Animal Emotions and Animal Sentience and Why They Matter

Escrito por Marc Bekoff. Publicado en Relación.

Photo-BekoffDiscussions of animal emotions and animal sentience are wonderful for raising difficult and frustrating questions. This chapter is intended to be a nontraditional essay and I hope it generates kind discussion and that what I talk about is not dismissed on the grounds that I’m simply losing my mind. I assure you I’m not. Well, at least I think I’m not. I simply want to put forth some ideas that some might find controversial. Throwing caution to the wind is a good thing to do from time to time. It makes us dig deeply into our minds and hearts to see who we are and what we think about matters at hand. And sometimes we don’t like where we end up, which can be outside of our comfort zones.

http://www.ethologicalethics.org/pdf/3.pdf

Animal Emotions and Animal Sentience and Why They Matter:

Blending ‘Science Sense’ with

Common Sense, Compassion and

Heart

Marc Bekoff

University of Colorado, US

There is more to life than basic scientific knowledge.

(D. Papineau, 2005)

There’s a certain tragic isolation in believing that humans stand apart

in every way from the creatures that surround them, that the rest of

creation was shaped exclusively for our use.

(New York Times, 2005)

Let’s try to work together

Discussions of animal emotions and animal sentience are wonderful for raising

difficult and frustrating questions. This chapter is intended to be a nontraditional

essay and I hope it generates kind discussion and that what I talk

about is not dismissed on the grounds that I’m simply losing my mind. I assure

you I’m not. Well, at least I think I’m not. I simply want to put forth some

ideas that some might find controversial. Throwing caution to the wind is a

good thing to do from time to time. It makes us dig deeply into our minds and

hearts to see who we are and what we think about matters at hand. And

sometimes we don’t like where we end up, which can be outside of our comfort zones.

Let’s for the moment put differences aside and see what we can do. Let’s engage people who use and abuse animals and try to convince them to change.

their ways. Let’s be proactive and let’s educate them. Conflict is inevitable but,

as Martin Luther King stressed, reconciliation is the necessary complement of

conflict.

A summary of ‘big’ issues and difficult and frustrating

questions

In this chapter I raise a number of issues that are important to consider in

discussions of animal emotions and animal sentience. I argue for a paradigm shift

in how we study animal emotions and animal sentience and what we do with the

information we already have, ‘scientific’ and otherwise. It’s about time that the

sceptics and naysayers had to ‘prove’ their claims that animals don’t experience

emotions or don’t really feel pain, but just act ‘as if’ they do. And until such claims

are proven, let’s assume that numerous animals do experience rich emotions and

do suffer all sorts of pain. Just because something supposedly worked in the past

doesn’t mean that it works now or that it ever did. Animal emotions and animal

sentience matter very much, not only because what animals feel must be used first

and foremost for influencing how we interact with and use such animals, but also

because broad studies of animal emotions and animal sentience raise numerous

‘big’ questions about the nature of science itself. We can also learn much about

ourselves when we ponder the nature of animal passions and beastly virtues.

Some of the issues that I consider here include:

1 Are we really the only animals who experience a wide variety of feelings?

In my view the real question is why emotions have evolved not if they have

evolved in some animals. So, for example, it’s a waste of time to ask if

dogs or chimpanzees experience emotions such as joy, grief, anger and

jealousy. Animals’ emotions function as a ‘social glue’ and as ‘social

catalysts’. Their emotions and mood swings grab us. It is highly likely that

many animals exclaim ‘Wow!’ or ‘My goodness, what is happening?” as

they go through their days, enjoying some activities and also experiencing

enduring pain and suffering at the hands of humans. What animals feel is

more important than what they know when we consider what sorts of

treatment are permissible. When in doubt, err on the side of the animals.

2 What are some of the difficult questions in studies of animal emotions and

animal sentience that go ‘beyond’ science, or what we think science is and

what we think science can do? Is science the only show in town? Are there

different ways of knowing, and what might they be? How can we blend

them all together?

3 Is what we call ‘science’ really better than other ways of knowing (e.g.common sense or intuition) for explaining, understanding, and appreciating the nature of animal emotions and animal sentience and for predicting behaviour? This is an empirical question for which there really are no comparative data, despite claims that science and objectivity are better. Until

the data are in we must be careful in claiming that one sort of explanation is

always better than others. It’s poor scholarship to take a univocal approach

in the absence of supportive data. Let’s also not forget that many explanations

about evolution are stories with more or less authenticity or ‘truth’.

