The Emotional World of Farm Animals

2004, Nature  -   54 Comments
Ratings: 8.95/10 from 115 users.

The Emotional World of Farm Animals is a delightful documentary for viewers of all ages about the thinking and feeling side of animals that are all too often just viewed as food.

Jefferey Masson, author of When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie About Love, leads viewers through the personal journey he underwent while writing his latest book, The Pig Who Sang to The Moon.

This journey into the sentient, emotional lives of farm animals brings Masson to animal sanctuaries around the country where caregivers and the animals themselves tell their harrowing stories of rescue and escape.

Masson delves into the rich ancestry of these curious and intelligent animals and interviews top experts in animal behavior who offer scientific perspectives on these amazing creatures.

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54 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Calvin

    Really a very touching movie of how we should all experience animals more.

  2. Charles B.
  3. Charles B.

    I liked it a lot. I've always had a soft spot for farm animals too. Not a single horse in the whole documentary, however, and I do so love horses. Lots of turkeys, though! Made me want to have a few to make happy and joyful until the 4th Thursday in November! Ha!

  4. K.X.
  5. K.X.

    I feared this would have been a mushy corny film where people just see their own emotions in an animal, or some vegan extremist doc.
    If you take aside the owners of the sanctuaries that of course would never have answered differently even if they were wrong, this reflects the truth as I have seen it about farm animals.
    All in all a good video for those who have never seen a cow, pig, chicken etc up close and think it is some stupid walking pile of flesh.
    10 from me

  6. Patti
  7. Patti

    Why is it such a surprise that animals have feelings and emotions? This documentary only proves what pet owners have known all along, animals have emotions.

  8. Tabitha
  9. Tabitha

    There is a surprising amount of people who still think animals, particularly animals used for food, are not capable of emotion or logical thinking, but then again scientists have only explored this idea with an open mind for the past few decades. This is a great film that will help people think differently about the animals that we pet, that we protect, and that we choose to eat.

  10. David
  11. David

    I think domestic animals should be fed for eating as our body would be poor without meat but what I am strongly against is to treat them like s*** they should get all they need for their life and painless death in the end. not like some farmers or companies do in thick space without enough space to even move that´s something utterly disrespectful..

  12. MH
  13. MH

    "I think domestic animals should be fed for eating as our body would be poor without meat."

    Uh, the much lower rate of chronic health problems and substantially longer average lifespans of vegetarians and vegans gives the lie to that thesis.

  14. Alcavexus
  15. Alcavexus

    I watched this documentary and I'm sorry. Emotions or not. What would a lion look like if it asked its prey how it feels before it eats it...I couldn't care less how a cow felt before it was slaughtered.

  16. gero2006
  17. gero2006

    Alcavexus you wrote - "I couldn’t care less how a cow felt before it was slaughtered". How sad. One day, I hope you will be able to care.

  18. Smiley4u
  19. Smiley4u

    I would LOVE to go there for a week, to help and get to know all of the animals there.

  20. Coyote03
  21. Coyote03

    WOW, what an amazing documentary, our ability to feel empathy for other creatures is what separates us from predators such as the lion, they need to kill to survive, we on the other do not.

    Feelings such as empathy for others is what makes us human, for civilizations to exist in the first place, humans who did not know each-other through kin/family relationships needed to come and live together harmoniously.

    I've been a meat eater my whole life, I'll probably continue to eat meat, but this documentary definitely is making me feel bad about it haha

  22. Coyote03
  23. Coyote03

    I hope that last part didn't come off as insulting or anything, I actually was incredibly moved by all the animals, especially the cow that escaped from the slaughter house in NY. What got me so sad was the idea that this cow fought so hard for its life, and in the end it succeeded, but other cows who fight just as hard, maybe not escaping out of a NY city meat house, are just slaughtered. The struggle that cow went through is the struggle I can only imagine every cow goes through, and that idea is very troubling for me, really very sad, because only one in a million will escape that terrible fate.

