Sentience in Farm and Other Animals


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To add interest I have interspersed this commentary with thought provoking quotations from philosophers, ethicists, scientists and other notable thinkers both past and present.

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Other expressions of sentience: emotions, awareness of others and self awareness, sixth sense, ability to learn from experience

Sentience though is more than being aware of pain and the ability experience suffering, or the possession of complex intelligence, such as the ability to communicate and to use tools or possess ingenuity, or the ability to problem solve.

The following indicators of intelligence are present in animals to varying degrees, which of course is the same with humans as no two individuals experience the world from the same perspective or level of awareness.

Other indicators of sentience include; emotions, compassion, awareness including self awareness, the ability to experience suffering not only on a physical level as already explained but also on an emotional level (fear, stress and anxiety) and the ability to experience pleasure. Other strong indicators of sentience and indeed intelligence which we see in animals is the ability to learn from experience and to use this knowledge to cope with their natural environment more effectively with new situations as they arise.

Lets look at some of these indicators of sentience which reveal conscious thinking and observe how they manifest in animals, particularly farm animals.

The Scottish philosopher David Hume said:

‘animals undoubtedly feel, think, love, hate, will and even reason, though in a more imperfect manner than men.’

The capacity to experience fear and anxiety

All animals experience fear and anxiety, anxiety of course is the anticipation of a fear provoking potentially life threatening circumstance. Rather like pain, fear is a survival mechanism, it prevents the animal from repeating a bad experience and helps him to avoid future potentially harmful experiences. The presence of fear is obvious in many familiar animals such as sheep and rabbits. The behaviour of meerkats,
Meerkat - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, is a good example of anticipatory fear with their ever present vigilance for possible threats to their wellbeing from predators.
Similar to human's fear and anxiety causes a great deal of emotional distress in animals, including farm animals, perhaps to a greater degree than is the case for man. Although the fear response in animals is obvious, scientists conducting research have performed tests, such as the measurement of hormonal levels, which substantiate the fact that animals experience fear. For instance the heart rate of sheep increases considerably when they are unable to see the rest of their flock and increases even more substantially when a man with a dog approaches.

Other observations of the fear response in animals includes the observation that farm animals try to avoid humans who have harmed them such as kicking, hitting, prodding and other abuse, which sadly is all to prevalent in factory farming. Pigs in particular are very sensitive to mistreatment and in such instances the fear response is so significant that they may collapse and even die as a result.

Like pain, fear and anxiety are obvious indications of sentience.

The ability to learn from experience

The EU protocol mentioned earlier recognises an animal's ability to learn by experience and cites this as a validation that animals are sentient.

David Hume considered that animals like humans learn from experience

‘Animals, as well as men, learn many things from experience, and infer, that the same events will always follow from the same causes… [and acquire] a knowledge of the nature of fire, water, earth, stones, heights, depths, etc. and of the effects which result from their operation. The ignorance and inexperience of the young are here plainly distinguishable from the cunning and sagacity of the old, who have learned, by long observation, to avoid what hurts them, and to pursue what gave ease or pleasure.’

Concerning the ability of non human animals to learn from experience; it is an interesting observation that humans, often do not learn from experience, except perhaps in its more obvious manifestations and not always than, repeating the same injurious mistakes time and time again. In this regard animals it appears excel us

The Ability to experience both positive and negative emotions such as joy, love, pleasure, frustration and depression.

Like us animals are sensitive complex creatures, rather like ourselves they have temperaments and moods and they express their diverse individuality in a variety of ways. Lets look at examples of altruism, compassion, pleasure, depression and joy as they manifest in non human animals; all of these emotions and states of being are evident in animals including farm animals.

Lets look at examples of compassion in animals, one animal caring for another. And who knows such compassion may well be the result of love. Many people consider such emotions beyond the capacity of animals, but how do we know this? We cannot know what another animals feels or doesn't feel anymore than we really know what another human being feels. Do animals experience love? It is an emotion difficult to describe in humans, let alone animals of another species. What is love anyway, how can we know what it feels like from the perspective of another, I doubt if two people experience this emotion in the same way. The following examples of acts of compassion, altruism or friendship could well mean an animal feels love or fondness for another, I consider that this is more than likely.

Also consider the fact that because animals are capable of altruism and compassion it reveals that they are aware of the plight of another creature and are able to make the conscious decision to help, all indicators of sentience.

Altruism and compassion

There are many examples of altruism and compassion in animals who care for others, not only their own kind but also creatures of different species.

Dogs often adopt orphaned cats and squirrels and in one case even a tiger. Such was the case of a dog in china who has become a surrogate mother to tiger triplets born at a zoo in Shandong province when their mother rejected them.

Dog adopts tiger triplets | World news |

Dolphins often rescue other animals including man, they support sick or injured animals swimming underneath them gentle pushing them to the surface to breathe. Walruses have been observed to protect orphans who lost their parents to predators. Swans are altruistic as in the case of the swans who came to the rescue of a Goose trapped in the ice  

In fact there is quite a number of such stories of altruism and compassion on behalf of animals of many species.

What about farm animals, the animal considered by most people as an automaton? Most farm animals, sheep, pigs and cows are mammals, just as a dog is a mammal, and as already said, a pig for instance is very much like a dog in many ways. Therefore if one species of mammal is capable of altruism, it is likely that others are also. The same applies to birds if one species is capable of altruism than it is quite like that other species are, including chickens. Here are stories describing altruistic and compassionate behaviours in chickens, sheep, cows and pigs.

The first is a lovely story about a pig caring for her injured sister. Both pigs  loved to roam off foraging in the bush nearby. One day whilst out foraging one of the pigs injured herself and was trapped under the branch of a tree not able to move. Her caring sister collected grass to make her more comfortable, until she could be rescued .

Read the full story:

A pig’s devotion to her sister - Smarter Than Jack

Pigs also show compassion for other animals including humans. Many animals assist in the recovery of sick humans as was the case of a Vietnamese pot bellied pig.