4 Is science really value-free? What background values underpin how

science is done and data are interpreted? Are scientists unfeeling automatons

who don’t have a point of view that influences their research?

Asking questions about science is not to be anti-science.

5 Are anecdotes really useless? Is anthropomorphism really all that bad? Is

subjectivity heresy? Should we have to apologize for naming the animals

we study?

6 Do individual animals have inherent value independent of the instrumental

value that we impose on them?

7 What do we really know about animal emotions and animal sentience?

Who has it – what do we think the taxonomic distribution of animal

sentience is and why? Does this really matter for influencing how we treat

other animals?

8 Do we know more than we think we know?

9 Does what we really know about animal emotions and animal sentience

translate into action on behalf of animal beings?

10 What does each of us really believe and feel about animal emotions and

animal sentience?

11 Does what we really believe and feel about animal emotions and animal

sentience translate into action on behalf of animal beings?

12 For those of us whose work involves using animals, what do we feel about

animal emotions and animal sentience when we’re alone, away from

colleagues, and pondering how we make our livings? Are we proud of

what we do to and for other animals and do we want others, including

our children, to follow our path? Should we continue what we’re doing?

13 What do we tell others, including our children, about how we make our

livings? What words do we use and how do we explain the emotions and

passions of animals who we use and abuse for our and not their ends.

14 Who gets paid by whom, and why do so many slaughterhouse workers

apparently not like their jobs and seek counselling? Harming animals

intentionally surely can’t be ‘fun’ or good for one’s psychological wellbeing.

These are among the practical matters that need to be considered.

15 How do we remain hopeful? There are some ‘good things’ happening,such as the conference on animal sentience organized by Compassion in World Farming Trust, out of which this book arose. And the recent victory of the McLibel Two, Helen Steel and David Morris, against McDonald’s, gives us hope. I believe we must remain hopeful, but time isn’t on our side. We’re engaged in a rapidly growing social movement and we must educate people and have them consider difficult questions that are easier to put aside.

16 Where do we go from here? How do we educate and open minds and

hearts? How might we work together to make the world a better place for

all beings? We all know that the situation at hand must change, so how

are we going to accomplish our goals?

17 To these ends, I endorse the statement agreed by delegates at the

conference out of which this book arose: ‘This conference calls on the UN,

the WTO, the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) and their member

governments to join us in recognizing that sentient animals are

capable of suffering, and that we all have a duty to preserve the habitat of

wild animals and to end cruel farming systems and other trades and

practices which inflict suffering on animals.’

18 But should sentience be the key factor, and if so, why? Isn’t just the fact

that they are alive sufficient for us to leave animals alone? There are

always difficult and frustrating questions to ponder and they won’t go

away if we play ostrich and bury our heads in the sand.

19 We must change minds and hearts, and time is of the essence. Far too

many animals are harmed each and every second of each and every day

worldwide on our behalf ‘in the name of science’ or in the name of ‘this’

or ‘that’. We really are an intrusive species that brings far too much pain

and suffering to other animals when we use and abuse them and when we

‘redecorate nature’.

20 If one loves animals how can she or he eat them, especially, but not only,

factory-farmed animals?

21 Why do we do what we do? Decisions about animal use and abuse are

individual choices and none of us should claim that we do things

‘because others make us do it’. Harming and killing other beings –

human animals, other animals and yes, even other forms of life such as

trees, plants and those living in bodies of water – is a personal choice. It’s

all too easy for a person to say something like ‘I didn’t want to harm that

animal, but I had to do it because someone made me do it’. If we all own

up to our personal choices, I really believe that the world will become a

more peaceful place. And what a poor example the line of reasoning ‘Oh,

someone else made me do it!’ sets for children. Each of us is responsible

for our actions and the convenience of blaming others – including and

especially large impersonal entities – should be discouraged. Individual

responsibility is critical. It’s a good idea for all of us to leave our comfort

zones and to grow – to expand our horizons as we work to replace

cruelty with compassion and dig deeply into our hearts. An important

question to ask is ‘Would we do what we did again?’ and if so, why. We need a paradigm shift in how we study animal emotions and animal sentience.

