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The Inner World of Farm Animals; Their Amazing Social, Emotional and Intellectual Capacities

Chickens can count. Pigs are smarter than poodles. Cows form close friendships. Turkeys know one another by their voices, and sheep recognize faces - of other sheep and of people. Far from lacking thoughts and feelings, barnyard creatures demonstrate sophisticated problem-solving abilities, possess rich social lives, and feel a wide range of emotions. In other words, they're much like humans in countless ways. And, like us, they suffer physical pain and mental anguish. In The Inner World of Farm Animals, Amy Hatkoff combines the latest research on the emotional and intellectual capacities of farm animals with touching stories and soulful photos to bring their inner world to life and joins the growing call for treating these aware, feeling beings with compassion and respect.

This story encapsulates what I experienced over and over as I learned about the extraordinary and often unexpected abilities of farm animals. I interviewed scientists, researchers, and individuals working with these animals throughout the United States, England, France, Australia, Canada, and many other countries. In conversation after conversation, I was struck by the capacities of these animals.  The complexity of their communication, the sophistication of their problem-solving abilities, and the range of their emotions became very vivid. As hearing and reading became believing for me, I was both excited and saddened. I realized that our lack of recognition of who they are is a loss not only for the animals, but for us as well, and particularly for our children. How is it that we do not know about their cognitive abilities or how much they care for one another, their offspring, and if given the opportunity, for humans? We have overlooked chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, sheep, and goats as sentient beings from whom we have much to learn and much to receive—and more importantly to whom we have so much to give.

It is easy not to think about farm animals, about who they are, what they experience or even what they mean to us. For those of us who are city dwellers, our only contact with livings pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, cows, sheep, and goats may be limited, making it even more difficult to develop an understanding of them.

For me, it wasn't until I visited a farm animal sanctuary that all that I had learned came together. What struck me most was that I found myself relating to and interacting with the chickens, turkeys, cows, pigs, sheep and goats in the same way I do with the dogs and cats in my life. They were no different. They were just as present, aware, engaging, warm, friendly, serious, funny or shy. Yet, in so many ways, these animals are the forgotten ones, the ones we rarely see, hear, touch, or get to know. Yet, in those two short hours, they had become my teachers. With a majesty and grace that belied what they had been through, they seemed to represent the possibility of hope, forgiveness, resilience, and an extraordinary ability to overcome. They had opened my heart and my mind to farm animals even further.

This book is dedicated to them and to the billions of animals who are currently being farmed in horrific conditions throughout the world. It is written in the hope that as we discover who these animals are, we will be moved to advocate for practices that are more ethical and humane and inspired to become part of the growing movement to treat them with much deserved compassion and respect. 

The way we view animals determines how they are treated. The evidence demonstrating that farm animals are sentient beings is strong and undeniable. Many of the capacities that have long been thought unique to humans have been shown to be abilities that we share with non-human animals. Slowly, the walls separating "us" and "them" are coming down. We are beginning to recognize that these walls were, in fact, largely man-made. We are, indeed, closer than we think.




"I love this book….just go buy one!" Ellen DeGeneres



"I just received this book and I'm absolutely blown away. The photographs… perfectly capture the beautiful essence of the various species and individuals featured, and the stories are enough to make people change their minds about "farm animals" without having to sift through high scientific language. Brava!"


Colleen Patrick-Goudreau,  The Vegan Table



"Hats off to Amy Hatkoff, author of this beautiful, approachable book. With simple prose, Hatkoff introduces readers to some startling scientific revelations of animals we prefer to think of as dumb and unfeeling … I've yet to encounter a solid rationale for the oft-held bias that domesticated animals are less aware, intelligent or sentient than wild animals. Hatkoff has marshaled the evidence to lay that bias to rest."


Jonathan Balcombe, The Pleasurable Kingdom and What a Fish Knows



"Beautiful, evocative, and pretty much perfect—this book will leave you changed for the better."


Rory Freedman, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals



"All animal lovers will love this book. Farm animals are sentient and they have true emotions. The photographs in this book are gorgeous."


