35 Chapters
Medium 9781608682195

Part 5. Consciousness, Sentience, and Cognition: A Potpourri of Current Research on Flies, Fish, and Other Animals

Marc Bekoff New World Library ePub

A Potpourri of Current Research on Flies, Fish, and Other Animals

THIS IS AN INCREDIBLY EXCITING TIME to study the behavior of other animals. It seems like every day we’re learning more and more about the fascinating lives of other animals — how smart and clever they are and how they’re able to solve problems we never imagined they could. Here I consider a wide range of research on animals that shows clearly just how well-developed and amazing are their cognitive skills. A very few people continue to ignore what we really know about other animals, but they are in the vast minority. Here you can read about flies, bees, lizards, fish, a back-scratching dog, how climate change is influencing behavior, and why respected scientists are pondering the spiritual lives of animals.

However, before getting into this wonderful research on animal minds and consciousness, I start this part with an essay that tackles one of the main and enduring criticisms of such research and of my work in particular: anthropomorphism, or the attribution of human characteristics to non-human animals, objects, or events (such as when people talk about “nasty thunderstorms.” The charge of anthropomorphism is often used to bash ideas that other animals are emotional beings. Skeptics claim that dogs, for example, are merely acting “as if” they’re happy or sad, but they really aren’t; they might be feeling something we don’t know or feeling nothing at all. Skeptics propose, because we can’t know with absolute certainty the thoughts of another being, we should take the stance that we can’t know anything or even that consciousness in other animals doesn’t exist. For Psychology Today and elsewhere, I have written extensively about the “problem” of “being anthropomorphic.” For instance, see “Anthropomorphic Double-Talk” in my book The Emotional Lives of Animals (see Endnotes, page 335). In my opinion, there’s no way to avoid anthropomorphism. Even those who eschew anthropomorphism must make their arguments using anthropomorphic terms, and they often do so in self-serving ways. If a scientist says an animal is “happy,” no one questions it, but if the animal is described as sad or suffering, then charges of anthropomorphism are leveled. Scientists can accept and treat their own companion animals as if they feel love, affection, gratitude, and pain, and then deny these very emotions in the animals they use, and abuse, while conducting experiments in the lab.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780870819360

TALKING WITH A COUGAR

Cara Blessley Lowe University Press of Colorado ePub

JULIA B. CORBETT

Utah—A seemingly benign visit with a cougar calls on this author to revisit her communication with all animals.

Anyone with a pet knows that hint of movement out of the corner-most reaches of your vision that tells you of the presence of another. That’s how I first see her, a whisper of movement without sound, a sense before a confirmation. A cougar.

It’s a simultaneous glance, me turning left, her turning right. Fifteen feet away, maybe twenty. Tail, god, so much tail. Thick, lush, the color of cooled butterscotch. Puma concolor, the cat of one color. Except she isn’t. A darker stripe, beginning at her rump, travels down the top of her tail and ends in a dark chocolaty tip. Her belly and chest are butterscotch with milk stirred in. Her body angles away, head turned back toward me. I hold my breath, hold my body mid-motion, freezing the moment to study like a painting.

Between us are a few sagebrush and scrub oak bushes; behind me is a cliff of golden sandstone that I just left. She was studying me when I was out there, I know she was. A human, so quiet, so motionless, legs crossed, fingers upturned and slightly curled, hands resting on the knees. My mind out there on that rock, however, was anything but still. The thoughts rushed in. The noise in my truck’s rear axle. Data analysis. My recently failed romance. The usual. When I meditate, I try to acknowledge the thoughts as they pop up and then let them pass through, like the ticker tape that runs across the bottom of the TV screen announcing severe weather or basketball scores. Eventually the thoughts slowed, my shoulders sagged, and the tightness around my eyes slackened. My breathing softened and deepened, and the patient, steady wind over the cliff edge became white noise. A sudden slap of wind and gathering darkness on the backs of my eyes is what prompted me to open them and clamber off the cliff and into the woods, face to face with the cougar.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781608682195