22 We can and we do make a difference. Animal emotions and animal sentience matter very much. What should our guidelines be? Perhaps there are some types of studies that simply cannot be done.

I believe that good or right-minded people can do and/or allow horrible

things to be done to animals because they really haven’t travelled deep

into their hearts or because they just don’t know. So we need to educate

them, and that is something we can do. The bottom line is that we must

change minds and hearts and time is of the essence. If we can change

minds and hearts and especially current practices in which animals are

used and abused, we are making progress and there is hope.

24 Often, what is called ‘good welfare’ simply isn’t ‘good enough’. Animals

deserve more and we can always do better.

Eyes tell it all: Dare to look at them if you can (I can’t)

Let’s begin with the eyes, the magnificently complex organs that provide a

window to the world. Across many species an individual’s eyes reflect what

they are feeling, wide open in glee and sunken in despair. Jane Goodall writes

about the young chimpanzee Flint’s sunken eyes as he grieved the loss of his

mother, Flo, and Konrad Lorenz also noted how the eyes of a grieving goose

sink back into its head. Jody McConnery wrote of traumatized orphan gorillas:

‘The light in their eyes simply goes out, and they die.’ And Aldo Leopold wrote

of the ‘green fire’ in the eyes of a dying wolf who he’d just shot. I often wonder

about animals whose eyes we can’t look into.

Doug Smith, who leads the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction project, also

recently wrote about the eyes of a wolf named Five, and how much he learned

from looking into them: ‘The last time I looked into Five’s eyes … she was

walking away from an elk her pack had killed . . . . As we flew overhead, she

looked up at us, as she always did. But the look she gave me had changed. To

gaze into the eyes of a wild wolf is one of the holiest of grails for lovers of

nature; some say what you see is untamed, unspoiled wildness. . . . That day in

January, something had gone out of Five’s eyes; she looked worried. Always

before her gaze had been defiant.’

And then there’s the story of Rick Swope and the chimpanzee JoJo. When

Rick was asked why he risked his life to save JoJo who had fallen into a moat

in the Detroit Zoo he answered: ‘I looked into his eyes. It was like looking into

the eyes of a man. And the message was: Won’t anybody help me?’ Recently,

three men near my hometown of Boulder tried to save a young mountain lion

who’d been hit by a car. The lions’ eyes begged them to do so. And I stopped

killing cats as part of a doctoral research project when Speedo, a very intelligent

cat, looked at me and asked, ‘Why me?’

Eyes tell it all and, if we can stand it, we should look into the fear-filled

eyes of animals who suffer at our hands, in horrible conditions of captivity,

in slaughterhouses and in zoos, rodeos and circuses. Dare to look into the

sunken eyes of animals who are afraid or feeling other sorts of pain, and then

try to deny to yourself and to others that these individuals aren’t feeling

anything.

Writing about the importance of eyes makes a great case for some of our

intuitions being borne out by hard science. In the prestigious journal Nature,

there was a very interesting study called ‘Staring fear in the face’. It turns out

that the eyes are of paramount importance in knowing that another human is

feeling fear; people tend to look at the eyes, and more so when the face is

fearful. A study of a woman with a specific deficit in recognizing fearful facial

expressions due to damage to a region of her brain called the amygdala showed

that that she couldn’t perceive fear because she didn’t look spontaneously

towards the eyes. Rather, she judged the face as having a neutral expression. It’s

also likely that the eyes are not only important in perceiving fear but also other

emotions. The results of the study made me think that perhaps one reason that

so many people can’t look into the eyes of an animal who is afraid or otherwise

suffering is because the people ‘know’ just what the animal is feelings and it’s

easier to deny this if one doesn’t look at their eyes and feel the fear emanating

from the poor beast.

The ‘A’ words – Anecdote, anthropomorphism and activism

First let’s consider the first two of what I call the three ‘A’ words, anecdote,

anthropomorphism and activism. I’ve argued over and over again that the

plural of ‘anecdote’ is ‘data’ and that we must be anthropomorphic. Anecdotes

and stories drive much of science although, of course, they aren’t enough on

their own. But to claim they aren’t a useful heuristic flies in the face of how

hard science and soft science are conducted.

Anthropomorphism has survived a long time because it is a necessity, but it

must be done carefully and biocentrically, making every attempt to maintain

the animal’s point of view by asking ‘What is it like to be that individual?’

