is based on personal research
Whether or not you believe that animals have feelings
similar to those of humans is an individual decision
, and if you are offended by anthropomorphism
then please stop reading now.
My own conviction is that animals lead an emotional life, and this node is going try and defend this theory. (I'm going to keep it as short and concise as possible… but forgive me if it occasionally diverges!! I'll carefully avoid elephants and chimpanzees cause it would turn into a never-ending node!)
Of course animals are not human. To say that a dolphin is happy because its mouth resembles a human smile is certainly incorrect. A cat is not sad when its eyes run, and an angry horse doesn't frown...
Believing these things is called anthropomorphism: the ascribing of human characteristics -thought, feeling, consciousness and motivation- to non-human things. (like hitting your computer and saying its out to get you…which every computer owner knows is also true *LOL*)
In the name of anthropomorphism (a sin in the scientific community) the entire topic of animal emotions has been avoided and their feelings quite literally ignored and often vehemently denied.
I am not going to consciously avoid anthropomorphism here, as I think that with enough familiarity and observation, you can quite easily put side by side the emotions felt by animals and humans -after all, do you always know what your next door neighbour is really feeling? If you felt it too, would you recognise the sensation and be aware of its meaning?
THE NORMAL EVERYDAY HUMAN IS THE BETTER SCIENTIST when it comes to animal emotions! -because WE BELIEVE IN THEM!
Any person who has lived with an animal is convinced their pet has feelings. Take a random dog for instance, and he will express boundless joy at the prospect of going on a walk. This translates as hope which can shift into disappointment and melancholy (the famous puppy dog eyes!) if his hope is shattered.
Yet, hope and disappointment are complex emotions involving a concept of future, and a grasp of what reality 'should' be compared to what it is.
I chose the simple example of the dog because it is an animal most of us are familiar with. We feel we know our dogs, we imagine to know what he is thinking and sense what he is feeling. Who can deny that a dog feels pain, fear or joy?
Well, sadly many people do!
But aren't your Labrador's expressions just as decipherable as the aforementioned neighbour's?…
Feelings can be measured by hormone levels and suchlike, unfortunately this science just detects a "response" and in the case of animal emotions, scientists have insisted on giving biological explanations for all emotional response observed.
i.e. A lioness defends her cubs not because she loves them, but because her ultimate aim in life is to pass on her genes, and it is in the interest of her genetic pool that her young survive…. Need I add bullshit? I doubt mother lion sees her cubs in danger and thinks: "Oh no, my genetic pool is in danger"
There are enough cases of "adoption" in the wild to disapprove this theory of instinctive genetic protection
She acts on the same impulse a human mother does: my baaaaaby!
Many people enjoy believing that cats are selfish, unfeeling creatures who heartlessly use their deluded owners, compared with loving, loyal and naïve dogs. "enjoy" is indeed the correct word to use here because in reality we have quite reasonable views of our pets abilities and attributes.
Which dog owner has never said: "He likes that.", "He's scared of this", or "He hates being left behind"? You are hereby assuming you have deciphered your pet's emotions. And even if you are just supposing the animal has the same sort of feelings as yourself, you're probably not that wrong!
(Interesting point, did you know there is an opposite to anthropomorphism. It occurs when an animal ascribes animal traits to humans. In "The hidden life of dogs", Elizabeth Marshall Thomas writes: "When a dog with a bone menaces the human observer, he is actually assuming the human wants the slimy, dirt-laden object and is applying dog values and cynomorphizing")
One day, during a show at an oceanarium, a bird landed next to Ola the killer whale's tank. Ola stuck his head out and looked at the bird. When it didn't move, Ola leapt up at it with gaping jaws. The bird still didn't move. By this time, the audience was ignoring the show and watching Ola and the bird. Ola raced around the tank creating big waves which splashed over the bird's feet, but it still didn't move. Ola seemed to get more and more agitated, and suddenly jumped out above the tank with a mouthful of water and squirted it directly at the bird. It flew away shaking its feathers and the audience burst out laughing. (Ibid. p240)
Such laughter contains an element of recognition. The audience thought it "knew how Ola felt", never mind that Ola was a killer whale and they were human! Did they recognise irritation? Frustration? Or a biologically meaningless wish to dominate a bird??
People who deny the emotions of animals have never seeked to observe and accept them. There is of course material interest in this denial.
The basic idea is that if a being does not feel pain in the same way we feel it, then its ok to hurt it.
On this foundation, animals are used for experiments and medical research, etc… Trust me -a white mouse suffers when you grow a tumour on its back. It feels pain. And if it could talk it would probably plead and ask its torturer "WHY?"
Yet… do the believers really believe?
Yes. We just tend to forget the relativity of emotions.
My horse taught me a lot about this idea: in our forest, we have to cross a wild torrent on two logs laid side by side over the rocks. I cannot cross this by foot -I am scared. Yet on the horse I close my eyes and let him take care of things.
At first I thought he was "brave" for crossing, then I realised he was simply not scared. His lack of fear came from the fact that he trusted me -I said cross, therefore it must be safe and he had no reason to be scared. However the only reason I said cross was because I trusted him to be able to do it! -Whoah, what a complex bundle of emotions, but the point is he trusts me and he is not scared. Whereas I trust him but am nevertheless scared shitless.
If we were to cross a tiger in a cage I would not feel fear, but he probably would.
To conclude, there is enough proof that animals lead an emotional life, perhaps a much deeper one than most people are ready to accept. Understanding between species is possible, and to deny their feelings is to diminish the animals themselves. Don't forget humans are primates too, we all come from the same creator, why would we have emotions and not our four legged friends?
Feel free to msg me if you find mistakes or unclarities in this node!