Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts

Teaching wild justice in the justice system

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In this week’s issue of New Scientist, Marc Bekoff reflects on the animal behavior and conservation biology course he’s taught for the past ten years at the Boulder County Jail in Colorado:

The inmates have often had enough of “nature red in tooth and claw”: many lament that their own “animal behavior” is what got them into trouble in the first place. I teach that though there is competition and aggression in the animal kingdom, there is also a lot of cooperation, empathy, compassion and reciprocity. I explain that these behaviors are examples of “wild justice”, and this idea makes them rethink what it means to be an animal.

Bekoff’s forthcoming book, coauthored with Jessica Pierce and aptly titled Wild Justice, will make us all rethink what it means. Revealing that animals exhibit a broad repertoire of moral behaviors, including fairness, empathy, trust, and reciprocity, they make the provocative case that there is no moral gap between humans and other species—that morality is an evolved trait that we unquestionably share with other social mammals.