Claims that anthropomorphism has no place in science or that anthropomorphic

predictions and explanations are less accurate than behaviourist or

more mechanistic or reductionistic explanations are not supported by any data.

This is an empirical question for which there are no data. Anthropomorphism

is alive and well, as it should be. But, let me stress again that it must be used

with care.

Some people argue against the use of the ‘A’ words without seeming to know

that they too are using them. For example, a representative of the American

Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) recently claimed that we mustn’t be

anthropomorphic and that it’s bad science to attribute human-like feelings to

animals. He was critical of people who claimed that an elephant at the Los

Angeles Zoo ‘wasn’t doing well’, but in the same breath he claimed that the elephant was ‘doing well’ and shouldn’t be sent to an elephant sanctuary. What he meant is that he can be anthropomorphic but others can’t be. He can say that an animal in a particular zoo is doing well, but others can’t say the elephant is not doing well. We must not let people get away with such sloppy and self-serving claims. In view of that sort of inconsistency (and hypocrisy),

it’s also important to note that the AZA itself has concluded in its own

executive summary that: ‘Little to no systematic research has been conducted

on the impact of visits to zoos and aquariums on visitor conservation knowledge,

awareness, affect or behavior’. So much for their claims that zoos are

important for purposes of education and conservation.

Science isn’t value-free: Three more ‘A’ words

Science isn’t value-free. We agree and disagree about the best way to study

animal emotions and animal sentience, just as we agree and disagree about what

is the best bank in which to place our money. Science is but one way of knowing

and is not the only show in town. We need to dispense with the three ‘A’ words

that often characterize science – arrogant, authoritarian and autonomous.

I love being a scientist and doing science, but remaining open to other ways

of knowing enriches me and makes me think ‘out of the box’. I don’t think it’s

a matter of science or subjectivity but rather science and subjectivity. We also

need to be able to live with uncertainty and give up control. Science and scientists

must be dynamic, open and compassionate. Asking questions about science

is not to be anti-science.

What does it mean to ‘know’ something?

It’s important to blend ‘science sense’ with common sense. I maintain that we

know that some non-human animals feel something some of the time, just as

do human animals. It’s nonsense to claim that we don’t know if dogs, pigs,

cows or chickens feel pain or have a point of view about whether they like or

don’t like being exposed to certain treatments. Who are we kidding? Frankly, I

think we’re kidding ourselves.

The privacy of mind and the use of a double standard: It’s ‘just

science’

The minds and feelings of individuals other than oneself are private. Access is

limited because we can’t really get into the head or heart of another being.

Sceptics often use this solipsistic line of reasoning, but it really can be a dead

end when practical matters are of primary concern. Of course other minds are

private, but that doesn’t stop us trying to understand what another human is

thinking or feeling or stop us using this information to make future compassionate

decisions.

When considering the emotional lives of animals, sceptics can be rather

sanguine concerning the notions of proof or what is actually known, often

employing a double standard. In practice this means that they require greater

evidence for the existence of animal emotions than they do in other areas of

science, a point stressed by the late Donald Griffin. But because subjective exper

iences are private matters, residing in the brains (and hearts) of individuals and

inaccessible in their entirety to others, it’s easy for sceptics to claim that we can

never be sure about animal emotions and to declare the case closed. Nonetheless,

a cursory glance at many studies in animal behaviour, behavioural ecology,

neurobiology and biomedicine shows clearly that only rarely do we ever come to

know everything about the questions at hand, yet this does not stop us from

making accurate predictions concerning what an individual is likely to do in a

given situation or from suggesting the use of a wide variety of treatments to help

alleviate different diseases. This is all in the patent absence of incontrovertible

proof, in the absence of total certainty, something that few scientists can ever

offer.

It’s also important to consider the power of prediction. No one has yet shown

that one form of prediction is better than others and this is still an open

question (Bekoff, 2004, 2006). Is science sense a better predictor than common

sense in the study of animal emotions and sentience? I can’t find any hard data

on this question (even if people once thought the world was flat). Clearly, even

when scientific data are available, individuals interpret them differently and

they may not even be used. This is so in other fields as well. Sandra Andelman

has shown that scientific data about species’ abundance actually plays little or

no role in determining which species are placed on the endangered species list

in the US. Opportunism and other factors play more of a role.

