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.”