Animal Sentience Stories

 

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Please note that this section is in the process of editing, as it is easier to do when it is on-line I have uploaded it. Apologies for any mistakes which hopefully will only be minor and concern spelling and format.  

 

Introduction

The old assumption that animals acted exclusively by instinct, while man had a monopoly of reason, is, we think, maintained by few people nowadays who have any knowledge at all about animals. We can only wonder that so absurd a theory could have been held for so long a time as it was, when on all sides the evidence if animals' power of reasoning is crushing.
Ernest Bell (1851-1933)

This section is for true stories and accounts of animal sentience. The idea is to bring together a collection of anecdotes and accounts of animal sentience from the past and the present. At the present time the vast majority of accounts here are taken from books, on-line and other published sources. I would very much like to include accounts of animal sentience from people who visit this website, so if you have a story about your companion animal, a wild animal, farm animal indeed any animal please send it to me, Christine barley77@aol.com, for inclusion, you are welcome to include photos if you have them.

This is an extension of the section  Sentience in Farm animals which contains accounts and antidotes that show sentience in farm and other animals.

To skip the extended introduction below and go straight to the information selection and focus on a particular a characteristic of animal sentience please scroll down or click here

Firstly what is sentience?

A sentient animal is one for whom feelings matter
John Webster, Professor Emeritus, University of Bristol

Basically sentience is awareness, consciousness

Here are a couple of definitions:

Sentience is the ability to feel or perceive. The term is used in science and philosophy, and in the study of artificial intelligence. Sentience is used in the study of consciousness to describe the ability to have sensations or experiences, known to Western philosophers as "qualia". In eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care.
Wikipedia

While studies in animal intelligence are rife with debate, sentience is fairly straightforward by comparison. It simply means being conscious, having the capacity to perceive through the senses. Often, it implies the capacity to suffer. "To be sentient is to be aware. One of the ways we are aware is pain," explains Dr. Roger Fouts, a professor of psychology at Central Washington University, an Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) board member and a co-director of the Chimpanzee and Human Communications Institute. "Sentience is a very useful trait to have in adaptation and survival," he says, adding that it is "far too complex to have popped up in our species without a long history of evolutionary development."

Animals have complex abilities and lead rich emotional lives, they are sentient beings aware of their environment, their own bodies and what is happening to them, aware of other animals, have the ability to experience suffering or pleasure, pain or wellbeing, to form friendships and so on. It may surprise you to know that animals can dream about their daily experiences in much the same way as we do.

Research on rats shows that they dream. Experiments conducted at MIT showed that animals have complex dreams and are able to retain and recall long sequences of events while they are asleep demonstrating that just like our brains the brains of rats regurgitate the day's events when asleep.  *1)

Furthermore animals are sentient in ways we do not understand and may outperform humans in certain abilities and senses.

Here is a good example:

Below is a sort animated video concerning the ability of animals to predict an earthquake

Animal Sentience Animation

"In China in 1975, 90,000 lives were saved when a whole city was evacuated several hours before a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck. The evacuation was based purely on the unusual behaviour of local animals: cattle lay down in the road and cockerels began crowing in the day. The cartoon you are about to see is based on this true event. Graham Norton, Miranda Richardson and Andrew Sachs star."

This project was commissioned by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, who wanted a Manga-style animation to raise public awareness of sentience and intelligence in farm animals. In particular WSPA wanted to focus on Asia, where factory farming is expanding at an alarming rate so we also made versions in Mandarin and Spanish.


The story itself is based on actual events in Haicheng, China, in 1975, when the city's 90,000 population was evacuated hours before a 7.3 magnitude earthquake.

 

Crouching Ox, Crowing Rooster from Adela Pickles on Vimeo.

Animals may possess emotions that we do not experience or understand

One observer described wild beavers whose dam had been severely damaged by human vandals at a season when material to repair it was hard to find. The observer arranged for suitable branches to be deposited in the pond while the beavers were asleep. The male of the pair was removing wood from his lodge to transfer to the dam when he discovered the branches, sniffing them and uttering loud excited cries. One observer thought that the beaver was 'rejoicing ', the other that he was 'marvelling', but than coming to their scientific senses, they greed that the beaver's subjective feelings... were beyond their power to ascertain.
Why Elephants Weep
by Jeffery Masson and Susan Macarthy

Apparently in ancient Japan it was taken as read that animals were sentient and were aware of their environment and what was happening to them, even to the extent of being devious and possessing imagination.