"Much of the use of animals in therapy is predicated on the observation that people who have undergone severe injuries or traumas sometimes respond more to animals than people. Harley de swine, a Vietnamese pot bellied pig, is a good case in point. He "worked" in a ward for patients with head injuries at Hemet Valley Medical Center due west of Palm Springs, California. Therapists would determine which side of a patient they wanted to stimulate and than bring in Harley, whose job was to gently get the patients to pay attention. Harley could often get a response from head-injured patients where people failed, but what also really impressed the therapists was the enthusiasm the pig brought to his job. Darrian Lundy, Harley's handler, says that he would run into work in the morning, greet the staff, and drag Lundy along to the ward. At the end of the day he had to be prodded to leave."

Extract from The Parrots Lament by Eugene Linden

Another Vietnamese pot bellied pig Lulu recently became famous for rescuing her owner Jo Ann who had suffered a heart attack whist on vacation. Lulu managed to squeeze through the trailer's doggy door and ran to the nearest road to get help by laying in the middle of the road. Many times cars swerved passed ignoring the pig but she persisted knowing that her owner needed help and this was the only way she would get it, and in-between she rushed home to check on Jo Ann

“Lulu would keep returning and then disappearing again,” says Jo Ann. “I had no idea what she was doing. With all the pain, ten minutes felt like a lifetime. Every time Lulu came back, I would try to get her to lie down, but she wouldn’t.” Forty minutes had passed since Jo Ann collapsed. “I thought to myself, this is it. It’s all over. I remember Lulu coming back, and I said for her to go as mummy was dying. She went off again, and I just shut my eyes and waited for the pain to go.”

In one last attempt to save her owner’s life, Lulu went back to the road, finally grabbing the attention of a man driving a flash convertible. He went over to Lulu, but as soon as he approached her, she got up and started to walk toward the trailer. Lulu kept walking, occasionally checking to make sure the man, who has never been identified, was following her. She led him right to the front door of the trailer.

Please read the complete article:
Erie Life Magazine - Did You See LuLu the Pig?

Here are two stories of roosters protecting hens:

“Becky Golden of Maryland remembers how one morning after a heavy rain blew the chicken house door shut, "Perched atop the fence sat Pepper with his two hens, Henny and Penny, on either side of him with his wings spread over each for protection.

" Recently in Maryland, Pat Lloyd watched a rooster shelter a hen from a cat. She said, "He raised a wing and the hen dashed under it. With his eyes on the cat they moved sideways toward a spruce tree where, his wing still over the hen, he made sounds at the cat, who finally walked away."

Extract from Chicken Companions Chicken Companions
by Karen Davis, Ph.D.

Do take time to read the entire article which reveals a side to chickens that few have experienced. Explore more of Poultry Concern's website, there are many stories you can read that will demonstrate how aware, alive these creatures are, truly sentient beings.

Also see  Henny's New Friends a tale of friendship between three little hens rescued from the horrors of a factory farm

"Chickens are great companions.
If only more people knew how smart and lovable they can be."

Celeste Albritton

There is much anecdotal evidence that animals feel compassion. In Jeffery Mason's book the Pig who Sang to the Moon, Emotion in Farm Animals, there is a lovely story about a ram who cared for a blind calf  a delightful story of compassion and friendship between a ram and a blind calf.

In Amy Hatkoff' book The Inner World of Farm Animals Kathy Saunders the founder of Catskill Animal Sanctuary tells the story of Rambo the ram and Hannah, a sheep found wandering in a Queens, New York, cemetery. Hannah was a very traumatised creature, she would jump up the walls of the stall in which she had been quarantined for a period of readjustment, trying to get away whenever staff came to see her. "She had never known any kindness" says Kathy. Staff took turns patiently sitting with her. Slowly Hannah began to improve but she still felt nervous with humans

' Little by little, Hannah started to do better, but she was still overwhelmed by humans "We looked at this broken spirit and thought that what she needed was Rambo" ... A ram who had long resided at the sanctuary, Rambo was known for his ability to befriend and help heal the emotional wounds of other animals. Stevens began letting Hannah out of her stall, and very quickly, she became attached to Rambo. In the mornings, she would walk the place frantically, screaming until she found him. She would not let him out of her sight. They'd spend all day together side by side until it was time for  Hannah to go back to her barn for the evening." Rambo taught Hannah to trust us. Sheep are instinctively terrified of dogs , who have been their predators . But Hannah comes up to my dog Murphy and Nibbles him and nuzzles his head, says Stevens." '

Extract from The Inner World of Farm Animals by Amy Hatkoff

Hannah made a good recovery thanks to Rambo. Hannah went on to help another animal in distress. When Norma Jean, a frightened turkey, arrived at the sanctuary Hannah would reassure her, whenever she became frightened Hannah would go to her and calm her down. The relationship between Rambo the ram and Hannah takes on an amusing turn as you will see later on in the section on Jealousy

At the same sanctuary, and also included in Amy Hatkoff's book cited above, resides a blind cow called Helen who was born on a beef production farm and  who was brought to the sanctuary after the owner's daughter pleaded for her life. When Helen arrived at the sanctuary she was in a state of extreme panic, unable to see, new people and the new situation was terrifying. Kath Stevens decided to put Helen with Rudy, a small steer who kept himself to himself, together. It took only about a day and a half for these two animals to bond.

"Rudy became Helen's eye-seeing steer. Now Helen's fear is utterly gone. She knows exactly where the trees are, where to stop and she can run around the grounds with freedom and joy like a sighted calf .Every blind animal we have ever had loves to touch and be touched. Helen will lick you from neck to forehead over and over again."

Kathy Stevens quoted in The Inner World of Farm Animals by Amy Hatkoff

As you will read a little further down licking is the way cows show affection.

Like Hannah the traumatised sheep, Helen shows her affection not only to Rudy but also to Andy a horse who was severely abused, starved to such a degree that his growth is stunted and he is too weak to live normally with other horses. Andy sleeps with Rudy and Helen in the barn at night and goes out with them during the day. Helen is a truly a loving and compassionate creature happy to both receive and freely give affection. 

