Do Animals Really Feel Emotions like Humans?

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Did you know the study of animal emotions dates back to Charles Darwin? In 1872 Charles Darwin detailed stories of weeping elephants in his book “The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.” Fast forward to 1995, activist Jeffrey Masson wrote a book, “When Elephants Weep.” I read this book about a year ago and it was fascinating! Masson’s book details how elephants cry tears of pain when bound, abused or orphaned. He also says that elephants may feel, guilt, sorrow or other emotions beyond pain. The most interesting part of his book is that these emotions are exemplified by many animals, not just elephants. It is almost impossible to change the minds of people who don’t believe animals experience a range of emotions. Read this book, it will make you a believer with facts to support!

One of the most popular and well known examples of an animal conveying emotion is Koko the gorilla. For over 25 years, Koko has lived with a team of dedicated trainers who communicate with her using sign language. She gives new meaning to finding emotions within animals. In the early 1980s Koko’s kitten, All Ball, was killed by a car. After the kitten died, Koko not only asked for her kitten but cried often.

Join over 7million viewers who watched Koko express emotion over losing her kitten:

According to PBS.org, the study of animal emotions is ever changing and developing more interest in the science field. In late 2006, The World Society for the Protection of Animals organized a conference to discuss how to improve animal welfare on farms and in research labs. Recently, there are more stories presented in prestigious journals like the Oxford Journals (BioScience) regarding humans and their interrelationships with animals. Even publications such as The New York Times and The Economist have done articles regarding this topic.

Compassion Over Killing (COK) has done quite a few undercover investigations showing the rampant abuse of farm animals. In one case, The Judge described the undercover video as “disturbing” to the court. Two of the former employees were sentenced after being recorded dragging, kicking, throwing and flipping calves that were just days old. This sort of crime would not have even made it to the courts about 10-15 years ago. We would be lucky to see the dairy farm getting fined. With that said, clearly, our way of thinking has changed and we have evolved in the past 20 or 30 years. Organizations like the ASPCA and The Humane Society of the United States have linked animal abuse to domestic violence. The New York Times goes further by detailing how animal abuse relates to abuse of all kind.

Mother cow and calf show emotional embrace

Mother cow and calf show emotional embrace

In turn, the number of farm sanctuaries opening have been on the rise. To date, more people are becoming educated on the topic of animal welfare, human health and the accompanying global challenges associated with meat based diets. Because of this more people are adopting vegetarian or even vegan based eating habits. Celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney, Russell Simmons and Oprah all have brought veganism and vegetarianism to the forefront.

Websites such as VegNews and Vegan Food Magazine are now commonly considered the “norm” in everyday life. They have certainly influenced the fast food and restaurant industry to take a second look at vegan and vegetarian options. Years ago it was very difficult to find vegetarian or vegan friendly meals when dining out, today it’s easier than ever.

Gentle Barn which works with children from the inner-city, group homes, mental health care facilities, foster homes and schools is a great example. They teach people that even though we are all different on the outside, on the inside we are all the same and deserving of the equal rights, respect and freedoms. It’s a powerful message taught through their rescue farm of animals. Check out their website and the below video of a mother cow reuniting with her rescued calf. Cows are known to have a maternal instinct equivalent to that of a human. It’s quite touching and proves the bond all animals share.

In the infamous words of Gandhi, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Watch a mother cow reunite with her rescued calf

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