An argument against animal protection that feels as old as time is, “Animals don’t feel pain.” Time and time again, stories make the news that prove the contrary. Animals are heroes, survivors, and lovers. They feel joy, they feel pain, they feel sadness. Studies prove this over and over. Some animals even cry.
Recently there were news reports of an elephant calf who was trampled and rejected by his mother at the Shendiaoshan Wild Animal Nature Reserve in eastern China. Reports say the calf cried inconsolably for hours.
“Some mammals may cry due to loss of contact comfort,” animal behaviorist Marc Bekoff explained to Discovery News. ”It could be a hard-wired response to not feeling touch.” He also said that elephant calves – and human babies – tend to cry out of stress rather than sorrow, but stress is still an emotion. Animals who cry have to be of a social nature, possess eye anatomy similar to humans, and have brain structure suitable to processing emotions.
Let’s take dogs into consideration. Dogs are very social creatures, but they don’t weep tears from their eyes. They will, however, cry out in pain via yelps, whimpers, and howls. Many caregivers of dogs have said that their companion dogs have comforted them when they were upset and weeping, proving that dogs empathize and recognize sorrow and stress in others. Dogs also feel separation anxiety, similar to what elephant calves experience. Other animals that have shown signs of empathy include chickens, rats, and mice.
While it seems that elephant calves cry like human babies do, more scientific studies are called for to learn more. Stories like that of the elephant calf in China inspire people to delve further into animal behavior. Certainly research will find even more connections between us and our fellow Earthlings.
“Not so long ago, people thought that we were the only animals that could laugh, but now we know that rats and dogs and chimpanzees do as well,” said writer and naturalist, Virginia Morell. “Laughter, in fact, may be a universal emotion in all mammals. If so, why not sorrow?”
For more reading on the subject, check out Morell’s book, “Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures.” Beckoff also has a book coming out in November titled, ”Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed.”
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