Friendships and social groups

Similar to ourselves farm animals form social groups, it has been observed that sheep have " best friends", and cows enjoy grooming each other by licking after a special signal is given, and the longer they have known each other the more they groom each other. Pigs choose a friend with whom to forage and they greet one another by rubbing noses and grunting. Piglets have been known to squeal and even pine if deprived of their mother, appearing to simply give up on life.

We have already seen that animals of different species show compassion towards one another and the examples above also demonstrate the fact that animals form friendships not only amongst their own species but also with those of other species including humans of course.

Here is an example of an extraordinary friendship which developed between a dog and a horse.

“The dog’s master always came and went in a wagon drawn by a quiet old horse, and upon inquiry I found that between watch (the dog) and the horse was a bond of comradeship, such as often exists between two domestic animals of different species. Thus the dog often preferred to sleep in the stall near his big chum, or would accompany him to the pasture when he was turned loose, and would always stand by, as if overlooking the operation, when the horse was being harnessed. It may well be, therefore, that it was from the horse rather than the man that watch received notice when heads where turned homewards; but the fact of some telepathic communication paused between the two members of the trio there was no doubt.”

William L long

Note the above not only describes a bond of friendship but also attests to the silent bond of communication that exists between animals as was discussed earlier.

Here is an amazing story of a friendship which the owner refers to as “love” between a dog, Lenore, and a ram called Brutus, both of whom appeared to be drawn to one another across a very incompatible species barrier.

"Though I've lived for some years with sheep, cows, steers, goats, barn cats, chickens—and dogs—on a farm in upstate New York, I'd never encountered a situation where animals of different species have fallen in love, or even had much of a friendship.

But here it is: Lenore, a highly affectionate creature, is utterly smitten with Brutus, one of my three wethers (or neutered rams).

Each day, the pair seems more companionable. Lenore looks for Brutus, and when she finds him, she sometimes challenges him to romp, occasionally rolling over and flirtatiously showing her belly. She isn't above giving his nose or ear a lick. Some days, they just graze side by side, Lenore also chomping down the grass."

Please read the full article
When a dog falls in love with a ram. - By Jon Katz - Slate Magazine

The fact that animals are able to form complex and co operative social groups comprised of hierarchies, relationships and friendships surely reveals that they are sentient. It demonstrates that they have the ability to think. Scientists studying animal behaviour do not understand how such arrangements come about but it is evident that they do. Just because we do not understand how animals communicate with one another does not mean that they do not. For as already discussed earlier indeed it is clear that they do as such social interaction would not be possible. Perhaps it is that we simply haven't cracked the code of animal communication.

In order to live in groups animals need to be able to communicate with one another. In the wild farm animals once lived in quite complex social groups, the fact that we do not recognise this is due to the unnatural conditions of  factory farms where such social groups, friendships and other bonds of relationship are not possible. To live in groups a creature must be aware of others and their behaviours and to be able to understand such in order to interact with them. All pack and herd animals have the ability to interact with one another. They have to coordinate with one another, for instance when to move to new pasture, when it is time to rest, or graze and to select social hierarchies. How is a subordinate animal selected or a leader, by which animal, how is it decided which animals make the selection; arrangements must take place between individual animals much the way it does in our social hierarchies. Animals form friendships and In such groups an animal has to recognise others of his kind, and animals have to knew how to care for their young, to recognise a predator and what action to take to protect themselves and their young and other members of the social group, the flock, herd or pack.

In the wild chickens and sheep live in flocks, cows and pigs in herds. Without some social interaction such would be impossible surely.

Pleasure and play

Sentient animals have the capacity to experience pleasure and are motivated to seek it. “You only have to watch how cows and lambs both seek and enjoy pleasure when they lie with their heads raised to the sun on a perfect English summer’s day. Just like humans.”
John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol quoted in :

The secret life of moody cows - Times Online

Animals like us have positive emotions, they enjoy food, notice how a sheep will do practically anything for food. Here is a humorous story from an internet forum concerning the lengths one sheep was willing not go for to enjoy a tasty sandwich.

A few years ago I had an experience which I can only describe as 'sheep mugging' whilst trying to eat lunch on Pen Twyn Glas above Crickhowell. I was literally attacked for my lunch by a very persistent sheep, she even pushed her lamb out the way to get at my sandwiches.

My friends were highly amused as she targeted me alone. They said it was because I was a vegetarian - my sandwiches contained dairy-free soya cheese spread which the sheep thought was wonderful!

Helen Clover What do sheep eat - Walking & Hiking Questions & Answers

In addition food, a common pleasure amongst animals and I might add also amongst the animal called man, animals also derive enormous pleasure from touch.

When a female cowbird landed on a ewe, the ewe immediately quit grazing and stood very still. These ewes remained still, even though they were quite ravenous (they were on a restricted pre breeding diet, and would practically stampede me, when I opened the pasture gates) As I went about my chores and came too close, the cowbird would fly to another ewe. Immediately, that ewe would stop grazing, stand very still and relaxed , as if mesmerized. If I was to assign an emotion to the ewe, I would say she was acting incredibly contented when the cowbird was on her back.

Dr James Morgan quoted in Pleasurable Kingdoms by Jonathan Balcombe

Like us, all animals like to be touched. It may surprise you that fish often approach divers with whom they are familiar to be stroked. Pigs in particular enjoy tummy rubs as in the case of the pigs rescued by Farm Sanctuary who enjoys being stroked amongst other pleasures.

“From the start, Maya and Rosa were affectionate, falling over at the slightest touch of a hand to their bellies and good-naturedly standing by as their caregivers examine them during routine health checks. Also extremely playful, the girls, especially Maya, love to play with rocks, collecting them and dropping them in their water bowl, as well as engage all the diverse animal neighbors they've had during their stay in our hospital.

"These girls are the happiest pigs I've ever seen. They are always cheerful, they love attention and being touched and petted," said Kerrie Wooten, one of the pigs' caregivers. "It is truly rewarding to see that their past experiences-whatever they might have been-have not stayed with them and they trust us completely."

Extract from: Pigs Invade and Take Over Our California Shelter!