The following account comes from the Pillow book of Sei Shonagon*1), a lady in waiting at the court of the sixty-sixth emperor of Japan Ichijo towards the end of the twelfth century AD. This account concerns Okinamaru the palace dog punished for attacking Lady Myobu the palace cat.

Lady Myobu the palace cat, who was held in high regard "awareded the headdress of nobility" was basking in the sun on the veranda ignoring the admonition of the nurse who called out for her to come in "Oh you naughty thing! Please come inside at once" The cat paid no heed and the nurse thinking to give her a fright called on Okinamaru the palace dog  "Okinamaru, where are you?" she cried. "Come and bite Lady Myobu! The foolish Okinamaru  believing that the nurse was in earnest, rushed to the cat who startled and terrified, ran behind the blind into the Imperial Dinning Room, where the emperor happened to be sitting" The unfortunate Okinamaru was chastised and banished.  Shonagon describing the dog's former privileged status wrote : " Poor dog! He used to swagger about so happily. Recently on the third day of the third month , when the Controller First Secretary , paraded him through the palace grounds ,Okinamaru was adorned with garlands of willow leaves, peach blossoms on his head and cherry blossoms on his body. How could the dog have imagined that this would be his fate?

Okinamaru returned to the palace after his banishment and was beaten by two chamberlains as punishment. An intervention to stop by Sei Shonagon came to late and the dog was thrown outside of the gate presumed dead. That same evening while Sei Shonagon and other ladies in waiting were lamenting the fate of Okinamaru a bedraggled dog appeared shaking all over his body swollen and bruised. At first everyone thought it was Okinamaru but the dog made no response. We called him by name, but the dog did not respond.  Lady Urkon who was more familiar with the dog was summoned to indentify the animal by the Empress who had over heard the discussion, but she failed to recognise the dog as Okinamaru saying When I called to Okinamaru, he always used to come to me, wagging his tail. But this dog does not react at all.  After feeding and caring for the unfortunate dog it was finally decided that he was not Okinamaru.

The next morning when Sei Shonagon was tending to the empress the wretched dog walked into the room. Sei Shonagon said:  I was holding up the mirror for her when the dog we had seen on the previous evening slunk into the room and crouched next to one of the pillars. 'Poor Okinamaru' I said .'He had such a dreadful beating yesterday . How sad to think he is dead! I wonder what body he has been born into this time. Oh how he must have suffered !' At that moment the dog laying by the pillar started to shake and tremble, and shed a flood of tears. It was astounding. So this was really Okinamaru! On the previous night it was to avoid betraying himself that he had refused to answer to his name.

The dog yelped loudly and the ladies in waiting crowded round. When the news of this event reached the emperor he too came and said 'Its' amazing!' and 'To think that even a dog has such deep feelings!'

Okinamaru was granted an imperial pardon.

General aspects of sentience

I formerly possessed a large dog, who, like every other dog, was much pleased to go out walking. He showed his pleasure by trotting gravely before me with high steps, head much raised, moderately erected ears, and tail carried aloft but not stiffly. Not far from my house a path branches off to the right, leading to the hot-house, which I used often to visit for a few moments, to look at my experimental plants. This was always a great disappointment to the dog, as he did not know whether I should continue my walk; and the instantaneous and complete change of expression which came over him as soon as my body swerved in the least towards the path (and I sometimes tried this as an experiment) was laughable. His look of dejection was known to every member of the family, and was called his hot-house face. This consisted in the head drooping much, the whole body sinking a little and remaining motionless; the ears and tail falling suddenly down, but the tail was by no means wagged. With the falling of the ears and of his great chaps, the eyes became much changed in appearance, and I fancied that they looked less bright. His aspect was that of piteous, hopeless dejection; and it was, as I have said, laughable, as the cause was so slight. Every detail in his attitude was in complete opposition to his former joyful yet dignified bearing
An extract from The Expression of Emotions and Man and Animals by Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin writes about the many similarities between human and non human animals in his book The descent of Man. The passage below describes many characteristics including vengefulness, deceit, courage and anger in varying degrees displayed in animals that indicate sentience as they do in human beings. Moreover he observed that these characterises varied in the same species presenting in some animals whilst not in others, such as a bad temperament in some horses and good temperament in others, thus demonstrating animals as individuals in much the same way as are humans.  If you consider carefully the implications of evolution it will become apparent that our emotions are the gifts of our animal ancestors. The quotation below expresses this idea well:

We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention and curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals.

