Animal Emotions

Do animals think and feel?

The Thanksgiving Day Massacre: A House of Horrors

If you knew the truth about the turkey you eat, a genetically engineered and tormented animal, you would seriously consider choosing another main course. Turkeys are highly sentient beings who suffer enduring pain, misery, and terror on the way to a platter. It's easy to make more humane choices. Please do so now and add compassion to a world that sorely needs it. Read More

Thanksgiving day Massacre

Thank you for your wonderful article. All animals are sentient beings and feel pain. Until people stop justifying killing animals to satisfy their palate, we will never be the peace loving people we claim to be. If you make your body a graveyard of death, you suffer the consequences.

Thanksgiving: Murder on Turkeys

Thank you, Dr. Bekoff, for your insightful piece on the annual slaughter of turkeys for Thanksgiving. It is gratifying to know that animal behaviorists and other scientists are helping to dispel myths that for far too long have disparaged sentient animals and reinforced prejudices against these misunderstood beings. I hope many people will be given pause by your insights and will choose to leave the corpses of turkeys off of their tables and consume a healthy, compassionate vegan meal instead.

Well...

I hate to be the fatalist in the room, but it might also be appropriate to consider how many sentient animals died in the process of creating the computer we're reading/typing on, the desk it sits on, the clothes we're wearing (assuming you're clothed), the chairs we're in, etc and on down the line.

I suppose it could be said that the inability to fully extricate ourselves from individual culpability for the needless pain of countless creatures - including other human beings - is no excuse to avoid reducing our impact wherever possible.

I'd consider it a strained equivocation, however. Layering on concern for turkey while relaxing in your leather desk chair doesn't work on a certain level (even if your chair is certified organic).

Meanwhile I personally hate turkey, so my contribution to the annual Thanksgiving slaughter is minimal at best.

RE: Well

I for one don't follow your logic. As a vegan I do not use any animal products including leather.I am not sure how computers cause animals to die.

Pwetty wittle animals

http://www.ofac.org/issues/animals_everyday.php

Check this site out. Shows you all the AMAZING ways animal products help sustain our lives...from linoleum to wallpaper, plastic wrap to electronic components...ANIMAL PARTS. That's it guess...I suppose vegans should just move into the woods, away from civilization and leave the rest of the world to our animal using lives....of course no matter what you do and where you live you are negatively affecting some animal life in some ways...but you all don't really care about being THAT consistent with it. Just as long as we are not eating those pwetty wittle animals.

Veganism is the least we should be doing

Your reasoning is exactly why veganism is the least we should all be doing. Modern human existence will inevitably harm others, so we need to remove the deliberate acts of violence that we can, and come up with more evolved ways to live comfortably absent exploiting others - human or otherwise.

In our society, we don't need to consume animals for health reasons, and in fact it's the overconsumption that keeps the drug and bypass industries in business. We know how to use plants to get what we need to thrive, without feeding them first to animals we then kill prematurely. I've been doing it for 7 years.

I'm sure you're familiar with

I'm sure you're familiar with oil being a base material used in the manufacture of plastic. Your desktop or laptop computer is going to have a significant amount of plastic, among other materials, and I'm also sure you're familiar with the consequences to wildlife directly related to the extraction, transportation, and processing of oil.

Eat all the veggies you like, but let's not pretend modern life is not built on the in-depth use and abuse of animals (including other humans for that matter).

... so your point? Is it to

... so your point?

Is it to be kind as often as possible, to do all the good you can
or is it to stop caring and to give up because there is a lot of cruelty and carelessness out there?

I completely do not understand this unsuccessful attempt at an argument. What am I missing?

The problem is

is that you mistake my post as an argument when it is merely ridicule. The problem with making an argument in this case is that it is impossible to argue effectively with ideological nonsense. There is no difference between arguing with a devout Christian over homosexuality, or with a white supremacist over the genetic similarities between themselves and a African or Arab, than there is with arguing a vegan over the supposed morality of eating meat.

