Nature Sucks Blog
Odd couples: Crossspecies relationships
What stands out in the article below is the fact that “a lot of people find cross-species relationships surprising because they don’t appreciate the richness of the emotional lives of non-human animals, that non-human animals experience the same emotions we do.” Humans are a prime example of x-species relationships. We keep dogs, cats and other pets, while feeling very close to them and vice versa. At the same time we consume other animals of the same or similar capacities, as if it where the most normal thing to do.
In the past most humans had a limited amount of choice in regards to availability of foods and their ability to care. It was mostly about survival. Due to this primary aim and the once necessary time consuming energy that went into it, the luxury to contemplate on moral issues and rational thought was absent. However, conditions change and evolve and we don't live in the past anymore? We have vegetarian alternatives in abundance. We also have a much greater understanding of animal behaviour and can witness the "relevant" aspects of emotions in other species on a daily basis. It is time to rethink and modify our behaviour accordingly. Another species is not automatically worth less, just because it isn't human. We share way much more than what most people realise. Even animals are capable of recognising this!
Odd Couples: Compassion Doesn't Know Species Lines
It's widely accepted that many nonhuman animals (animals) are conscious beings who display and feel a wide array of emotions including joy, happiness, pleasure, love, empathy, compassion, and sadness and profound grief. Among mammals this isn't at all surprising because all mammals, including humans, share the same structures and neurochemicals in the limbic system that are important in processing and expressing what they're feeling.
Slowly but surely we're hearing about more and more observations of strong emotional attachments that cross species lines. These friendships, unlikely friendships in a good number of cases, show that emotions including joy, love, empathy, compassion, kindness, and grief can readily be shared by improbable friends including predators and prey such as a cat and a bird, a snake and a hamster, and a lioness and a baby oryx. And, of course, the best examples of emotions being shared between different species are those close and enduring relationships we humans form with the companion animals with whom we share our homes and with those nonhumans with whom we work closely to rehabilitate when they're in need.
On November 7 the PBS Nature documentary called "Animal Odd Couples" will air with some of the most amazing footage of these unexpected and improbable relationships. A description of the program accompanied by a short video is as follows: "Are animals capable of feeling complex emotions? Recent observations of unexpected cross-species relationships in zoos and animal sanctuaries around the world may provide some answers. Endearing interactions between a cheetah and a retriever, a lion and a coyote, a dog and a deer, a goat and a horse, and even a tortoise and a goose offer captivating glimpses of supportive connections in the animal world. Each interspecies pair challenges the conventional wisdom that humans are the only species capable of feeling compassion and forming long-lasting friendships. Animal behavior experts weigh in with their opinions, and animal caretakers share their personal experiences with cross-species relationships in this compelling tale of unlikely animal couples."
Consider, for example, love. In this documentary we learn "Love apparently knows no boundaries in the animal kingdom. A lion befriends a coyote. A goat guides a blind horse. A goose romances a tortoise, and so on." The growing number of stories of unlikely animal pairings including enduring animal relationships has generated a good deal of scientific interest about interspecies bonds and animal altruism.
I'm pleased to be in this documentary and I noted “a lot of people find these cross-species relationships surprising because they don’t appreciate the richness of the emotional lives of non-human animals, that non-human animals experience the same emotions we do.”
I highly recommend "Animal Odd Couples" because it's based on solid science and the videos of the animals are truly outstanding. I'm sure future research will reveal that close relationships between odd couples, strange bedfellows, are more common than previously thought, that empathy, compassion, and kindness cross species lines, and that "humans have no monopoly on moral behavior".
The teaser image of a dog and a friendly cheetah, truly an odd couple, can be seen here.