  24. young
  25. young


    We acutally do need to kill to survive. To harvest vegtables on a grand scale billions of insects are killed. Key word is killed. Whether they feel pain or the degree in which their life matters is a whole other can of worms and an area which I dare not tread.

  26. Ali
  27. Ali

    This documentary opened my eyes to relating with farm animals as well as domesticated pets. I've always felt a connection and had a heart for animals as a whole. My love for them goes back to my childhood. I never made the clear connection between the farm animals in the nursery rhymes and the reality of how they got to my dinner plate. I see this now and it's a terrible reality.

    I'm 29yrs old and have not eaten meat in three days, very rare for an athlete like myself. Instead I'm learning of foods that replace the essential amino acids we get from meat such as Quinoa (a grain that has 22grams of protein per cup and all 8 essential amino acids)! I had no idea of this until only a week ago. Season it well and it's delicious, plus healthier & digests faster. If we don't educate ourselves, who will? Seriously, take the time answer that question.

    I will not look at food the same, but with more of a conscience and an escape from the way I was conditioned to see animals. I look forward to the experiences I will have with my eyes opened wider and am prepared for the battles that come with the territory. It's difficult to change lifestyles, but a move in the right direction is all that concerns me.

  28. Alliage
  29. Alliage

    Made me cry at least 5 times...

  30. Cuthalu
  31. Cuthalu

    "I feared this would have been a mushy corny film where people just see their own emotions in an animal, or some vegan extremist doc."

    Basically, the emotions themselves aren't that different because they originate from mainly identical part of the brain in mammals. The biggest differences are in the cognitive processing and analysing of the feelings, not the feelings as experiences per se.

    @ young
    That's true - nothing is perfect atm and probably never will be. However, there's going to be direct and collateral killing by eating factory animals compared to just the latter. You can't be completely kill-free, but you can minimize the damage.

  32. Anjie
  33. Anjie

    LOVED it! Thank you for posting this doc in full! Since it was made, however, Gene & Lorri Bauston (Farm Sanctuary) had, unfortunately, divorced. Since circa 2005, Lorri Houston had founded her own sanctuary - Animal Acres, in Acton, California. Along with Animal Place featured here, Animal Acres is a great place as well. There are never enough true sanctuaries out there for the most (and often) used/abused type of animal on earth, the farm animal.

  34. Cláudia Santos
  35. Cláudia Santos

    The message in this documentary it's easy to understand for those who spent some time with animals and enjoyed it.

    My maternal grandmother usually walks wiht her chickens under her harm, cuddles them and kisses their feathers. I've always watched her do it and one day I tryed, its a nice feeling, and you can get attached to them quite easily.
    I just know about dogs, I understand them and they understand me in the same way that I can get along with a child.

    For those who think this is a lame subject for people who don't know how to spend their time or their money, try to have an animal experience, it's terrificly spontaneous and liberating.

    P.S.: One more thing: "home made" chicken is the most tasty of all chickens that you can ever try.

  36. Martha
  37. Martha

    @ MH
    Considering all of the pesticides as well as antibiotics in factory farmed meat, I'm not surprised that humans who eat it are more likely to have heart disease/cancer.
    But what about meat that doesn't contain those substances?
    Humans have been eating meat for centuries
    Meat is not the problem; how it's made is!
    Meat itself isn't bad for you
    Despite the propaganda PETA and other organizations spread around.
    Have any of the studies about meat and likelihood of cancer had a separate group that ate organic antibiotic-free meat?
    No. And based on that I believe that it is bogus and sloppy science that doesn't deserve to be seen as reliable.

  38. Anjie
  39. Anjie

    Animal pains and emotions aside, MEAT IS THE PROBLEM, organic or otherwise.
    Buying into the idea that it's natural for people to kill and eat flesh IS the biggest propaganda and sloppy science of all (besides the one called "religion".)
    All things created equal, the healthiest humans have been the plant-based kind. Numerous legitimate studies supported this. For examples: 1) The 7th Day Adventists in Loma Linda, CA, as a group, are healthier than the rest of the country thanks to their primarily plant-based diet. 2) Aside from Drs. Ornish, Weil, Campbell(s), Esselstyn, and many others, Dr. Oz has also repeatedly promote the veg diet on his show as one of the best ways to reverse diseases, achieve optimal health & longevity. 3) Pres. Bill Clinton recently went on a veg diet based, not based on "sloppy science" but on the thousands of legitimate studies that he obviously deemed as logical and credible.
    In essence, since the history of humankind has always been riddled with diseases before factory-farmed meat ever came into play and 99% of all medications and supplements out there are created specifically for people who eat flesh, the question is not why plant-based diet but WHY NOT plant-based diet?