You're paradigm is flawed. If you choose to not eat meat, that's your choice. If you want to provide information to those who are interested in a vegan lifestyle, then that admirable. If you want to curb horrific practices and reduce meat consumption to a more sustainable level, I'm with you. But you cross the line when you attempt to charge those who do not make the dietary choices you make as immoral and uncaring. You skew the data when you state that eating meat causes the health issues in America, when it's the overall diet and food choices of America and a sedentary lifestyle that is to blame. You arrogantly misuse other research to falsely imply that eating meat is somehow causally related to domestic violence. You act like you are somehow living in harmony with nature when in fact you are perverting harmony be redefining our true place within nature. A cheetah lives in harmony with the Antelope just as we are capable of living in harmony with all creatures, even those we use for food. The fact that we don't live in balance with nature has so much more involved with it than simply our decision to eat meat. Eating meat and protecting animals from abuse is not mutually exclusive.

You anthropomorphize animals and falsely equate sentience with the human condition which is utterly misinformed. You do it to rationalize your feelings about animals when you shouldn't have to rationalize anything..you don't want to eat meat, just leave it at that.

“Nothing will benefit human

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”—Albert Einstein

"Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind." –Albert Schweitzer

“Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is—whether its victim is human or animal —we cannot expect things to be much better in this world. We cannot have peace among men whose hearts delight in killing any living creature. By every act that glorifies or even tolerates such moronic delight in killing we set back the progress of humanity.”—Rachel Carson

“As often as Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behaviour toward creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right.”—Isaac Bashevis Singer

“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.”—Arthur Shopenhauer

“Flesh eating is simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act, which is contrary to moral feeling: killing. By killing, man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity, that of sympathy and pity towards living creatures like himself and by violating his own feelings becomes cruel.”—Count Leo Tolstoy

"To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body." --Mohandas Gandhi

“Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.”-Ben Franklin

"Hunting: One of the recreations of a man tired of himself, who seeks to kill time by killing inoffensive animals." –Ambrose Bierce

Very well articulated, Will.

Very well articulated, Will. I wish that this kind of discourse were more common, but inevitably there is much emotional investment and cultural inertia that drives people to defend their ideas, actions, stances, etc with such a fervor as to deny the conversation.

I would point out, though, that you've slighted your own argument by enveloping 'vegans' as a group of people, specifically when using analogous comparisons to arguing with Christians over homosexuality or white supremacists over their genetic similarities. There are certainly high-profile groups that identify themselves as vegan, animal advocates; but I warn against simplifying all people who identify with this term with a linear philosophy. There are millions of people who cycle, do woodworking, hunt, paint, make music, etc; who aren't easily boiled into the framework of any of the things we may immediately identify with these things, but all of whom have their individual reasons and motivations for their involvement. Some of whom (vegans included) who don't actively engage in *ahem* persuasive conversation related to their personal choices. Derrick Jensen writes about the dangers of the limitations of language in his book, "Language Older Than Words", which is detailed much better than any of us have the time or space to here, obviously.

There is so much to clarify

There is so much to clarify with truthful logic about your post here, but for now I need to deal with that term 'anthropomorphize'. Again. I guess I have to be more blatant - I was addressing this term when I wrote: 'We have to make our best guess with how we decide to treat others. I chose a long time ago, to err on the side of kindness. The only valid tool I know to decide how to treat another is to put yourself in the place of that other - and with the unknown, like exactly what my dog is thinking... again to err on the side of kindness.'

Using the term 'anthropomorphize' to excuse cruelty to animals so we can harm or eat them makes me crazy! The reasons, too many to state here for now, however I truly wonder if the person using this term to defend harm to an animal, actually believes it, actually thinks it right to disregard empathy, or the golden rule when it comes to animals because to do otherwise would be to 'anthropomorphize' them. Beyond ridiculous and sad that a person has been taught or would try to teach another to disregard natural compassion and empathy for another creature -- because they are a non-human animal species. Horrendous.