Rescue & Adoptions | Farm Sanctuary

Farm animals even older ones enjoy play, those of us who live in the country delight in the gomboling playful antics of lambs and if you are lucky on occasion you may see mum too leap and frolic.

Watch these delightful videos of lambs playing, surely there can be no doubt that these creatures are enjoying themselves:
YouTube - Baa Baa Black Sheep Have you any wool


Lambs enjoy playing King of the castle as you can see here on another U Tube  video:

YouTube - Lambs Playing King of the Castle

Notice how the little lamb jumps through the gap in the bars to join in the fun.

The following extract is taken from Jeffery Masson's book the pig who Sang to the moon.

"A sheep will respond to his name being called just as much as does a dog. Elizabeth Arthurssons, who has lived for many years with sheep, and loves them beyond all measure, simply because they are sheep, remarks on how comical they look when she calls them by name. They race to her, jumping through the clover with all four feet a few inches from the ground at once. As for playfulness, few other animals come to mind as quickly as lambs, gambolling about in a meadow or playing king of the castle. The babies leap up, do little dances, and group chase. Like dogs with their play bow, lambs even have specific gestures to invite another lamb to play: they leap vertically into the air kicking out with their hind legs, an unmistakable plea: "Come play with me".

Animals are capable of the experience of pleasure simply because anatomically they are very much like us.

"For pleasure to aid animals, they need the physical equipment with which to experience it. That we experience bliss, joy, comfort and satisfaction suggests that some other animals do too, because they are built like us in all the relevant ways. All vertebrates - mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes - share the same fundamental body plan: a bony skeleton that supports a muscular system that enables the animal to move about, a nervous system that shuttles signals to different parts of the body and whose centre of operations is the brain, a circulatory system that transports oxygen and other nutrients to body tissues, digestive and excretory systems that process food and eliminate wastes, a hormone system that helps to regulate body processes, and a reproductive system evolved to ensure propagation.

To this shared foundation we can add a sensory system. All vertebrates, with rare exceptions, have the same five basic senses as us: sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. With all this equipment in common, it is no surprise that humans and animals share much of the same physiological and biochemical responses to sensory events.

Extraction from Who Says That Animals Don't Experience Pleasure?

The fact that animals clearly enjoy playing gives us strong indication that they like us lead complex lives, have the ability to understand the mood of another animal and to interact with him, to co-operate. From observation it is apparent that sheep invite other sheep to play. Without sentience play and pleasure are not possible. How do we know if an animal is enjoying himself? From plain observation it is apparent when an animal is experiencing pleasure, when he is in a playful mood, such as the lambs in the video above, and conversely when he is depressed.


A neighbour recently bought a dog from a rescue shelter, the dog had lost both his owners and was obviously depressed, you could see it in his eyes, in his whole demeanour. It took many months for the dog to recover from his depression due to the death of his owners. And still today this dog has emotional problems and is somewhat timid. I am sure you have heard many similar stories amongst animals kept as pets and this is simply the case because we associate with these animals rather than farm animals. However this most certainly does not imply that only cats, dogs or our buggies are the only type of creatures that experiences and possess complex emotions. For those who associate with creatures such as sheep, pigs, cattle and poultry it is obvious that here too these animals experience a whole range of emotions.

Yes like your dog farm animals too may suffer depression. Deprived of a natural life in a factory farm many animals become depressed due to the dreadful conditions and lack of stimulation. Research has demonstrated that pigs for example suffer chronic depression as a result of being denied natural light, companionship, space and the opportunity to forage and other stimulation.

"Studies on pigs' social behaviour at Purdue University in the US, for example, have found that they crave affection and are easily depressed if isolated or denied playtime with each other. The lack of mental and physical stimuli can result in deterioration of health and increased incidence of disease."

Extract from article: Our Fellow Creatures Have Feelings - So We Should Give Them Rights Too

by Jeremy Rifkin

Our Fellow Creatures Have Feelings - So We Should Give Them Rights Too

Animals rather like sensitive people, suffer the misery of depression; more sensitive than many imagine, many animals will mourn the loss of a mate, relative or friend. Yes animals do form friendships not only amongst their own kind but with creatures of different species as you have already read and when they lose this friendship they just like us may become depressed. Below is a story about a pig who became depressed as a consequence of losing her sister.

"pigs feel depressed Owners concerned over mourning pig"

UK) Owners of an animal centre in Hertfordshire are worried about a mourning pig.

Poddington the Peruvian Pygmy stopped eating and started picking fights with other animals after her sister died.

Wendy and John Scudamore have even tried a herbal remedy similar to Prozac without success. The herbal remedy Aconite, which is similar to Prozac, has failed to make her feel better.

Mrs Scudamore, who runs the centre in Kentchurch, said: “Poddington was devastated when her sister died. We left the body with her for a day so she could mourn then took it away. “But she never moved from the spot. I even put a bed in her shed and slept with her for comfort.”

Dr Nick Neave, an animal psychologist at the University of Northumbria, told the Sunday People: “It sounds like she is severely depressed.” He says pigs are intelligent and have the same emotions as humans but cannot communicate them as well."

The extract above came from sentient beings org where you may find other stories and information about animal sentience : - Promoting Compassion for America’s Most Abused Animals

Most people who are interested in animals know that elephants grieve.
Elephants are complex creatures capable of intense emotions and research and observation has revealed that Elephants mourn the loss of a loved one, a mate or a baby, a mother elephant will grieve for days over a still born baby, remaining by the side of her dead off spring.

Elephant Grieving

Damini and Champakali where two female elephants who resided in the Prince of Wales Zoo in Lucknow, India. Damini had been rescued from her owners and had been at the zoo for five months before being joined by Champakali, a working elephant who was pregnant. A deep bond of friendship developed between these remarkable animals and Damini following Champakali around tending to her every need. In the wild an aunt will take on the role of midwife caring for the needs of the expectant mum. Here Danni took on this role. Sadly though when the time came to give birth the baby was still born and Champakali died

"Damini stood, weeping by Champakali's body. At first she stood in one place for nine days, refusing food or water despite India's record heat wave. Her legs swelled up and gave way. She fell to the ground and layed on her side, staring at the staff with her sad eyes, moist with tears."

