The cruelest animal

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson continues his study of the emotional life of animals by examining the nature of conflict among animals in Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About the Origins of Good and Evil (Bloomsbury, $26). He's especially concerned here with apex predators and their—undeserved, he argues—reputation for cruelty. Masson argues that predators kill only to feed and never make torture a part of the process; in defense and mating, other animals are sometimes killed, but it's not an intentional act. He suggests that cruelty seems to be a uniquely human attribute. He's an interesting writer, but there's a tendency toward didacticism. What comes through loud and clear, though, is that humans are easily the cruelest of animals.