Will, or again, anyone for whom these questions apply -- Do you not find it at the very least curious - that the Creator gave rabbits the ability to scream like a human baby when being tortured or hurt; that a pig's squeal in reaction to pain will raise the hairs on your body and cause you to feel ... something for that animal if you have not deaden your heart completely. And the list goes on and on - all of the multitude of obvious clues from animals, in reaction to pain and in reaction to its opposite, kindness. The obvious clues the Creator go on and on. Is it not curious that God gave animals the ability to display what appears to be emotions’ so closely emulating humans and that God gave animals the wish to fight for life, with everything in them, to fight against being tortured, against death?

My point is your actions

My point is your actions right now this very instant are contributing to cruelty toward other animals, and while there is certainly a lot of activity we can't control, you can at least control yourself.

You choose not to and for no reason other than personal convenience. This could be called 'hypocrisy'.

...an inconvenient truth

Your actions/behavior, from a most truly biased perspective indeed, of having to point out some of the many impossibilities of being perfect (i.e. excuses) simply to suit your ultimate desire, habit, and refusal to give up something you love (i.e. the unnecessary slaughter of animals), could be viewed as utter justification, denial, and guilt (i.e. human nature).

“Ultimately, an unbiased observer of human behavior must conclude that most action is not shaped by theory, but rather theories are shaped to conform to actions we have no intention of changing.” ~ Marjorie Spiegel, The Dreaded Comparison

Plenty of points to discuss

Plenty of points to discuss here, but you've employed a really distracting and ineffective method to make your case. The notion that if the (task, action, solution, etc) isn't wholly and purely solvent to resolution then there is no point in making those (tasks, actions, solutions) flirts with apathy. You've distracted your argument from the point of the article; which is focused on the millions of turkeys and their plight as centerpieces (pun) for a national holiday. The author details much that we can discuss about the realities of their response to pain, social constructs and deductive reasoning; isn't that enough of a catalyst for discussion?

I found it ironic then, in your well-written response; you were unable to extricate yourself from your immediate intuition to include cultural baggage from your feelings about our inescapable culpability at large.

That being said, have an awesome _(Tofurkey?)_ Day!

Plenty of points to discuss

Plenty of points to discuss here, but you've employed a really distracting and ineffective method to make your case. The notion that if the (task, action, solution, etc) isn't wholly and purely solvent to resolution then there is no point in making those (tasks, actions, solutions) flirts with apathy. You've distracted your argument from the point of the article; which is focused on the millions of turkeys and their plight as centerpieces (pun) for a national holiday. The author details much that we can discuss about the realities of their response to pain, social constructs and deductive reasoning; isn't that enough of a catalyst for discussion?

I found it ironic then, in your well-written response; you were unable to extricate yourself from your immediate intuition to include cultural baggage from your feelings about our inescapable culpability at large.

That being said, have an awesome _(Tofurkey?)_ Day!

Thank you, thank you, thank

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this and all your previous

articles !

Celebrate a Vegan Thanksgiving!

What I wonderful article. I would no sooner eat a turkey than a dog. I've visited Farm Sanctuary and met several birds who were not only sweet, gentle, and friendly, but clever and funny, too. They all had individual personalities and it was heartbreaking to think what would have happened to them in factory farms and slaughterhouses. I usually prepare my own gourmet vegan feast, but this year I'm eager to try the Gardein faux turkey, too. There are so many delicious vegan options that I don't even miss eatng turkey flesh.

Thank you!!

As always I loved your article and I really thank you for writing that before thanksgiving. We need to make people think about the way they say thanks. I think the best way to do it is by saving a turkey and choosing a plant based option.
Thank you Thank you Thank you!

Thank you Psychology Today!

I'm encouraged and grateful that a mainstream publication like Psychology Today is giving attention to this important issue. After all, animal abuse is nothing to be "thankful" for. And the more informed we are, the better choices we can make.

We are fortunate to live in a time and place where we have alternatives. Whenever we have the opportunity, shouldn't we choose compassion over killing? Peace over needless violence?

This year, we will be enjoying a savory lentil loaf with balsamic glaze, Field Roast wrapped in pastry dough, mashed potatoes with fried sage, vegan sausage stuffing with mandarin oranges and walnuts, roasted butternut squash, green beans almondine, hot buttery rolls and apple pie. All of it cruelty-free. Now that's something to be grateful for!

