Monday, February 28, 2005

As Above, So Below

Check out Memeorandum, a site new to me that's a sort of aggregator/Reader's Digest information vector (kind of like The Daou Report without the commercial-viewing tolls). Sure, you can get all the usual depressing sturm und drang of the daily press and blogs, but you also get things like this: a funny, moving little science piece from The TimesOnline about the hidden life of livestock.
"Once they were a byword for mindless docility. But cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships and become excited over intellectual challenges, scientists have found.
Cows are also capable of feeling strong emotions such as pain, fear and even anxiety — they worry about the future...
The findings have emerged from studies of farm animals that have found similar traits in pigs, goats, chickens and other livestock. They suggest that such animals may be so emotionally similar to humans that welfare laws need to be rethought."
Anyone who has ever lived with animals can tell you how complex their emotional behavior is, and how similar to humans. Even scientists themselves are very close to us in this respect.
"John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol, has just published a book on the topic, Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden. “People have assumed that intelligence is linked to the ability to suffer and that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic,” he said.
Webster and his colleagues have documented how cows within a herd form smaller friendship groups of between two and four animals with whom they spend most of their time, often grooming and licking each other. They will also dislike other cows and can bear grudges for months or years."
I love the thought of little bovine cliques in the pasture, the girls just hanging out, doing each others' hair and dissing the bitches. Don't even get started about the sex.
"The assumption that farm animals cannot suffer from conditions that would be considered intolerable for humans is partly based on the idea that they are less intelligent than people and have no “sense of self”.
Increasingly, however, research reveals this to be untrue. Keith Kendrick, professor of neurobiology at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, has found that even sheep are far more complex than realised and can remember 50 ovine faces — even in profile. They can recognise another sheep after a year apart.
Kendrick has also described how sheep can form strong affections for particular humans, becoming depressed by long separations and greeting them enthusiastically even after three years."
I'm the same way, myself.

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