Today was infinitely better than yesterday. The weather was perfect. The animals behaved. Everything got done in an orderly and timely fashion. What more could you ask for?
The more time I spend with animals, the more clearly I see that animals are not people.
Yes, I know that cows and pigs and chickens are distinctly different from human beings, but I don’t always treat them differently. More often than not I treat them less intelligent humans. I attribute my own thoughts, feelings, fears and rationality to them, just on a lower level. This is called anthropomorphism. We all do it. But the fact remains that animals are not people, not just in appearance, but in every way.
Take pigs. Pigs love to root. Their snouts are perfectly designed for such activity. Nothing pleases them more than to nose around the grass and dirt looking for fruit or mushrooms and bugs. Personally, I prefer my dinner on a plate, but not so pigs. While it may seem more human to keep a pig in a pen with a clean food trough, doing so denies the pig the freedom to live out its instinct to root out food in the woods.
The same goes for cows. I often get asked where the cows go when it rains. People want to hear me say we put them in the barn where they have dry shelter. But we don’t. Rain doesn’t bother cows like it does us. I wouldn’t want to spend the day hanging out in the rain, but they don’t mind it. It’s actually nice for them because rain chases away the flies.
Chicken-dog is the worst for antrhopomorphism. People are appalled that we leave “that poor dog” outside with the chickens with little human interaction. She is a working dog. This is what she was bred and born to do. Herding and protecting are in here genetics. For a week now she has been up with the new chicken house – no leash, no harness, no muzzle, no boundaries – and she willingly stays with the chickens. Yes, she’ll come greet us when we come to get eggs or check her food, but she doesn’t try to follow us. She has food, water, shelter and purpose. That she isn’t someone’s pet doesn’t diminish her “happiness” as a dog.
That doesn’t mean we can disregard animals feelings and emotions. Animals experience fear, stress and contentment just like we do. They even have some understanding of guilt and disappointment. Spend even five minutes with a group of pigs and you’ll notice their curiosity and cleverness. Any pet owner knows that animals have unique personalities. We should embrace these characteristics and provide space for the animals to express their natural instincts, be it wallowing, grazing or herding.
So the next time you wonder if an animal is sad/lonely/annoyed/etc. stop to consider the animal’s nature. Ask yourself if it is reasonable for the animal to feel that way or if you only think the animal feels that way because you’d feel that way in the same situation.