Temple Grandin, Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human



"The Inner World of Farm Animals brings together a fascinating mix of science and story-telling about the intelligence and emotional lives of farm animals. A treasure-trove book, which will delight, amaze, cause laughter and, possibly, a tear or two."


Joyce D'Silva, Ambassador for Compassion in World Farming



"…just as Dr. Jane's research at Gombe Stream National Park showed the world how similar chimpanzees are to humans, this book uses ground-breaking research to show how these charismatic farm creatures have their own identities complete with their own personalities, feelings and emotions. …the stories in this book illustrate the similarities between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom, and how close we are—closer than we think. "


Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots Newsletter, August, 2009



"The Inner World of Farm Animals …is an unmatched bridge connecting the emotions witnessed by anybody with a companion animal to the intelligence of food animals. Hatkoff scours both science and psychology, offering funny, poignant, and sometimes bittersweet stories from both research and observation of the amazing feats of animals. This is a book you will want

to re-read and share with children."


Veg News



"This amazingly simple, yet profound, book with stunning photos is a book for all ages. I wish I had the resources to place this book in every library on the planet! … Our understanding of who animals are is changing and the remarkable stories in The Inner World of Farm Animals makes it clear that we have erred greatly in our judgments of them... this is another book by Amy Hatkoff with the power to change the world."


Shirley Wilkes-Johnson, producer/host, Vegan World Radio



"…an amazing book that should be required reading for all. The author has an artful way of weaving antidotes, facts and pictures throughout the book that truly encompass the reader and bring them into a world few know about. The book is simply a piece of art…and at the same time, gives a voice to animals that are often looked over. It is definitely a must read!"


Erin Schmidt, educator 


"I am ten. This book is so amazing. It has tons of pictures and stories, and everything about farm animals! It is cute, funny and so touching. I've read this book about five times and I love it more and more! Get this book if you love animals. It will get to your heart. Amazing."


Amazon Review


"A must read for all ages! Fun, inspiring, and thought-provoking. Beautiful, touching photographs accompany the wonderful stories of individual animals. But there's also plenty of good science here. The format makes it easy to read, share, and refer to in the future…Truly a fantastic book!"


Teresa P. Lanford



"Amy Hatkoff's insightful book addresses a question we've finally started asking: just how evolved is our place on the food chain, anyway? … Books like this one point to a different road: the future depends on our taking it."


Dan Barber, Chef, Blue Hill at Stone Barns



"The Inner World of Farm Animals brings together a fascinating mix of science and story-telling about the intelligence and emotional lives of farm animals. A treasure-trove book, which will delight, amaze, cause laughter and, possibly, a tear or two."

Joyce D'Silva, Ambassador for Compassion in World Farming


"The Inner World of Farm Animals will surely change your mind about the emotional lives of these wonderful beings. Moving stories of Alice, a doting and dancing turkey, Hope and Johnny, two loving pigs, and Olivia, a goat with a wonderful personality, woven in with the latest scientific research, make it clear that we must stop abusing them and other hapless animals for our own selfish needs. The easiest way for us to increase our compassion footprint is to appreciate animals for who they are -- amazing individuals who care deeply about what happens to them."


Marc Bekoff,  The Emotional Lives of Animals, Animals Matter, and Animals at Play


"This beautiful, well-researched book should make every meat-eater think differently about the lives of the animals that turn up on his or her plate."


Peter Singer, Princeton University,  Animal Liberation and In Defense of Animals


"I am so glad Amy Hatkoff wrote this very important book on the plight of farm animals. I have long been concerned with the food choices I make for myself and my family but over the years, I have become increasingly more aware of how everyone's choices are affecting the Earth and the animals that share it. I firmly believe that factory farming is the number one cause of global warming, not to mention its catastrophic effects on the destruction of the rainforest, world hunger and our own health... As soon as we all take responsibility for our actions... , we will see the results not only on a personal level but on a global and karmic one as well."


Russell Simmons, CEO, Rush Philanthropic