Despite medical intervention Danni died of grief

But Damini remained on her side, weeping, her head and ears drooping, loose skin sagging and bone protruding. She did not recover from the loss of her beloved Champakali.

Read this heart rending story:
When Elephants Grieve, In Memory of India Prince of Wales Zoo Elephant, Damini

What about farm animals, are they capable of mourning? Recall the story of the pig in the section about depression. Grief it seems is a significant factor in depression amongst farm animals in addition to the effects of treatment meted out to them in factory farms.
Emerald is a Soay sheep whose new born lamb lived for only a day or so before she died. Emerald cried when her lamb was taken away.

I had taken the dead lamb away to bury it, but was called back by Emerald's crying. She was in consolable. Walking away I realized that she did not know what had happened to her baby .

After placing the lamb into a box Kathie returned to the barn to show Emerald, who sniffed the tiny body of her lamb, seemingly comforted she followed Kathie, who buried the lamb under a tree in Emerald's favourite part of the pasture . Emerald never cried again

I have never again dismissed the impact of the loss of a lamb on a ewe.

Story A Mother's need by Kathie Miller

Animals are noteworthy and miraculous, not just because they share traits with us, but because they are special and impressive in their own right.
Timothy Gentner, University of California psychologist

Animals who where previously considered as dumb or stupid and without awareness are now known to experience emotions much like those experienced by ourselves, even emotions as complex as jealously, love and loss.  My parents had to part with their dog after I was born because of the dog's jealously, a common occurrence when a first baby arrives. Complex relationships form between animals which include jealousy. Here is a story of jealously and competitiveness between a sheep and two hens for the attentions of Rambo the ram. Helen and Rambo the ram where mentioned earlier.

"That Hannah the sheep is in love with Rambo the sheep is no secret. Indeed, it’s obvious even to first-time volunteers as Hannah bolts from her stall each morning in search of her Romeo. If she finds him immediately, all is well. But if Rambo is out of sight—either intentionally hiding or simply munching hay in a newly-vacated stall—she is initially disturbed, then worried, finally panic-stricken and uttering a heart-wrenching, baleful “baa-aah” as the time it takes to find her soul mate increases. Once she locates him, all is again right in her world. She settles into her sheepness, content to roam the barnyard, grazing, stealing alfalfa from the hay room, and plotting kitchen break-ins….as long, that is, as Rambo is no more than a foot or two from her. It is a relationship that she needs desperately, and one that Rambo sometimes seems to appreciate, other times only tolerate.

Enter Barbie the hen...

Unfortunately, Barbie has chosen Rambo.

For several weeks, Barbie has been napping right next to Rambo, sometimes so close that surely even through his wool Rambo can probably feel the heat emanating from her big bird body. Sometimes she climbs on top of his back, the patient Rambo motionless, and falls sound asleep, Rambo taking her overtures in good stride...

The deepening of this relationship was too much for Hannah. One recent afternoon, she was nowhere to be found as I entered the barn to set up feed.

“Where’s Hannah?” I asked Walt.

“She’s in time out.”

“What happened?” I asked, imagining his response.

“She head-butted Barbie halfway across the aisle.”

I never imagined I’d work at a place where a sheep and a hen would vie for the attention of a second sheep’s affection

An extract from : Kathy Steven the Blind Horse Sings blog

Unfortunately the above link to the original story is no longer active, however you can find the Story here:

This is a delightful and amusing tale and well worth taking the time to read the entire story to find out about Chloe, a hen, who has also been eyeing Rambo.


Frustration, a behaviour common in farm animals, is yet another indication of awareness. Farm animals become frustrated when they cannot carryout their natural behaviours, for example it has been observed that hens have a particular ‘frustration’ call, the gakel call, when they are prevented from getting to food, water or a nest box or prevented from having a dust bath. Pigs become extremely frustrated in the confining conditions in which they are kept, often in crates where they cannot turn round and barely sit or lie down. Pigs are intelligent creatures and become depressed as a result of boredom and frustration.

Awareness of others
I rather think that after you have read some of anecdotes above you need no further convincing that animals are aware of both their own kind and other species.

I had bought two male chimps from a primate colony in Holland. They lived next to each other in separate cages for several months before I used one as a [heart] donor. When we put him to sleep in his cage in preparation for the operation, he chattered and cried incessantly. We attached no significance to this, but it must have made a great impression on his companion, for when we removed the body to the operating room, the other chimp wept bitterly and was inconsolable for days. The incident made a deep impression on me. I vowed never again to experiment with such sensitive creatures.
Christian Barnard, surgeon

Okay many people think that after ourselves dolphins and apes are perhaps more aware than are other animals although of course we cannot know this for certain anymore than we really know the level of awareness or sentience in another person. Indeed apes are intelligent creatures, sensitive, capable of forming relationships and they are not only aware of others of their kind but mourn the loss of a companion. However as already demonstrated such is also the case for other animals.

People who have a relationship with animals, for instance pet owners and those who work closely with animals simply assume that they have feelings, that they think and reason and recognise that each animal is an individual. People who run animal sanctuaries know without the need for scientific confirmation that farm animals are very similar to your cat or dog and are aware of the mental states of these animals and that conversely they are aware of ours. To most people this is basic common sense

It is accepted that humans are able to some degree to gage the mental states of other people and some animals whom they know well. According to Mary Midley animals are able to do the same with their fellow creatures including humans

‘[If we agree] that it makes sense to talk of subjective states in humans, and also to say that other humans can often roughly identify these states, reasons must be found for refusing to say the same about animals. …Every day and all around us… people rightly assess the moods of dogs, and dogs of people.’

Most dog owners will have a story to tell about their dog and how he or she reacts to their mood.