  40. Cláudia Santos
  41. Cláudia Santos

    @ Anjie

    I've been eating organic meat since I was a child and, yes, is some kind of religion, or maybe an addiction.
    It's stupid because today I'm cuddling a chicken and tomorrou I'm eating it, doesn't make any sense (I would never eat my dogs!) but I think I can't stop it...
    What's the best way to start eating a plant-based diet without having some kind of hangover?

  42. josephine
  43. josephine

    Very moving doco, loved how it focused on all the positive outcomes, and the personal stories of individual animals. I'm so moved by this film!

    Another insightful doco on this site is called "How to cure diabetes in 30days" shows amazing results from people with type 2 diabetes from eatting a plant based diet.

  44. MIchael22541
  45. MIchael22541

    I cried.

  46. Mmm
  47. Mmm

    Watching this makes me hungry.

  48. Anjie
  49. Anjie

    Hi Claudia, no need to shock your system by going veg overnight as few people can do that. Like cigarette, alcohol, or any other type of addiction, our taste for flesh can be weaned off gradually over time. Our taste buds can adapt to anything if you give it a chance. After a while you won't even miss it. There are, however, plenty of analog meat that resembles the real thing to help smooth out the transition. Lastly, it's hard to eat alone so: 1) Find veg-friendly restaurants to try out in your area. 2) Join your local vegetarian group or Meetup gatherings. 3) Subscribe to VegNews and Vegetarian Times. They have great veg info/recipes/pictures that are mouth watering. 4) Learn the facts about animal agriculture from people who don't profit from it. Watch "Earthlings", also on here. It will toughen your resolve. Aaron Scheibner's "A Delicate Balance" is also good and is shown free on his website now. Good luck!

  50. Tyler Stanley
  51. Tyler Stanley

    T_T :).. :(...:S

  52. His Forever
  53. His Forever


    I was watching this during dinner, and then I realized how ironic it was that I was eating my corned beef while watching the story of "Jessy" the calf saved from slaughter by jumping off the truck on the highway.

    I would have loved to have grown up on a farm like this, nonetheless. I've always really loved farm animals.

    Realized I watched this last year when I remembered they guy fauning over the chicken. LOL

  54. Draw Vinette
  55. Draw Vinette

    This was a great story on the emotions of farm animals. It is nice to know that there are farms for a few lucky animals to escape their destiny with the slaughter house and live out a long happy life.

    The spirits of these animals may be being compensated for a very good deed or deeds they may have done in a previous life. Who knows but it sounds good.

    The kindness of some human beings makes the rest of mankind look much better.

    With regards to the teenager from San Jose who was very upset at having spent so much time with her bull / cow and then seen it go to slaughter I have this wisdom for her. Think of how happy she made that bull / cow's life before it was killed. In all the time she spent with the animal she made a very positive difference in its life.

    Sadly we cannot save all of the farm animals in the United States bound for the slaughter house as humans depend on this protein to survive. Myself included. Humans have desensitized themselves to farm animals and their emotions for the simple reason that the farm animals will eventually be killed for meat processing. It is much easier to do this if the human handlers do not attach human feelings to farm animals they have to kill.

    As this documentary illustrates, we are all animals with common genetic roots millions of years back in time and we all experience the joy of life and living and all the emotions that come with it.

    Maybe it should be an endeavor of society that every community have a farm with farm animals that humans can befriend and be kind too. A farm where these special farm animals get to live to old age, be happy and free. We cannot save all of the farm animals from the slaughter house, but perhaps we could save a few more farm animals to honor and respect those we do slaughter in order to survive. That would be a noble and beneficial goal for human society to honor those farm animals whom our lives depend on. A way to thank nature in a positive way that would also benefit the community.

