Carl Safina: Animals Have Feelings, Too

December 09, 2015

Carl Safina

SJC Long Island recently welcomed Carl Safina, Ph.D., noted marine biologist, conservationist and author of Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.

Dr. Safina discussed his latest book and how animals are a lot like humans. During the discussion, Dr. Safina shared facts and similarities between animals and humans that have been discovered through research and observation. For example, we are scientifically similar because all animals have the same nerve cells as humans; sea otters can use tools and teach other sea otters how to use them; killer whales demonstrate how to catch food and share their food with other whales; elephants can decipher the sounds and scents of potentially dangerous humans from those of non-threatening humans; and all animals feel rage, anxiety and empathy.

“Animals have the same needs and wants as humans – to stay safe, stay alive, eat and take care of their babies,” said Dr. Safina. “They are conscious beings who help each other, have strong family bonds, act on curiosity and court their mates.”

As a conservationist, Dr. Safina stressed the importance of taking care of the planet. His presentation included images of animals that died from eating garbage humans discarded in the ocean. He also touched on the fact that the treatment and living conditions of caged animals worldwide has become deplorable. “In nature, killing is necessary and constant because all animals eat other animals or plants,” he said. “But, they are free until they are eaten. The way humans treat animals that are bred for consumption makes them worse off alive than dead.”

At the end of his lecture, he urged students and audience members to use their words and make their voices heard to help change the current treatment of animals.

A Long Island resident, Dr. Safina co-chairs and teaches in the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University (SBU) and is the founder and president of the Safina Center at SBU. His work has been recognized with MacArthur, Pew and Guggenheim Fellowships, and his writing has won Orion, Lannan and National Academies literary awards and the John Burroughs, James Beard and George Rabb medals. He hosted the PBS series "Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina" and his work appears in The New York Times, Audubon and Orion, and online at National Geographic News and Views, Huffington Post and