Another delightful account from William Long reveals just how sensitive a dog is to his owners mood. Speaking of his Dog Dan and how he “
unbeknown to me, sensed his mood he says:

“ When we were together in the evening before the fire, so long as I was working or pleasantly reading he would lie curled up on his mat, without ever disturbing me until it was time to go to bed, when he would remind me of the fact by nudging my elbow . But if the hour came when I was in perplexity, or had heard bad news and was brooding over it, hardly would I be away in thought, forgetful of Dan’s existence on a trail I must follow alone, when his silky head would slide under my hand, and I would find his brown eyes searching my face with something inextricably fine and loyal and wistful in their questioning depths."

Animals as already mentioned live complex social lives in flocks or herds where cooperation is important, it involves the recognition of individuals in order to facilitate communication, selecting mates and caring for the young. Such requires awareness of and an understanding of the behaviours of other members of the group and the ability to socially integrate. Surely all the anecdotes above show that indeed farm animals are aware of others, not only members of their own kind but animals of other species including humans.

if you need convincing further read the commentary below concerning Farm Sanctuary, referred to often on this website.

“The pigs love watermelon. On a warm summer day, they will rouse from their naps when someone enters their barn with a bowlful of fresh watermelon slices. They will open their eyes and start sniffing. They are so tame that they will eat pieces out of your hand. Then they let out happy grunts and lick people's hands. Sometimes a pig will even roll over on his or her back as a dog would do, and let someone rub his or her belly.

The turkeys who live at Farm Sanctuary also seem to like human company. When people enter their barn, they turn their heads, and then close in around people. When people touch them, they relax their bodies and make purring sounds like cats.

"Chickens have a close knit social life and communication system...there are certain "head roosters", who keep the other roosters in line and protect the hens. But roosters can act altruistically at times too. They find food and make noises to call their fellows.

Read the full article A Haven for Farm Animals | NowPublic News Coverage

The ability to experience self awareness

Are animals self aware?

How can we know if an animal is self aware?

The naturalist Charles Darwin considered that it was quite possible that animals where able to think about their own lives, in other words that they are self aware.

‘It may be freely admitted that no animal is self-conscious, if by this term it is implied, that he reflects on such points, as whence he comes or whither he will go, or what is life and death, and so forth. But how can we feel sure that an old dog with an excellent memory and some power of imagination, as shewn by his dreams, never reflects on his past pleasures or pains in the chase? And this would be a form of self-consciousness.’

Although the above quotation is supportive of the concept of self awareness in animals, I think that we cannot assume that animals do not reflect on " such points, as whence he comes or whither he will go, or what is life and death, and so forth", remember we should not assume that such complex thinking is dependent on words, although it may seem inconceivable that such reflection could be contemplated any other way does not make language a prerequisite for such thinking. Recall on page two  Ildefonso the language-less boy who nonetheless had a concept of religion, of some unseen greatness. We need to let go of the concept that sentience and intelligence can only exist in other animals in a way similar to our own.

Recent studies involving orang-utans at the Washington State zoo demonstrate that these animals have a sense of self. Orangutans where given mirrors and used them to explore parts of their bodies that they could not normally see, a strong indication that they possess a sense of self.

“Philosophers and animal behaviourists have long argued that other animals are not capable of self-awareness because they lack a sense of individualism. Not so, according to a spate of new studies. At the Washington National Zoo, orangutans given mirrors explore parts of their bodies they can’t see otherwise, showing a sense of self. An orangutan named Chantek at the Atlanta Zoo used a mirror to groom his teeth and adjust his sunglasses, says his trainer.”
Extract from the article previously citied in the paragraph concerning depression: Our Fellow Creatures Have Feelings - So We Should Give Them Rights Too

by Jeremy Rifkin

Our Fellow Creatures Have Feelings - So We Should Give Them Rights Too

Self-awareness as an indication of sentience.

Animals are self aware of course in a less literal sense, indeed self awareness is the core attribute of sentience is it not. The stories above of altruism, friendship, awareness of others and emotions such as depression, grief, anger, frustration and compassion show that animals are self aware and this applies of course to farm animals as they are like any other animals in this regard. How could the relationships you have read about between animals occur if these creatures where not self aware. How could the ewe cry out for her dead lamb if she where not self aware, grief can only arise from the emotional pain of a being who is self aware, and experiencing the pain of loss. How could the elephant have tears in her eyes if she was not self aware, to experience such suffering one has to be aware of oneself and how the circumstances has effected that self. Without self consciousness no creature would grieve or experience pleasure. Quite simply of course in order to feel pain a creature has to be self aware. The most powerful so called instinct of all creatures, including ourselves of course, self preservation is dependent on a sense of self and the driving need to preserve that self against all odds. It is inconceivable that animals are hardwired automations genetically programmed to react to any and every event. Consider what would be the point of grief for instance, it is hardly conducive to survival, most certainly not in the case of the grieving elephant who starved herself to death.

To be aware of other creatures an animal has of course to be self aware, this makes common sense. Damini the elephant was self aware, stricken by grief she surely was aware of her own emotions, emotions so powerful that she for all intents and purposes died of a broken heart.

Awareness of their environment

Research shows us that farm animals have the ability to choose between different objects, animals and situations, this demonstrates that they are aware of what is happening in their environment.

Conscious thinking may well be a core function of central nervous systems. For conscious animals enjoy the advantage of being able to think about alternative actions and select behavior they believe will get them what they want or help them avoid what they dislike or fear… Although nonconscious information processing could in theory produce the same end result as conscious thinking, …it seems likely that conscious thinking and emotional feeling about current, past, and anticipated events is the best way to cope with some of the more critical challenges faced by animals in their natural lives.’

Professor Donald Griffin, zoologist

There are many stories that reveal the remarkable change in animals after being rescued from factory farms which demonstrates an awareness of their environment. Here is just one concerning the rescue of hens from a so called free range farm.

"The first group of hens to arrive at Farm Sanctuary included 151 Rhode Island Red chickens from a Pennsylvania “free-range” farm that closed down and planned to send the birds to slaughter only days after we received a call to save them. Though raised in an environment thought to be humane, the hens we greeted were what the industry calls “spent” – their bodies strained and exhausted from years of unnatural egg production and their beaks marred from the painful mutilations they endured as chicks.

