On this page we explore leading scientific findings on the sentience of animals. This includes research on the emotions and intelligence of various animal species, their social structures, family relationships, play behavior, self-sacrificing actions, and the ways in which various species honor and mourn the loss of their loved ones. Most poignantly, it also includes inter-species relationships, such as mothers adopting the orphans of another species or animals mourning the death of a creature of another species.
A “Communion of Subjects”:
What Science Teaches about the Emotions and Intelligence of Animals
The revered American eco-theologian Fr. Thomas Berry (1914–2009) wrote with profound insight and elegant simplicity: “We are a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects”. What does this mean in our quest to “create cultures of peace, justice and healing for all living beings”? It means that other creatures are actually “persons,” not “things”. They have emotions and intelligence. Many species have well-developed social structures. They have committed family relationships. They may have play behavior. They may demonstrate self-sacrificing behavior. And many species deeply mourn the loss of loved ones.
Also, interestingly, we have many examples of inter-species relationships, not only of humans with animals but also among different animal groups. Inspiring stories abound of animal mothers nursing the orphaned babies of another species. Or of rescued orphan animals of different groups living together. Or of joyous reunions among people and loved animals from whom they have been separated, including animals in the wild. And most poignantly, of animals of one species deeply mourning the death of a human friend or an animal of another species.
This is what we mean by the sentience of animals. “Sentience” is defined as having “the capacity for sensation or feeling,” as “a state or quality of awareness,” as “consciousness”. The following is an outline of what is to come. Here are some examples:
A. Social Structures
B. Family Relationships
C. Play Behavior
D. Self-sacrificing Actions
E. Mourning the loss of love ones
F. Inter-species relationships
We also look at the environmental crisis facing our planet, including biodiversity loss and ecological depletion being caused by animal agriculture and other forms of animal exploitation.
Human Health and Well-being
We will look at the immense effects of eating animal products on human health and well-being. This goes beyond diet and disease to the impacts of inhumane jobs on the mental and physical health of workers in factory farming and slaughterhouses, the effects of diet on hunger globally, and overall moral and ethical concerns for humanity and human progress.
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