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Have you herd? It turns out cows have feelings, too

A particularly 'mechanistic view of animals' has prevailed throughout the West, says Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal. 'And I think we are basically abandoning that view, and that has obvious moral implications'.

EOIN O’CARROLL: ‘If nonhuman animals can feel emotions, are those emotions anything like ours? A generation ago, animal behaviorists would have dismissed such questions as unobservable, and therefore outside the bounds of science. Today, a shift is underway, as scientists and society alike begin to recognize a role for nonhuman animals’ inner mental states. A particularly “mechanistic view of animals” has prevailed throughout the West, says Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal. “And I think we are basically abandoning that view, and that has obvious moral implications.”

Professor de Waal’s bestseller published in March, “Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves,” argues directly for the existence of animal emotions, and for animals’ humane treatment. “That’s a very old obsession in the West – and in our religion of course – that we have souls and animals don’t have souls,” says Professor de Waal. “There’s many people who accept evolutionary theory, but they always make an exception for the human mind.”

This exclusionary view, he says, is becoming increasingly untenable. For one thing, humans and mammals, in addition to sharing the same biology associated with emotions, also often share some of the same basic facial expressions… In the study of human psychology, behaviorism began to lose its preeminence in the 1960s, with the advent of the so-called cognitive revolution, which began to systematically study phenomena like memory and attention. In animal behavior, the shift away from behaviorism began in the mid-1990s. “We sort of lost track of [animal emotions] for a century,” says Professor de Waal…

But since then, the shift back toward a recognition of the inner lives of animals has accompanied a shift in policy. In 1997, the European Union ratified a treaty recognizing animal sentience, and New Zealand and several European countries have banned using great apes in invasive experiments. In the United States, invasive testing on chimpanzees came to an end in 2015…

Dr. Alexandra Horowitz, a psychologist who specializes in canine cognition and behavior, says the growing recognition of the inner lives of animals is cause for hope. “Now that we’re tending to [nonhuman animals] at all really, as opposed to seeing them as nuisances or just as functionaries for our purposes, it could change. I think it’s an act of desperation to hope for that, but that’s where I think we are”.’ SOURCE…

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