Once confined and crowded together on the second level of a barn, not free-roaming as their classification as “free-range” suggests, the chickens have since discovered the pure delight of unlimited access to the outdoors. Even with the cold and snow at our New York Shelter, these girls will not be deterred from going outside and burst forth from their barn each morning to search for the next big thrill to be had in their new life. Their love of freedom and fresh air is so great that nothing easily lures the hens inside at day’s end.

Please read the complete account on the website of Farm Sanctuary where can find many more heart warming stories of rescue and recovery and the change that is brought about to the lives of these animals.
Rescue & Adoptions | Farm Sanctuary hens

The sixth sense - something most humans do not have
Finally not only are animals sentient like you or I but animals are sentient on levels not available to us. One of these levels is what some people call a sixth, or a heightened sense.

Many people who have a dog as a companion animal may well have experienced a situation as the one cited earlier where Mr long described how his dog always knew when he was returning home. Dogs, and of course other animals, it seems are more aware of changes in their environment than are we, seemingly they notice things we have not, have been disturbed or distracted by sounds we have not heard. Many claim that animals are aware on a supernatural or paranormal level, most certainly they it seems have access to a level of awareness that is beyond are ken.

Your pet may not only be aware when you are on your way home, but he may also be aware of your mood.

He may even know if you are about to be ill, there are cases of dogs and birds, yes birds who have anticipated when for instance an epileptic is about to have a seizure or even when someone is about to die. One such perceptive animal is Oscar the cat who lives at a nursing home in Providence, Rhode Island USA who always goes and curls up by the side of elderly residents to give them reassuring comfort just before they die. He never makes a mistake and has been accurate 25 times.

NEJM -- A Day in the Life of Oscar the Cat.

It has been reported that some dogs are able to perceive a physical weakness of which we are not aware, one not observable to the human eye or other means of observation, it has for instance been reported that they can sense the location tumours.

"From San Anselmo to Cambridge, England, dogs are being trained to sniff out cancer in humans.

Researchers are studying the proclivity of pooches to detect lung, breast, prostate and skin cancer at early, treatable stages. There's evidence that cancer cells create a scent not present in healthy cells - an odor that, theoretically, can be detected by dogs in breath or urine samples."

Read the complete article:
Sensing Sickness / Cancer-sniffing dogs have shown promise at detecting the di

Your pet along with other animals may also know when there is an imminent change in the weather or if there is about to be an earthquake or other disaster. As a child we always knew when a thunderstorm was imminent when our cat appeared to take leave of his senses, running round the house, leaping on furniture, racing up and down the stars. Such abilities are it seems common in all animals and at one time may have once been present in man and indeed continue to be present in some people albeit to a less sensitive degree.

Dogs and indeed other animals sense fear in others.
This is one ability animals have of which I have personal experience. Dogs most surely sense fear. I have a certain anxiety about dogs, sometimes this is relatively mild but even at low levels dogs often pick up on this. As a child I had an unpleasant, or rather several unpleasant, encounters with a nasty spaniel and since that time I have been wary of dogs and, yes, indeed they seem to knew. It may appear that this is not consistent inasmuch as some dogs may appear not to notice and do not react while others yap and bark like crazy at my approach. However such inconsistencies could simply mean that some dogs ignore my fear whilst others do not which of course could be the case, as indeed with animals as it is with us, some are nice and others are less so and often like us considerably less so. All of this of course shows us that animals like us have their own ways, their own personalities, all of which reveals that they are thinking feeling emotional creatures who are unique individuals.

It is a well observed fact that animals are able to predict disaster, the evidence for this is overwhelming and has been supported in recent years by events that occurred during the worst tsunami in memory where tens of thousands of people died, yet wildlife officials in Sri Lanka reported that there had been no recorded animal deaths.

Why was this? Did the non human animals know what was about to happen and take appropriate action to protect themselves because they possess a sixth  or a heightened sense beyond our perception?

There is some convincing evidence that indeed this was the case, on some level of perception not available to us animals where alerted to this impending disaster and took measures to protect themselves and even alert and rescue humans.

Unusual animal behaviour was noticed in the interim period after the earthquake off Sumatra and before the catastrophic tsunami. Moreover during the days that followed the devastation not a single animal body was found. Some of the odd behaviours reported prior to this event was unusual bird activity, such as Flamingos abandoning their low-lying breeding grounds, dogs refusing to go out doors and similarly zoo animals hastily seeking protection in their shelters refusing to come out, elephants running for high ground, whilst captive elephants where heard by their trainer to wail in the early hours of the morning.

Dolphins anticipating disaster saved scuba diver instructor Chris Cruz's life by leading him and his diving crews to safety.

"Do you think the dolphins saved your lives?
This is what I believe. But once more, I’m not really in the position to qualify the case. … I really believe if we did not follow them, we would have been in a real, real bad predicament. Because when we went inside and we checked the island, we saw a mound of destruction that happened. Which incidentally, we did clean up after a few weeks. We were able to see everything; tables, chairs, kitchen utensils, bedding, tents, everything, you know, and of course a number of dead people. Jewelry, money, everything, anything you can say is connected to living.

I believe the moment the dolphins popped up, they were already giving us signals for interaction. A number of people who have been on the boats … people who have been in the diving industry for years … these are moments that they’ve always been waiting for, a chance to interact with animals like this. And around that time on the 26th of December, just before the waves came, around 10 o’clock, 10:30, when the dolphins appeared it was the perfect moment for us to interact with them, because we didn’t really know what was happening. In the history of Thailand they have not, at least in present history, they have not ever experienced a tsunami before. It was for them a very important lesson also."

Read the complete account:
Can Animals Predict Disaster? - Eyewitness Accounts - Chris Cruz | Nature

Below is are extract from the eyewitness account of tsunami survivor Uditha Hedige:
I was in Yala the moment the tsunami hit. I saw some unusual behavior from the animals. First in the morning around 8 o’clock I saw a group of banded storks and black-headed ibis flying like they were confused. I didn’t think at this point this can be a very dangerous thing, because I have seen them do this when they were frightened by another animal or something else. So I thought they were frightened because of something and flying to a safe area. And also, in the morning I saw several, three or four frogs. I saw them just going away from the hotel or leaving their roost. These [particular frogs] are nocturnal and to see them during the daylight was a bit unusual. It still didn’t strike me that this could be a [sign of] danger.

