“There is an enormous disconnect between what we now know of animals’ experiences of their lives, and how we treat them as a whole (most notably as in factory farms and commercial fishing — which consume some 75 billion sentient creatures yearly).” —Jonathan Balcombe
In his newly-released book, Second Nature: The Inner Lives of Animals (Palgrave Macmillan), Balcombe makes the case that animals have a much greater capacity for thinking and feeling than we have long thought possible. As an animal behaviorist and scientist, he has written many scientific papers and lay-articles on animal behavior, humane education, and animal research.
The video clip below is an excerpt from the documentary film Fowl Play, which features Balcombe in this scene discussing the social intelligence of chickens. Most striking is the interplay between a male rooster and a female hen in which the rooster crows to alert the female of a grasshopper he found. He gives her first dibs to claim it and we see her scurry over to take him up on the offer!
Balcombe’s study of animals and the conclusions he draws about their elevated social, emotional, and intellectual capacities compels us to re-examine the way we interact with them. This calls into question the widespread exploitation of animals for factory-scale animal agriculture, entertainment, testing, pet breeding and the many other practices in which animals are abused and mistreated by humans.
And within the animal kingdom there is a great contradiction between how we treat certain animals as companions and others as food, even though animals raised for consumption are of equal or greater intelligence than dogs. Studies have shown pigs to have the greatest intelligence of all farm animals and greater in many cases than dogs.
Yet even within the same species, irrational discrimination is the status quo. Take birds for example. Our admiration for birds is evident in the numerous bird food varieties marketed to us in stores. There are special blends to attract cardinals, finches, songbirds, etc.
Yet when it comes to chickens and turkeys, we subject billions of them a year to a brief, unnatural and miserable life, raising them in dark warehouses and in cages so small they can’t move their whole lives, injecting them with antibiotics and growth hormones and feeding them genetically-engineered feed. All of this only to be slaughtered in little over a month’s time and with little oversight into the methods by which they are slaughtered (as hens are exempt for the Humane Slaughter Laws in this country).
Balcombe brings these paradoxes in our relationship with animals to light with both scientific and anecdotal clarity. In Balcombe’s world, ALL animals are worthy of our admiration, respect, love, and most of all protection. Learn more about him at http://www.jonathanbalcombe.com/.