A New Way to Look at Animal Emotions

A New Way to Look at Animal Emotions

Contributed by Marielle Grenade-Willis

Carl Safina, long time animal advocate  and writer, turns anthropomorphism on its head in this op-ed piece for The Guardian. Instead of asking readers to think of animals in terms of how much they are like us, Safina raises the question of how we can potentially understand ourselves as experiencing a similar spectrum of emotion as other animals. “But, actually, humans have these emotions because other animals do as well. Brain science, evolutionary biology, and behavioural science now show that elephants, humans, and many other animals share a near-identical nervous system and likely experience near-identical basic emotions. Human and elephant brains are bathed in the same chemicals that create mood and motivation in us. We are all mammals, and under the skin we are kin.” Inflamed by the recent footage of Zimbabwe elephants being taken from the wild for Chinese zoos, he communicates his own experiences watching elephants in Amboseli National Park and how much this event impacted his perception of elephants. “They know who they are, whom they are with, who their enemies are, and where they are. They don’t just exist – they have lives.” A right to ethical consideration means that we are honoring the existence of nonhuman animals to lead meaningful, self-determining lives and give them the space in which to act upon their capabilities.