rodan had been making this journey for five years. Together the storks have apparently born thirty-two chicks. Every year, Rodan teaches the little ones how to migrate south before the weather turns.


The love story of Malena and Rodan is one of the many tales of devotion and romance in anthropologist Barbara King’s new book How Animals Grieve (University of Chicago Press, 2013). This is, indeed, a book about grief. It is a book that works to convince us that animals, much like humans, experience the emotion of grief. But King argues that, “like us, animals grieve when they have loved.” Grief “blooms” in animal life, she says, because animal bonds run deep—they can be tough, durable, unconditional. So in order to find animal grief, she suggests, we need to look for animal love.

King is an anthropologist, and not a philosopher. So she doesn’t have much to say about the ontology of love. She doesn’t, in other words, venture a clarification about what love actually is. Instead, King tells us stories. In her book we meet individual animals: storks like Rodan and Malena, a pair of cat sisters, a mamma bear and her cub, Tarra the elephant and her stray dog Bella, a gelada monkey who carries around the corpse of her deceased infant. These narrative accounts illustrate what King is calling animal love: forms of extreme (often seemingly irrational and self-disinterested) care and devotion.

And one more article from the New York Times: Dogs are People Too


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Lois Wye

The more we learn about how animals experience the world, the more we, as Christians, need to re-examine our relationships with them and the ways we – mostly unwittingly – make their lives so miserable. I’m so pleased to see so many animal-related posts on Episcopal Cafe lately. Thank you!

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