Turkey is DE.....LIC.....IOUS!

"If you knew the truth about the turkey you eat, a genetically engineered and tormented animal, you would seriously consider choosing another main course. Turkeys are highly sentient beings who suffer enduring pain, misery, and terror on the way to a platter."

OMG...they chop the head off a turkey and feed it to me...ohhh the horror??? Nah...i'm pretty aware of the "torture" turkeys go through and of course they feel pain...it's called a central nervous system. Throwing around the term "sentient" and using such hyperbole to describe the mental state of the turkey as some means of attributing human characteristics to the animal is really a mental issue you need to deal with. Thank god (if such a thing existed) that you have no right to dictate to the world what we should eat or determine the proper place animals should have alongside man....and I love animals (no...not just for food) and I believe greatly in protecting the environment and it's inhabitants..which happens to include protecting them from your attempts at forcing some mother hen nanny state upon us (us and them) all.

Poor animals...let them be food in peace.

Just as long as you know that Psychology today is a POPULAR "mainstream" publication and NOT a respected peer reviewed journal..I think we'll be ok.

Heard of factory farming?

Hi Wil, It's not just that the turkeys are killed (nowhere near as simply as you describe, though). The cruelty and torture begins from when the turkeys are born: they're hatched in incubators; they never see their mothers; as with most factory farmed animals (and they, btw, comprise more than 99% of the meat, dairy, and eggs available in the U.S.), baby turkeys are subjected to routine mutilations so they can fit into the factory farm system of intensive confinment, i.e., their toes and beaks are cut off (not just a "nail trim" - we're talking about blades going through flesh, blood vessels, and nerves), all without anesthesia; and then they're crammed into massive, windowless sheds where they "live" for the next six months before being shipped to slaughter. There are tens of thousands of birds under one roof, and the excrement is just allowed to pile up through the six months. If you walk into one of these places, you'll be knocked over by the smell--and yet these birds are forced to live here for six months. The first time they go outdoors is when they're being shipped to slaughter (a journey that can last days--and they're trucked through all weather extremes). I haven't even mentioned here that turkeys used in commercial operations have been genetically bred to be very top heavy and to grow extremely quickly [In fact, commercially raised turkeys are so disproportionately sized thanks to breeding that they can't even have sex normally: all commercial turkeys are bred through artificial insemination.] On the factory farm, as the birds grow, their legs, hearts and lungs can't keep up with the growth of their saleable meat tissue, and many collapse and die even before slaughter (it's all part of the equation where these birds -- who feel pain every much as we do -- are considered to be just part of a financial equation).

So, if you think that turkeys have their heads chopped off and that's the torture, I'm afraid you don't know the one thousandth of it.

Heard of factory farming?

Hi Wil, It's not just that the turkeys are killed (nowhere near as simply as you describe, though). The cruelty and torture begins from when the turkeys are born: they're hatched in incubators; they never see their mothers; as with most factory farmed animals (and they, btw, comprise more than 99% of the meat, dairy, and eggs available in the U.S.), baby turkeys are subjected to routine mutilations so they can fit into the factory farm system of intensive confinment, i.e., their toes and beaks are cut off (not just a "nail trim" - we're talking about blades going through flesh, blood vessels, and nerves), all without anesthesia; and then they're crammed into massive, windowless sheds where they "live" for the next six months before being shipped to slaughter. There are tens of thousands of birds under one roof, and the excrement is just allowed to pile up through the six months. If you walk into one of these places, you'll be knocked over by the smell--and yet these birds are forced to live here for six months. The first time they go outdoors is when they're being shipped to slaughter (a journey that can last days--and they're trucked through all weather extremes). I haven't even mentioned here that turkeys used in commercial operations have been genetically bred to be very top heavy and to grow extremely quickly [In fact, commercially raised turkeys are so disproportionately sized thanks to breeding that they can't even have sex normally: all commercial turkeys are bred through artificial insemination.] On the factory farm, as the birds grow, their legs, hearts and lungs can't keep up with the growth of their saleable meat tissue, and many collapse and die even before slaughter (it's all part of the equation where these birds -- who feel pain every much as we do -- are considered to be just part of a financial equation).