There are a lot of peacocks in the area and you can hear them call. It’s a very loud call and you can hear it from a distance. And I didn’t hear any peacocks call. I thought it was unusual, but I didn’t put it all into one picture. My brain didn’t get the whole picture and get the warning earlier.

Furthermore it seems that animals alert others to the impending danger.

I think all the animals benefited from each other because I think some animals felt this disaster before others, so they gave an alarm call to the others. And working as a unit, they managed to survive. I don’t think that animals were addressing only other animals. They must be giving the warning to us.

To read this and other accounts plus more information and a video visit Nature's website; Can Animals Predict Disaster? Eyewitness Accounts

Can Animals Predict Disaster? Eyewitness Accounts Gehan De Silva Wijeyerat

In his book the Parrot's Lament Eugene Lindon includes Sally Blanchard's account of the abilities of parrots to predict earth quakes:
" She reports that her birds started screaming about fifteen minutes before the san Francisco quake of 1989 , and after the quake she had a flood of calls from parrot owners saying that thier birds had begun freaking out before the trembler hit."

Prior to this event the reported number of animals missing doubled, suggesting that pets where heading for places of safety.

Throughout the centuries there have been similar reports. Historians have recorded that rats, snakes and weasels deserted the Greek city of Helice before a devastating earthquake in 373 BC. 

Accounts of similar animal anticipation of earthquakes have surfaced across the centuries since. Catfish moving violently, chickens that stop laying eggs and bees leaving their hive in a panic have been reported. Countless pet owners claimed to have witnessed their cats and dogs acting strangely before the ground shook—barking or whining for no apparent reason, or showing signs of nervousness and restlessness.

But precisely what animals sense, if they feel anything at all, is a mystery. One theory is that wild and domestic creatures feel the Earth vibrate before humans. Other ideas suggest they detect electrical changes in the air or gas released from the Earth

There have also been examples where authorities have forecast successfully a major earthquake, based in part on the observation of the strange antics of animals. For example, in 1975 Chinese officials ordered the evacuation of Haicheng, a city with one million people, just days before a 7.3-magnitude quake. Only a small portion of the population was hurt or killed. If the city had not been evacuated, it is estimated that the number of fatalities and injuries could have exceeded 150,000.

Read the complete National Geographic article Can Animals Sense Earthquakes?

Yes indeed all of these sixth sense perceptions may well be due to heightened senses to changes in the environment, such as changes in the atmosphere or the hearing of vibrations in the case of the Tsunami. In the case of sensing fear, illness, death or when a person is about have a seizure may well be due to minute observations perceived through sight and sound and, in the case of fear, hormones which may be excreted in such circumstances. Nonetheless this all adds up to a level of sentience, consciousness, and awareness that animals have which we do not now have or maybe never have had. Moreover the actions which animal often take in response to their senses such as alerting others to their owners ill health, as in the case of Lulu the pig referred to earlier, or rescuing people or other animals from danger, as in the case of the scuba diver rescued by dolphins, shows animals use these incredible senses with awareness, including a decision to help or not as the case may be. This shows compassion, altruism, reasoning and decision making,  indeed proving that animals are not automatons; not only are they fully aware but they are also capable of making a decision based upon compassion or altruism or dare I say it love in the case of Lulu to take action.

The Oxford University zoologist Professor Marian Dawkins has concluded.

"we are left with a hard core of studies that make it extremely likely that at least some animals do think in rudimentary ways and that they experience pleasure and suffering… Scientific evidence as well as common sense now demand that we take the step of inferring consciousness in species other than our own. …If consciousness is a biological phenomenon, evolved because it made animals in some way more effective at getting through their lives, then any explanation that leaves it out must be missing something very important."

Ernest Bell Publisher and animal welfare campaigner has said:

The old assumption that animals acted exclusively by instinct, while man had a monopoly of reason, is, we think, maintained by few people nowadays who have any knowledge at all about animals. We can only wonder that so absurd a theory could have been held for so long a time as it was, when on all sides the evidence if animals' power of reasoning is crushing.

A comment from Kathy Stevens

1. Even if I am "just a chicken," my legs can still hurt. Pain is pain, fear is fear, suffering is suffering, and I am entitled to quality of life just as every living thing should be.
2. If you help me feel better, I will show you how grateful I am.
3. Love me, and I will love you back. I will not simply tolerate affection… I will seek it out.
4. Treat me as an individual-one with feelings, emotions, and a unique intelligence — and I will respond as one. Allow me to thrive, and I'll show you what I can do. I am so much more than you ever imagined. I am not "just a chicken."

What the Animals Teach Us: Kathy Stevens, Catskill Animal Sanctuary

I have never doubted the existence of animal sentience. I have always recognised that animals are sentient in ways very much like ours, yet also in ways of their own and in ways far more advanced than humans. Animals have their own kind of sentience and because people do not recognise or understand animal sentience does not mean that animals are not aware, conscious thinking feeling beings. However even if animals where only sentient inasmuch as they feel pain and are capable of suffering we should respect them as equals with the right to live their lives as nature intended without molestation or negative interference.

We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.

Albert Schweitzer, The Philosophy of Civilization


References and Links

Our Fellow Creatures Have Feelings - So We Should Give Them Rights Too - Testimony from scientists and animal experts

Emotions high at animal farm - Science - d

Crows Have Human-Like Intelligence, Author Says

human animals, nonhuman animals, animal sentience, animal pain, animal affecti

Six 'uniquely' human traits now found in animals - life - 22 May 2008 - New Sc

Who says that animals don't experience pleasure? - Science, News - The Indeped

Animal Sentience and the Evolution of Emotion - Promoting Compassion for America’s Most Abused Animals

BBC NEWS | World | South Asia | Did animals have quake warning?

World Environment News - Tsunami Adds to Belief in Animals' "Sixth Sense" - Pl

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Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

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