Why do we Love Animals?
Lessie the dog, the Chesire cat, Tweetie bird, Ka, the wise snake, Winnie, the pooh. Why are children so attracted to animals? Sure, they are interested in everything, but among all those exciting phenomena animals definitely have a special place. Pity that so few children today have the fortune of living with animals in nearly natural circumstances.
By: Tom Schuller, Unsplash
And what about adults? Oh, we are serious people, punching keyboards, sitting in traffic jams, listening to the babbling of our boss, talking to the plumber and managing other sooo important affairs. Animals… Who has time for such frivolities? And yet — seventy per cent of U.S. households own a pet. Could it be because of the lack of contact in urban living? Certainly, but it’s not only city dwellers who are fond of animals. Many jungle tribes adopt baby animals; monkeys, parrots, small predators nursing them as if they were children.
What is so wonderful about animals? Well, some are colorful:
By: David Clode, Unsplash
By: Pexels, Pixabay
Funny, and outright amazing if you take a closer look:
True, these last ones being less similar to us enjoy less popularity. You can’t really pet them, even if you’d want to. But why do we like stroking furry animals? Is it because of our past? Before we became people we spent countless millions of years as hairy animals. At least according to evolutionary theory which nowadays many people don’t believe in. Are we truly gods? And anyways these dirty beasts shouldn’t be touched as they spread all kinds of diseases. Wash your hands after stroking the dog! Actually, according to some new research pet owners have a better intestinal flora which makes their system healthier and more resilient. (I’ll write about the hordes of our own beneficial microorganisms at another time.)
Could we be seeing our former selves in animals? I think we do long for that lost paradise without deadlines, traffic lights, baby TV and tax returns. And there is something even more important: Animals embody that large non-thinking part of ourselves that is oppressed by modernity. That bubble of emotion that we are while consciously pretending to be oily cogs in the clockwork of the universe. Microchips in the computer of the world, code, chain saws, legal paragraphs, automobiles — hell, even cars turned out to have four limbs and eyes like some kind of a beast.
While our everyday world consists of objects — way too many since the invention of mass production — deep down we are aware that the Universe is consciousness. And this consciousness takes the form of beings. The consciousness of modern humans has become quite peculiar. We “arose” from nature to find ourselves lonely in our concrete deserts. So we started looking for companions forgetting that our reflexive consciousness is not the only valid one. When searching for intelligent life in the universe what we really are after are people. Yeah, let them be purple, let them have pointed ears, a few exotic features, but otherwise they should be just like us. They must have a technological society, live in cities, have wars and do everything the way we do. They must not be more different than a faraway human culture.
The message for extraterrestrials carried by the Pioneer 10 American space sonde
I’m not sure if you’ve realized just how anthropomorphic our attempts at finding alien intelligence have been. The raised hand became a greeting because this is how you show that you don’t have a concealed weapon. A spider-bat on Tau Ceti will surely comprehend this. Would it even have sense organs that can perceive those lines?
Real alien intelligence is pretty much ignored by our civilization here on planet Earth. Intelligence in this case not being I. Q. (which is a poorly defined concept anyway) but different ways of being in the world. Living manifestations of the creative force, the wisdom expressed in organisms. Being one of these bubbles of awareness ourselves, and a social one at that, we are naturally attracted to other forms. This attraction is still uninhibited in children, from whom we have much to learn.
Pre-agricultural societies treated animals as equals. They observed them, respected them, learned from them. Hunted them, too, but knowing that they are also sentient (literally: “feeling”) creatures, a manifestation of the creative energy just as sophisticated as ourselves. Many Native Americans such as the Hopi, the Mohawks and others have a clan system where every person is a part of a clan most often named after an animal. The word totem comes from the Algonquin language meaning ‘clan’. The majority of clans are mammals: Bear, Wolf, Deer, but they include Snipe, Heron, or even Turtle. A member of the Turtle clan treats other Turtles as family even if they are not related. And they have a special relationship with real world turtles.
Do you have a special relationship with an animal species? Is there an animal that you feel really close to, identify with in some way or live with? The author of Ring of Bright Water couldn’t live without the company of an otter. There are dog people, cat lovers, parrot breeders, bird watchers, aquarium gazers, snake nuts, tarantula hoarders and so on. The last ones are sometimes thought to be eccentric weirdos like people who build the Notre Dame out of machsticks. Actually, by living with a creature that different from us they keep an important connection to the navel of the world.
By: David Mark, Unsplash.
There are other ways in which the presence of animals is beneficial. In today’s Budapest strangers hardly dare to talk to each other. If they have to they swap a few clichés thought to be safe. What would you like to drink? Bring me some water with gas. Have you made your choice? I’ll have the chicken curry with rice. Anything else? I’d like the bill, please. There are a few exceptions: injured people, children and pets. Those are allowed to be talked to freely, the last two may even be touched, especially the pet. And animal connections have very tangible results: Studies have shown that dog owners live longer, especially if they have no human companion. They recover faster from heart disease, for example.
The case of our oldest companion is special. According to some researchers it is misleading to think about humans domesticating wolves. A better way of describing this relationship is as an alliance between two intelligent, social hunters. Wolves were very much changed by this process but it also had a mark on us. It was as impossible to live in the northern ice fields without dogs as it was living in the Sahara without a camel.
Today we are not in such a direct need of animals. We think that we are smarter than anybody or anything and we can solve our lives with machines. This has been possible so far because the biosphere has held us, embraced us like a giant womb. Now we are working hard at cutting it into pieces. No matter what we will do to it, the biosphere will recover because the tiny beings will mend it in millions of years. But why, actually, do we need to destroy it? This commonwealth of plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms works so wonderfully together on this ball of dirt.
The good news is that nature can recover by itself if we just allow it. When we give back a piece of land to the creatures of the land they will mysteriously appear and take it. You have probably heard of the amazing wildlife of Chernobyl. Why couldn’t we switch to a mode of operation that allows for other creatures? Multinationals won’t so this by themselves, but if no one will buy their garbage they will have to change. If you switch to commuting to work by train instead of your car, you have saved a pack of wolves in Alaska.1 If you don’t eat meat every day you’ve saved a meadow with hares.2 If you buy that reduced amount of meat from a small farm where the pig was living in humane conditions you have done something for the animals.3 A good way to think about is this: I was a hero today! By bringing a bag to the store I saved a tortoise in the ocean.4 There is so much you can do for nature, for other creatures by choosing a different way to live.
Beside a lifestyle more sympathetic to other creatures we can directly save beings for the new life that will come after industrial society. This noble quest can be supported by animal lovers such as children. Let’s give them a chance to show how good they are at it! How would you like a near future where schools are involved in species preservation? Every school chooses a species to be bred in ideal conditions for later release in nature. All this under the supervision of experts. The kids are happy and taking care of animals certainly aids their development. They are proudly guiding students from other schools among their marmoset colony, chameleon farm or mudminnow pond. Bengal tigers would not be included.
This is just an idea. There are so many ways to connect our hearts and minds. If there’s anything we, people are good at, it’s creativity. It is high time to begin using our creativity in order to live in harmony with our true nature. To reconnect with the part of ourselves that is symbolized by animals.
I’m saying good bye with this bear. She is asking you a question: Do you love animals? If so, think about us when you are making decisions in your life. Please live in a way that leaves space for us. Because we, just like you, are sentient creatures.
By: Hans-Jürgen Mager, Unsplash
Less crude oil consumption leads to less territory damaged by pipeline spills.
Meat production takes way more land than plant cultivation.
Large scale meat production is usually extremely cruel.
Which didn’t mistakenly eat the plastic bag that ended up in the sea.