No science is perfect, it’s ‘just science’. But ‘just science’ is not a pejorative

phrase. We need to come clean about what science is what we can prove and

not prove, and how good the scientific data really are. Scientists are responsible

not only for sharing their findings with the public but also for letting them

know that science is a value-laden and imperfect enterprise. Scientists shouldn’t

make science something that it isn’t.

Arguing against speciesism and for evolutionary continuity

I have stressed the degree to which perceived animal/human differences

in the brain’s organization of feeling and emotion are probably due to

artefacts rather than to a real gap between primates (including

humans) and other mammalian orders. But that is not to say there is

no real difference at all between humans and other animals. There may

indeed be a real difference in brain organization of emotion. If so,

however, it is quantitative in nature and moderate in degree – not a

qualitative or massive difference.

(Berridge 2003, p41)

Neural substrates of feeling and emotion are

structures are implicated in affective reactions for both humans and

other animals.

(Berridge 2003, p42)

Now, what about speciesism? Are we really the only species in which emotions

have evolved. It’s not a matter of ‘them’ versus ‘us’. Over the years a variety of

criteria has been used to separate ‘them’ from ‘us’ – tool use, language, culture,

rationality, consciousness and a sense of self – and all have failed. Maybe we’re

the only species that cooks food. There are differences but there are also many

similarities between humans and non-human animals. Evolutionary continuity

is important to consider, the idea that there are differences in degree rather than

differences in kind in behavioural phenotypes and in cognitive and emotional

capacities among animals and between humans and other animals. This is an

idea – descent with modification – that Charles Darwin argued long ago. There

isn’t a great divide as some argue there is.

A few years ago I was reading the prestigious journal Science and saw the

following quotation: ‘More than any other species, we are the beneficiaries

and victims of a wealth of emotional experience.’ Professor R. J. Dolan, who

wrote this, cannot know that this statement is true. Indeed, it just might be

that other animals experience more vivid emotions than we do. This sort of

humanocentrism is what plagues the study of animal emotions. Why are we

so special, why are we such deeply feeling animals whereas other animals

aren’t? I find it difficult to accept that we should be the standard against

which other animals should be compared. Just look at the state of the world

today.

They dock pigs, don’t they? Does a whimpering dog feel something?

Who are we kidding?

Surely a whimpering or playing dog, or a chimpanzee in a tiny cage or grieving

the loss of a friend, or a baby pig having her tail cut off – ‘docked’ as this

horrific and inexcusable procedure is called – or having her teeth ground down

on a grindstone, feels something. Recent data show that chronic pain is

associated with docking (United States Department of Agriculture, 2005). Is

this really surprising? Who are we kidding? Cows also can be moody, hold

grudges and nurture friendships. Is this really surprising? Animals aren’t

unfeeling objects. They don’t like being shocked, cut up, starved, chained, stunned,

crammed into tiny cages, tied up, ripped away from family and friends, or

isolated.

Numerous pigs (and other farm animals) are mistreated daily in factory

farms. Scientific research shows that pigs suffer from stress, anxiety and

depression. Surely it’s not a big jump to claim that they don’t like having their

tails cut off and their teeth ground down. Their squealing tells us that, doesn’t

it? Michael Mendl notes that pigs can be stressed by normal farm management

distributed throughout

the brain, from front to back, and top to bottom. The same brain

structures are implicated in affective reactions for both humans and

other animals.

(Berridge 2003, p42)

Now, what about speciesism? Are we really the only species in which emotions

have evolved. It’s not a matter of ‘them’ versus ‘us’. Over the years a variety of

criteria has been used to separate ‘them’ from ‘us’ – tool use, language, culture,

rationality, consciousness and a sense of self – and all have failed. Maybe we’re

the only species that cooks food. There are differences but there are also many

similarities between humans and non-human animals. Evolutionary continuity

is important to consider, the idea that there are differences in degree rather than

differences in kind in behavioural phenotypes and in cognitive and emotional

capacities among animals and between humans and other animals. This is an

idea – descent with modification – that Charles Darwin argued long ago. There

isn’t a great divide as some argue there is.