  56. kongkakingchongcha
  57. kongkakingchongcha

    Very emotional. Good people in this documentary. I can have a pig, chicken or even a cow pet but it won't stop me from eating meat. I love meat.

  58. Sieben Stern
  59. Sieben Stern

    i don't think the docu was about vegetarianism, but about treating animals humanely even though we eat them. :3

    so as long as it's free range chicken or grass fed range beef, you know the animal wasn't abused before it was served to you.

  60. fl260
  61. fl260

    You mean a lion could change his digestive system in a second if he could feel empathy? Common! Don't act like a preacher : most people are educated these days!

  62. Kestas v.
  63. Kestas v.

    i work in a pig farm and too often i forget that pigs are live creatures, just like my dog whom i love and threat like any member of my family. Too often i look at them just like at the stuff i have to take care. And only very rarely i realize they are not a brick, but live animals. Usually i wake up when i see small piglets running around theyr mom and playing just like humen children. Or when a small piglet cries in huge pain, when his mom accidently crushes him.

  64. hellofool
  65. hellofool

    what a simpleton ' i dont think the docu was about vegetarianism' its ok to kill something as long as you treat it nicely all that old rubbish - respect the animal then snack on it for a bit instead of letting it continue its natural life happy yeh that makes sense nice one mate

  66. HereHere2
  67. HereHere2

    I wish my parents had been more supportive of my efforts to eat vegetarian when I was young. The American Dietetic Association has a position statement that says that a well-planned vegetarian or vegan diet provides everything required for all stages of development. We didn't know that back then, though.

  68. Christopher Scott Tyler
  69. Christopher Scott Tyler

    Unfortunately it's not quite true. Humans don't have a digestive system suited towards a fully vegetable based diet. Gorrillas do, ruminants do though. Our digestive systems are geared towards fats (and the vital fat soluble vitamins) and proteins. Check out the work of Weston A Price.

  70. Sieben Stern
  71. Sieben Stern

    any animal raised for food is going to have had some level of abuse - depending on where your tolerance for the treatment of animals stands. all food animals have to be transported and penned in some way, and fed an unnatural diet, and treated in a way they would not be treated in the wild. Someone, somewhere will be displeased with what's going on, and there is no solution that will make everyone happy (it's a quantity needed vs. quality desired thing).

    from what you wrote you have made me realize that there are no truly humane options for eating meat or animal products and that even the small steps that animal rights campaigners have achieved or any forward momentum and progress will never be enough for some people. But things don't change overnight. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    You told me about a problem, but not a solution. I don't need to have the issue reiterated - it would be better said had you given me another option, such as a company known for treating their animals well, or a meat substitute that doesn't cost too much. That said my behavior did actually change - i haven't eaten eggs in quite a while and i went and bought some. sunny side up, over toast. delicious.

  72. JeanClellandMorin
  73. JeanClellandMorin

    I'm not a vegetarian and neither is my husband nor my dog. However, I think about what I eat and I do see the animal. The world would be healthier if we all worked towards being vegans. I am a fan of Dr. Will Tuttle who wrote World Peace Diet. I'm also a 6-afternoons-a-week volunteer at the local animal shelter. Humans are not just abusing other, relatively powerless species, but we are crowding out their living space. // Jean Clelland-Morin

  74. Cootie Girl
  75. Cootie Girl

    Here's a solution. Reduce your consumption of meat by 50%. Most people eat "servings" of meat that are double or triple what a reccomended serving is anyways. It would reduce intensive factory farming, save several lives over your your lifetime and could even save your life. Reducing meat consumption by 50% reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke by 50% also.

  76. Sieben Stern
  77. Sieben Stern

    I barely eat meat as it is - maybe twice a week, and even then it's probably a third of a serving. I use it as a flavor, not a portion.

