When I was writing the animal-rights blog for the Albany Times Union several years back, I often focused on animal cognition and ethology. My goal was simple: By illustrating the depth of their intelligence and the richness of their social/emotional lives, I hoped to remove any doubt about our connection – our bond – to many nonhuman animals, especially other mammals. The relevant word was/is sentience – the ability to feel; the capacity for pleasure and, of course, its counterpart, pain.

In regard to the above, a primary influence for me was Dr. Marc Bekoff, renowned biologist, ethologist, and writer. Dr. Bekoff is a regular contributor to Psychology Today; he recently penned an article entitled: “It’s Time To Stop Wondering if Animals Are Sentient – They Are.” Needless to say, everything he writes fully applies to the horses we represent. Here is the full piece – and my highlights:

“It’s clear we know that numerous animals other than ourselves are sentient beings, and a shift in attitudes is in progress. Given what we know about animal sentience, it’s time for more action – to use what we know on behalf of other animals.

“We know they get bored, suffer immeasurably when their bodies are mutilated and their lives compromised by being forced to live in horrific conditions of captivity ‘in the name of humans,’ when their children are ripped away from them to make more meat or milk or cheese, or when they’re severely abused to entertain us. … We also know that animals feel pleasure and like to experience certain activities such as being free to move about and interact with friends and other animals, play, and feel safe.

“I know some people will respond with something like, ‘We really don’t know whether pigs don’t like their tails being cut off or being castrated,’ or ‘We need more data to know that animals get really bored or enjoy play.’ However, we know it, and it’s high time to recognize that this sort of skepticism is…responsible for widespread and continued abuse….

“The abundant scientific database that already exists…supports the fact that there exist many species of nonhuman organisms on our planet who are undeniably sentient; deeply feeling, emotional beings who care about what happens to themselves and others. The fact of sentience needs to be put to use and into practice to protect and respect the lives of the other animals our species interact with in so many ways. … While we persist in pondering the obvious, ignoring what we already know and have long known, countless nonhuman victims continue to be abused by humankind, every minute of every day, planet-wide.

“Future human generations will surely look back and wonder how we could have kept shamefully failing to…protect sentient non-humankind from ourselves. … We can, and we must do better. Solid science, evolutionary biology, comparative psychology, and a dose of common sense can lead the way. Surely, it’s time to stop wondering if other animals are sentient – they clearly are.”


  1. There are too many people that rely on government funding to support their animal abuse and not only in horse racing but also in junk science. I’m not saying that all science is junk. There’s a difference between junk science and good science.

  2. Anyone who doubts any animal is a sentient being has obviously not spent time with one, or is a total uncaring idiot.. It’s a crime for people to think animals feel nothing, think nothing. Nice case in point: last nights local news. Animal shelters are begging for foster home and adoptions because all the people who adopted pets during the COVID lockdown are now going back to work. Their “companions” from their dark days are now expendable, not needed anymore and simply discarded like old clothes. People make me sick.

    • Yes I agree, Jeanette feels animals are sentiment. My experience in treating thoroughbreds in rehab,using therapeutic ultrasound and massage over a thirty year period.Every horse knows a caring comforting therapeutic touch. Horses receiving relief from stress pain and suffering are highly receptive and appreciative. These treatments are not dangerous they are not blocking pain. These treatments are correcting physical and mental dysfunctions. I believe all performance horses have undiagnosed muscular dysfunction to some degree.If left untreated the muscular dysfunction eventually leads to poor performance, injury and possibly catastrophic breakdown. I also believe that the horses natural temperament should be understood by its human handlers and a natural nervous temperament should not be mistaken for agression and a mild kind temperament not mistaken for disinterested and the horse becomes misunderstood.Both of these situations are subject to the treatment they receive from their human handlers. On the topic of cruelty to horses. My dad used to say”Horse Racing is a Dirty Game” at ten years old I did not understand what was dirty about it? Then he would say to me “ It’s Not the Horses it’s The People”

    • Yes indeed people make me sick too. And certainly they have had lots of time to think about this and plan it before they went back to work.

  3. Are ‘animals’ sentient? Let’s just say I’ve met many expressive furfriends et al. who are a lot more sentient than some alleged ‘humans’! I am of course the butler of a 30 yr old pony who has been running my life for 25 of those years; I think we know each other as well as many long-married [happy] couples. Other than wishing I had a vacation at least once a decade, we are tight sistas :)!! People who do not understand the complex emotions of mammals are choosing not to see what has been empirically proven…

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