‘There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties… The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.’
Charles Darwin


The fact that the lower animals are excited by the same emotions as ourselves is so well established, that it will not be necessary to weary the reader by many details. Terror acts in the same manner on them as on us, causing the muscles to tremble, the heart to palpitate, the sphincters to be relaxed, and the hair to stand on end. Suspicion, the offspring of fear, is eminently characteristic of most wild animals. It is, I think, impossible to read the account given by Sir E. Tennent, of the behaviour of the female elephants, used as decoys, without admitting that they intentionally practise deceit, and well know what they are about. Courage and timidity are extremely variable qualities in the individuals of the same species, as is plainly seen in our dogs. Some dogs and horses are ill-tempered, and easily turn sulky; others are good-tempered; and these qualities are certainly inherited. Every one knows how liable animals are to furious rage, and how plainly they shew it. Many, and probably true, anecdotes have been published on the long-delayed and artful revenge of various animals. The accurate Rengger, and Brehm state that the American and African monkeys which they kept tame, certainly revenged themselves. Sir Andrew Smith, a zoologist whose scrupulous accuracy was known to many persons, told me the following story of which he was himself an eye- witness; at the Cape of Good Hope an officer had often plagued a certain baboon, and the animal, seeing him approaching one Sunday for parade, poured water into a hole and hastily made some thick mud, which he skilfully dashed over the officer as he passed by, to the amusement of many bystanders. For long afterwards the baboon rejoiced and triumphed whenever he saw his victim.
The Descent of Man Charles Darwin

Research has shown that chickens are capable of empathy. Chickens it seems are also capable of lust, selfishness and love.

Read about the emotions and intelligence of chickens and that of sheep in an article by Carla Carlisle in the daily telegraph.
Read more:
smh.com.au/environment/animals/chickens-capable-of-love-jealousy-selfishness-and-lust

The links below will take you to a number of accounts concerning animal sentience

'They're Like Us,' Elephant Researchers Say

Elephants are like us self aware. Recently an elephant named Happy who sadly is confined to the Bronx Zoo in New York passed an important test, the mirror test, by understanding that the elephant she could see in the mirror was herself

"I think the real shock right now, in terms of the mirror self-recognition tests and their intelligence and their emotions is, they're like us. It's not that they're way up there. It's that they're on level footing with us,"
Gay Bradshaw, director of a research institute called The Kerulos Center.

Read more facts that point to sentience in elephants

abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5435466&page=1

Does this bear wave at the little girl , it certainly Looks as though does

 

Animals are truly remarkable creatures sentient on levels similar to our own while possessing a sentience which is uniquely their own

Here are their stories *

Click the links below to select stories, comments, quotations, videos and other items of interest which focus on a particular a characteristic of animal sentience.

This page is part of a section concerning animal sentience which relates true stories, information and accounts of animal sentience.
For an introduction: Animal Sentience Stories

Emotion Love Altruism Empathy Pleasure Intelligence and ingenuity
Friendship Jealousy Grief Language

Anger

 Sixth Sense

Animals Have a Sense of beauty

Animal Morality Mental Health  

Some of the stories may appear in more than one category this is because animals like us animals display a variety of emotions and behaviours.

References

1) The pillow Book of Sei Shonagon Translated and edited by Robin Duke

MIT    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2002/dreams.html

Concerning reference to animal research. While I strongly condemn animal research I consider that for the sake of clarification such research should be referenced particularly if doing so furthers our understanding of animals and hence their better treatment

Links

dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-458976/Can-animals-really-love-other.html

Article The Inner life of animals looks at four books
that discuss animal intelligence and consciousness,

mysite.verizon.net/lilbun/pages/articles10.html

Credits
Website Background for this section Free Aniamtions

* I have endeavoured to provide accurate references for stories found on the internet however some of the stories are so frequently repeated that the original source is not easily identifiable. If you see any story here that is yours for which you have not been credited for have not given   permission for its inclusion please Contact me.

 

Credit Photo: (c) 2008 by Wanda Embar, Vegan Peace. Picture taken at Farm Sanctuary.

Picture Library: Vegan Peace

 

Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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