So, if you think that turkeys have their heads chopped off and that's the torture, I'm afraid you don't know the one thousandth of it.

The connection

Hi Wil the hunter,

Suppose, for a moment, that you took the time to think, step back to view things from a completely objective, unbiased perspective. If we were talking about helping humans instead of some non-human animals here, no matter how small, would you resort to such justification and denial? Would you downplay/draw attention away from our responsibilities? You know, from a truly innate, compassionate standpoint?

“True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” ~ Socrates

Hi Will, I am vegan. I am a

Hi Will,

I am vegan. I am a libertarian so the 'nanny state' accusation doesn't fly with me. I do believe in protecting the innocent, those who cannot protect themselves from those who would harm and eat them. I guess you don't as it would mean you couldn't satisfy your palate.

And,
I guess we have to make our best guess with how we decide to treat others. I chose a long time ago, to err on the side of kindness. The only valid tool I know to decide how to treat another is to put yourself in the place of that other - and with the unknown, like exactly what my dog is thinking... again to err on the side of kindness. It appears you have made the opposite choice - never too late.

-- I think the best and most noble people choose to not cause pain and suffering to another creature. My dog, if I were to kick him, is not responding as a 'central nervous system' whatever the hell that means to you. Not sure how you can justify in your own brain cruelty by using this term. What is it that this term is suppose to accomplish? Is it the attempt to diminish the creature so it somehow becomes worthy of being tortured and eaten... ?

I would bet that somewhere deep inside of yourself, maybe from when you were a little boy you don't even agree with what you wrote. I wish for you to remember that little boy and the heart you use to have.

"Animal cruelty is nothing to

"Animal cruelty is nothing to be thankful for. The ritual of slaughtering animals for Thanksgiving and other holidays is a romanticized and antiquated tradition steeped in violence. As members of a civilized society, I think we should pause and ask ourselves: Is this really a tradition that we wish to continue and pass on to our children? Or should we start a new tradition, one that is based in compassion, mercy and understanding?" – Jo Tyler

http://www.nonhumanslavery.com/

"Animal cruelty is nothing to

"Animal cruelty is nothing to be thankful for. The ritual of slaughtering animals for Thanksgiving and other holidays is a romanticized and antiquated tradition steeped in violence. As members of a civilized society, I think we should pause and ask ourselves: Is this really a tradition that we wish to continue and pass on to our children? Or should we start a new tradition, one that is based in compassion, mercy and understanding?" – Jo Tyler

http://www.nonhumanslavery.com/

Compassion has its rewards!

As a dude who used to eat a lot of meat--and I mean A LOT--because I lift weights, it wasn't until I actually saw video of how animals are treated on today's factory farms that it finally hit me. And being a psychotherapist with the homeless mentally ill, I help alleviate suffering in people, but I hadn't given a thought to other beings' suffering.

Now I enjoy Field Roast's delicious Celebration Roast for Thanksgiving. And I'm actually more ripped as a vegan than in my meat-eating days. Go figure: becoming more compassionate rewards you in countless ways!

Compassion has its rewards!

As a dude who used to eat a lot of meat--and I mean A LOT--because I lift weights, it wasn't until I actually saw video of how animals are treated on today's factory farms that it finally hit me. And being a psychotherapist with the homeless mentally ill, I help alleviate suffering in people, but I hadn't given a thought to other beings' suffering.

Now I enjoy Field Roast's delicious Celebration Roast for Thanksgiving. And I'm actually more ripped as a vegan than in my meat-eating days. Go figure: becoming more compassionate rewards you in countless ways!

I want to say a huge thank

I want to say a huge thank you to the amazing vegan voices out there. The vegan posts here are AMAZING and completely outshine the voices trying to defend cruelty to animals. You all rock -- well the vegan voices here rock. Sorry to the other side for your poor showing. It is next to impossible to win an argument when truth and kindness are not on your side.

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Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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