Part 6. The Emotional Lives of Animals: The Ever-Expanding Circle of Sentience Includes Depressed Bees and Empathic Chickens

Marc Bekoff New World Library ePub

The Ever-Expanding Circle of Sentience Includes Depressed Bees and Empathic Chickens

ANIMALS HAVE rich and deep emotional lives. We’ve known this for a long time, and solid scientific research is supporting our intuitions. The different species of animals that fall into the emotional area, the circle of sentience, is constantly expanding, and we’re learning more and more about the incredible diversity of emotions they experience, ranging from joy and happiness to empathy and compassion to grief and despair. Emotions serve as social glue and are the reasons we’re so attracted to other animals. It’s also why they are drawn to us. Our own emotions are the gifts of our ancestors. How lucky we are to have inherited our own passionate lives from these awe-inspiring beings.

One surprising member of the expanding circle of sentience is the honeybee, who, it turns out, isn’t always a happy worker, collecting pollen and making honey with legendary industriousness. Bees can become just as depressed on the job as people. Bees also use their right antenna to tell friend from foe. Please read on.

See All Chapters
Medium 9781608682195

Part 8. The Lives of Captive Creatures: Why Are They Even There?

Marc Bekoff New World Library ePub

Why Are They Even There?

BILLIONS OF ANIMALS are kept in various captive situations, ranging from laboratories to zoos and aquariums, from circuses and rodeos to our own homes. We keep animals for a variety of reasons: in the name of science, in the name of entertainment, in the name of food (see part 9), or because they’re our companions. However, the lives of captive animals are often compromised. They may suffer from confinement, the lack of exercise, from being kept alone without friends, and from being mistreated (or deliberately “broken,” as happens in circuses, so they do what’s needed to entertain us). Here I’m primarily concerned with wild and domestic animals who are kept for purposes of entertaining humans. Today, there is increasing scrutiny of zoos and their purpose. Particularly in light of the uneven levels of animal care, the untimely deaths of zoo animals, and even the occasional death of their human caretakers, we must ask what zoos are really good for. I hope that this sample of essays shows that captive animals deserve much better treatment than they receive and that this should lead us to question why we hold them captive in the first place.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780870819360

TO CRY FOR VISION

Cara Blessley Lowe University Press of Colorado ePub

CHRISTINA KOHLRUSS

Colorado—A series of meditative journeys in the wilderness—called vision quests—exposes this author to the power of coming face-to-face with cougar on the animal’s terms. Inner growth is fueled as she learns to face her deepest fears.

My first awareness of cougar’s power came through the experience of another. Several women and I gathered in late May in the Rockies outside of Lyons, Colorado, to encounter our first modern version of a vision quest. Traditionally, in many American Indian tribes, vision quests were reserved for boys as they came of age. They were sent off alone to fast and pray in the hope of receiving a vision in order to better understand their place in the world. Today, there are spiritual teachers that allow people to take part in a modified version of this experience in order to clarify their purpose or deepen their connection to Spirit.

We began our experience on a 4,000-acre buffalo ranch, free from any distractions except those we carried in our hearts and minds. For the next four days our bodies would be free from food and water as we nourished our Spirits with prayer and song inside circles we marked with offerings to the Seven Directions—East, South, West, North, Above, Below, and Within—to aid us on our journey. Prior to going on our quest, we prepared offerings of herbs and prayers wrapped in cloth pouches that we tied to a cord. This cord of powerful intention would mark the perimeter of our circle. Our teacher would remain at base camp near the altar and sweat lodge. From there she would hold a strong connection to each of us by entering into a deep state of prayer and meditation. I had planned to set up my space down by the stream lined with old cottonwoods, but on my way there two rattlesnakes warned me away. I heard them before I saw them. The first one blended into the rocky path before me. I backed away slowly and found an alternate path further downstream, the coolness of the water calling me. Above the steady flow, I heard the second alarm; sharp, quick, and dry, the way I imagine a person’s last breath would sound. Coiled and closer than the first one, I backed off slowly, gratefully putting more distance between my messengers and me.

See All Chapters

See All Chapters