    As for other people, definitely would solve the problem, but I would go one step farther and say reducing overall population is the only way to reduce consumption ^^

  78. bardh bakalli
  79. bardh bakalli

    Anje , how should the Eskimos , mongols or other people living on regions where plant based diet is NOT POSSIBLE , or people from 3-d world countries that cant afford an all plant based diet , get vegetarian? Meat is a food source... It should not be consumed as it is today (every day, and huge quantities) but it is essential, especially to extreme weather regions, high altitude regions, or rugged (stony) terrain regions.

  80. jimmy0__0
  81. jimmy0__0

    I think the problem or arguement is not about wether eating meat is right or wrong for the human body. Think our hole arguement centres around how it is produced, on mass with little to no care for the individual animal. As vegetarian or vegans we refrain from entering into whole sad business in the degradation of animals given rights.

  82. Rae Sikora
  83. Rae Sikora

    Just seeing this....Bardh, The majority of the people in the world have access to healthy plant based foods. Of course those who do not have access must eat whatever is available. Lets focus on the positive steps the other 99 percent can take......rather than divert our attention to those who dont have a choice. That is very rare.
    And it disregards the whole discussion of the choices we do have the power to make.

  84. Rolf_copter
  85. Rolf_copter

    ...How do you know lions and other predators dont have feeling for their prey? You watched the documentary about the lioness who saved a calf?

  86. David Ford
  87. David Ford

    Paused it less than 2 minutes in to say that I am already happy to be watching this because they said "non-human animals". TYVM That is all

  88. Naomi Cohen
  89. Naomi Cohen

    stop eating the animals. stop wearing the animals. stop exploiting the animals. there is more than enough food, clothing and entertainment on this planet without the use of animals.

  90. Luey Pritchard
  91. Luey Pritchard

    well start by killing yourself if youre so into depopulation, twat.

  92. Sieben Stern
  93. Sieben Stern

    actually, if you had a brain to go with those typing fingers you'd realize that not having kids or reducing family size is a good way to maintain a more healthy population. Or you just don't care about the future of this planet and want to live with 18 billion people, scraping at the ground like an animal.

    But I have a feeling that you're just too stupid to realize that our population isn't sustainable.

    or maybe you like to treat your twat like a pez dispenser.

  94. Mirka
  95. Mirka

    amazing documentary and amazing people!I wish I could work with them. I can not understand how anyone on this world can doubt that animals have feelings....ignorance is endless.... the only answer to everything is love and open minds...lets just love animals and not torture them uselessly....

  96. Jacek Walker
  97. Jacek Walker

    Lots depend on our early years conditioning. As a child one is told that this is good and that is wrong without being allowed to question why.
    Sometimes they call it tradition, sometimes beliefs and sometimes they keep dumb silence.
    The only way to get out of this vicious circle is to question everything since one can formulate a sentence.
    Read, observe, feel and open your mind!

  98. Colin
  99. Colin

    Yes, there have been studies using "organic" meat. They showed that ANIMAL PROTEINS cause chronic disease.

  100. Cari Baez
  101. Cari Baez

    nice! :)

  102. IM1RU2
  103. IM1RU2

    For those who want to keep an open mind and acquire more information about the modern production of meat before making uneducated statements, you might want to check these out:
    "Cowspiracy", film on the effects of factory farming on the environment.
    "Earthlings", film about modern factory farming.
    "The China Study" by T. Colin Campbell, meat diet vs. plant-based diet.

  104. Phillip
  105. Phillip

    Seems Alot of viewers thought was pro-vegetarian. That never even occurred to me...must be quite a few uncomfortable carnivores out there.
    I thought it was a great documentary.

  106. Curtiss Alderson
  107. Curtiss Alderson

    I was born in Newport Beach Ca. My freind bought 125 acres in Rocha, Uruguay called Lagos de Garzon... We are a substainable resort, but My bro has given me liberties to take some of the Free range animals we have and make them my pets, as I/we call it "Our Tribe"... I was clueless in the beginning, but I can say now after 3 years... All creatures love love... and they show it!!! Thank you for this lovely story... I knew it and it is sooooo true...

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