About Jonathan


Jonathan & GoatJonathan Balcombe was born in England, raised in New Zealand and Canada, and has lived in the United States since 1987.

He has three biology degrees, including a PhD in ethology (the study of animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee, where he studied communication in bats. He has published over 50 scientific papers on animal behavior and animal protection.

Formerly Department Chair for Animal Studies with the Humane Society University, and Senior Research Scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Jonathan is currently Director of Animal Sentience with the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, in Washington, DC.

In his spare time Jonathan enjoys biking, baking, birdwatching, piano, painting, and trying to understand the squirrels on his deck.



What A Fish Knows:

Click to buy the book on Amazon.com

Balcombe’s eagerly anticipated and most recently published book is What A Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of our Underwater Cousins, from Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Do fishes think? Do they really have three-second memories? And can they recognize the humans who peer back at them from above the surface of the water

Click to buy the book on Amazon.co.uk
Click to buy the book on Amazon.co.uk

In What a Fish Knows Jonathan addresses these questions and more, taking us under the sea, through streams and estuaries, and to the other side of the aquarium glass to reveal the surprising capabilities of fishes.

What A Fish Knows ~ The Inner Lives Of Our Underwater Cousins was published in hardback on 7th June 2016.

It is now also available in paperback.

(Please click on image for more information or to purchase.)


He Is The Author Of Four Previous Books:


The Exultant Ark:

A Pictorial Tour of Animal Pleasure
Published By: University of California Press, 2011

The Exultant Ark Book Cover - SmallNature documentaries often depict animal life as a grim struggle for survival, but this visually stunning book opens our eyes to a different, more scientifically up-to-date way of looking at the animal kingdom.

In more than one hundred thirty striking images, The Exultant Ark celebrates the full range of animal experience with dramatic portraits of animal pleasure ranging from the charismatic and familiar to the obscure and bizarre.

(Please Click here or on image for more information or to purchase.)

Second Nature:

The Inner Lives of Animals
Published By: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010

Second Nature Book CoverFor centuries we believed that humans were the only ones that mattered. The idea that animals had feelings was either dismissed or considered heresy.

Today, that’s all changing. New scientific studies of animal behavior reveal perceptions, intelligences, awareness and social skills that would have been deemed fantasy a generation ago. The implications make our troubled relationship to animals one of the most pressing moral issues of our time.

Jonathan Balcombe, animal behaviorist and author of the critically acclaimed Pleasurable Kingdom, draws on the latest research, observational studies and personal anecdotes to reveal the full gamut of animal experience―from emotions, to problem solving, to moral judgment.

Balcombe challenges the widely held idea that nature is red in tooth and claw, highlighting animal traits we have disregarded until now: their nuanced understanding of social dynamics, their consideration for others, and their strong tendency to avoid violent conflict.

(Please Click here or on image for more information or to purchase.)

Pleasurable Kingdom:

Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good
Published By: Macmillan, 2006

Pleasurable Kingdom Book CoverThe recognition of animal pain and stress, once controversial, is now acknowledged by legislation in many countries, but there is no formal recognition of animals’ ability to feel pleasure. Pleasurable Kingdom is the first book for lay-readers to present new evidence that animals – like humans – enjoy themselves.

It debunks the popular perception that life for most is a continuous, grim struggle for survival and the avoidance of pain. Instead it suggests that creatures from birds to baboons feel good thanks to play, sex, touch, food, anticipation, comfort, aesthetics, and more.

Combining rigorous evidence, elegant argument and amusing anecdotes, leading animal behavior researcher Jonathan Balcombe proposes that the possibility of positive feelings in creatures other than humans has important ethical ramifications for both science and society.

(Please Click here or on image for more information or to purchase.)

The Use of Animals in Higher Education:

Problems, Alternatives, and Recommendations
Published By: Humane Society Press, 2000

The Use Of Animals In Higher Education Book CoverThe aim of this monograph is to present a comprehensive examination of the issue of animal use in education from an ethical and humane perspective. The book seeks to challenge existing notions pertaining to animals in education by drawing widely from the published literature.

It covers animal use in middle and high school, in college and graduate education, and in advanced training in medical and veterinary school. The emphasis, however, is on those grades in which animal use is greatest: the secondary and undergraduate levels.

The uses of animals in education range from benign observation of creatures in their natural habitats, to dissection of dead animals, to highly invasive procedures carried out on living animals.

(For more information, or to purchase, please click here.)



A popular speaker, Jonathan has given invited presentations on six continents.

Check the Forthcoming Events Page on this website often to see if and when he will be coming to a place near you.

2 thoughts on “About Jonathan

Comments are closed.