"State of the Animals 2016": An Interview With Ralph Nader

A discussion about the cognitive and emotional lives of nonhuman animals

Posted Oct 23, 2016

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Ralph Nader about the minds of nonhuman animals (animals). In this wide-ranging interview called “The Minds of Animals” we talked about what we know about what other animals want and need and also about their cognitive and emotional lives, focusing on recent research in the field called cognitive ethology, the study of animal minds. We also talked about how animals are used and abused in various venues, including for food and entertainment. The interview was motivated by Ralph’s excellent forthcoming book called Animal Envy: A Fable (for which I wrote an endorsement) and a forthcoming book I wrote with Jessica Pierce called The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age.

The description for Animal Envy reads:

Ralph Nader’s newest work of the imagination, Animal Envy, is a fable about the kinds of intelligences that are all around us in other animals. What would animals tell us—about themselves, about us—if there were a common language among all animal species? A bracingly simple idea, one that has been used before in books like George Orwell’s Animal Farm and E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web among others, but never like this. In Animal Envy, Ralph Nader proposes, quite plausibly, that a programmer has created a “digital translation” app whereby animals of different species, from insects to whales, can speak to one another, and through a “hyper-advanced converter” these animals can then also speak, both collectively and individually, to humans. It is decided that there will be a global assembly. It will be called “The Great Talkout.” Humans are persuaded to reserve 100 hours of network coverage so The Great Talkout may begin and will be viewed by humans everywhere, in all human languages, as well as all animal languages.     

The narrative that ensues is deeply felt and powerfully informed. Just as he did when he wrote Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us, Nader shows here that his visionary genius knows no limits.

After I listened to the interview when it aired I realized that in many ways we discussed what could be called “the state of the animals 2016.” I hope you enjoy our discussion.

Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in early 2017.