Letter: Empathy for animals welcome

Perhaps a little romanticized connection with the animals we share our world with is not such a bad thing

Re: Humour aside, animals are not like us, Your View, Oak Bay News, Nov. 16

Mr. Phillips is quite right, animals are different from us and the romanticized portrayals in cartoons and children’s books do not reflect reality; something that children naturally come to realize as they mature.

I agree that parents should take the opportunity to explain that animals and people deserve a place in the world but Mr. Phillips may not have a complete understanding of where that place should be.

Animal behaviour and communications are indeed dissimilar from people. However, in recent years, studies of animal behaviour have shown us that there are startling similarities.

It has been discovered that animals have an intelligence and range of emotions that go beyond previous understanding. They experience joy, fear, frustration, depression and affection.

Dolphins are able to recognize themselves in a mirror, they have unique names and a dolphin can remember the name of another dolphin for up to 20 years.

Pigs have been proven to be highly intelligent, with a wide range of emotions and are more intelligent than some breeds of dog.

Even the term “bird brain” carries no validity as many species of birds, such as crows and ravens, have been proven to be more intelligent than previously thought.

No, Mr. Phillips, Santa’s reindeer do not talk as we do. However, they do communicate. Deer vocalizations are diverse, ranging from dog-like “alarm” barks to whistling mating bugles. They use visual signals such as: foot stomping, tail flagging, head bobbing, ear twitching and nose licking. They also communicate using a variety of glands that produce strongly scented hormonal signals.

Yes, animals are unlike us and have their own characteristics. How we perceive and appreciate those differences depends on a willingness to understand  and empathy.

At a time when this planet is suffering the effects of anthropogenic impact, the animal population of the oceans depleted by 50 per cent, so many species of animal endangered and the looming threat of a sixth mass extinction, perhaps a little romanticized connection with the animals we share our world with is not such a bad thing.

Steve Huxter

Oak Bay