A few years ago I was reading the prestigious journal Science and saw the

following quotation: ‘More than any other species, we are the beneficiaries

and victims of a wealth of emotional experience.’ Professor R. J. Dolan, who

wrote this, cannot know that this statement is true. Indeed, it just might be

that other animals experience more vivid emotions than we do. This sort of

humanocentrism is what plagues the study of animal emotions. Why are we

so special, why are we such deeply feeling animals whereas other animals

aren’t? I find it difficult to accept that we should be the standard against

which other animals should be compared. Just look at the state of the world

today.

They dock pigs, don’t they? Does a whimpering dog feel something?

Who are we kidding?

Surely a whimpering or playing dog, or a chimpanzee in a tiny cage or grieving

the loss of a friend, or a baby pig having her tail cut off – ‘docked’ as this

horrific and inexcusable procedure is called – or having her teeth ground down

on a grindstone, feels something. Recent data show that chronic pain is

associated with docking (United States Department of Agriculture, 2005). Is

this really surprising? Who are we kidding? Cows also can be moody, hold

grudges and nurture friendships. Is this really surprising? Animals aren’t

unfeeling objects. They don’t like being shocked, cut up, starved, chained, stunned,

crammed into tiny cages, tied up, ripped away from family and friends, or

isolated.

Numerous pigs (and other farm animals) are mistreated daily in factory

farms. Scientific research shows that pigs suffer from stress, anxiety and

depression. Surely it’s not a big jump to claim that they don’t like having their

tails cut off and their teeth ground down. Their squealing tells us that, doesn’t

it? Michael Mendl notes that pigs can be stressed by normal farm management

procedures. Indeed, this and other findings support the idea that all too often

what is called ‘good welfare’ simply is not good enough.

Of course animal emotions are not necessarily identical to ours and there’s

no reason to think they must be. Their hearts and stomachs and brains also

differ from ours and from those of other species, but this doesn’t stop us from

saying they have hearts, stomachs and brains. There’s dog-joy and chimpanzeejoy

and pig-joy, and dog-grief, chimpanzee-grief and pig-grief.

‘Oh, I harm animals “In the name of science”’

Some people justify what they do to animals ‘in the name of science’ or in the

name of ‘this’ or ‘that’. This is unacceptable. There is no reason to continue to

harm and to kill billions of animals and we must take to task those who claim

that there is.

‘I do what I do because there are no adequate non-animal substitutes’: The

three ‘E’s

This is a lame excuse with no force whatsoever. Numerous organizations list

non-animal substitutes that fit what I call the ‘E’ category – they are surely

more ethical, and at least as good or more educational and economical. And of

course, there is much evidence that many non-animal scientific procedures yield

results that are as good as or better than procedures that use animals. A search

on Google resulted in more than 1,300,000 ‘hits’ for the phrase ‘humane

education’, 1,120,000 for the phrase ‘humane science’ and about 23,800 for

the phrase ‘non-animal alternatives’. Needless to say, there is much information

out there!

Where to from here? A potpourri of ideas and shifting the

paradigm

We need to take the sceptics to task and turn the tables and have sceptics

‘prove’ that animals don’t have emotions rather than our having to prove that

they do. I recall an event at a symposium that was held at the Smithsonian

Institution in October 2000 to celebrate the publication of The Smile of a

Dolphin, a book about animal emotions that I edited. Cynthia Moss talked

about elephants and showed a wonderful video of these highly intelligent and

emotional beasts. During the question and answer period a former programme

leader from the National Science Foundation asked Cynthia ‘How do you

know these animals are feeling the emotions you claim they are?’ and Cynthia

aptly replied ‘How do you know they’re not?’

This was a very important exchange because of course he couldn’t answer his own question with certainty and neither could Cynthia. However, science sense, along with common sense and solid evolutionary biology, would favour her

view over his. It’s wonderful that mainstream journals are publishing essays on

animal emotions. For example, the article ‘Elephant breakdown’ about social trauma in elephants recently appeared in Nature. And the New York Times editorial ‘My little chickadee’ (New York Times, 2005) is also a most welcomed event.

Note: Elephants form social groups called matriarchies and individuals of different ages (who clearly vary in

size, as shown here) form very close social bonds with one another. Elephants experience a wide range of

emotions ranging from joy when they play to grief when they lose a friend. They also empathize with other

individuals. Joyce Poole, a seasoned expert in elephant behaviour wrote about a mother who had lost her

newborn: ‘As I watched Tonie’s vigil over her dead newborn, I got my first very strong feeling that elephants

grieve. I will never forget the expression on her face, her eyes, her mouth, the way she carried her ears, her

head, and her body. Every part of her spelled grief.’ Poole also wrote: ‘It is hard to watch elephants’ remarkable

behaviour during a family or bond group greeting ceremony, the birth of a new family member, a playful

interaction, the mating of a relative, the rescue of a family member, or the arrival of a musth male, and not

imagine that they feel very strong emotions which could be best described by words such as joy, happiness,

love, feelings of friendship, exuberance, amusement, pleasure, compassion, relief, and respect.’ I had the

pleasure of visiting Iain Douglas-Hamilton in Samburu in July 2005 and was amazed by my first-hand

experience of the deep emotional lives of these magnificent animals who form extremely close social bonds

with other group members. Clearly, elephant social groups should never be broken up so that individuals can

be shipped here and there to live miserable lives in captivity.

Just because something seemed to work in the past doesn’t mean it works

now. We need a paradigm shift in how we study animal emotions and animal

sentience and what we do with what we ‘know’ and feel about animal emotions

and animal sentience. The herd instinct must be strongly resisted, as must

thinking such as ‘Well, it worked for my mentor and his mentor, so it must be

right’. Historical momentum in methodology and in interpretation and explanation

need to be reassessed critically. We also need to change funding priorities

by not buying into the zeitgeist of ‘science over all’.

It’s essential that we do better than our ancestors and we surely have the

resources to do so. My optimism leads me in no other direction. But I am personally

ashamed at how humans abuse animals. I am sure future generations will

look back on us with shock and horror about our treatment of other animal

beings and wonder how we missed what is so very obvious about animal

emotions, and how much harm and suffering we brought to billions upon billions

of individuals. How could we ever do the things that we did to individuals who

clearly were suffering at our hands for our, and not their, benefit? How could we

ever allow so many individual beings to suffer horrific pain just so that we could

study them or eat them? I just don’t know. I really just don’t know.

I often imagine a dinner table conversation between a parent (a scientist) and

his or her child concerning, for example, studies in which the nature of

mother–infant bonds are studied by taking the infant away from their mother.

Child: So, what did you do today?

Parent: Oh, I removed two baby chimpanzees from their mother to see

how they reacted to this treatment.

Child: Hmm, do you think the baby minded being taken from her mother?

Parent: Well, I’m not sure so that’s why I did it.

Child: Oh, but what do you think that the baby’s fighting to get back to

her mother and her writhing and screaming meant? Surely she didn’t like

it. We already knew that, didn’t we? Why do you do this to young animals

and their mom?

Parent: It’s getting late, isn’t it time for bed?

Of course, this sort of conversation could be had for the innumerable situations

in which we subject millions of individual animal beings to suffering. I apologize

to each and every individual animal and hope that my scientific colleagues

and I can make a difference in their lives.

Getting out and doing something: All we need is love

We must continue to be the voices for voiceless animals and add to their

‘vociferous voices of suffering’ as the philosopher Graham Harvey puts it.

Numerous animals really are crying for help and they are not truly ‘voiceless’.

As we change the paradigm and move forward we are in a good position to

use the precautionary principle. Basically, this principle maintains that a lack of

full scientific certainty should not be used as an excuse to delay taking action

on some issue. So, in the arena of animal emotions and animal sentience, I have

argued that we do know enough to make informed decisions about animal

emotions and animal sentience and why they matter. We shouldn’t tolerate a

double standard of proof. Sceptic’s stories aren’t any better or truer than ours.

And even if we might be wrong some of the time this does not mean we’re

wrong all of the time. And so what if we’re wrong some of the time or unsure

about how to proceed? At least we won’t be adding more cruelty to an already

cruel world. And I (and others) have argued that when in doubt we should err

on the side of the individual animal.

It’s okay to be sentimental and to go from the heart. We need more compassion

and love in science, more heartfelt and heartful science. Simply put, we

must ‘mind’ animals and redecorate nature very carefully. All we need is love . . .

Often ‘good welfare’ simply isn’t ‘good enough’. Animals deserve more and

we can always do better.

Acknowledgement

I thank Jan Nystrom, Gay Bradshaw, Graham Harvey, and Jessica Pierce for

comments on this essay.

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