An­i­mal emo­tions

NZ Lifestyle Block - - From The Edtior - Nadene Hall, Edi­tor

When my dogs look up at me with their big brown eyes, it feels to me like they are glow­ing with love and af­fec­tion.

Those are very hu­man qual­i­ties to place on an an­i­mal, and there is lots of de­bate over just how sen­tient dif­fer­ent an­i­mals are. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, while I wit­ness what looks like love and af­fec­tion to­ward me and to­wards their fel­low an­i­mals, it’s also clear that an­i­mals aren’t like hu­mans. I don’t be­lieve they sit around pon­der­ing their long term fate for ex­am­ple, or there would be a lot of mil­i­tant cat­tle and sheep wan­der­ing around the NZ coun­try­side.

This month Ruth Ren­ner is look­ing at how our ur­ban friends look at farm­ing and how much in­flu­ence they will have over farm­ing prac­tices, and it’s made me think about how it’s very easy for peo­ple who aren’t around an­i­mals a lot to ‘hu­man­ise’ them far more than some­one who is.

A good ex­am­ple is my goat Lolly. I adopted her when she was around six months old, and to my hor­ror dis­cov­ered she was preg­nant not long be­fore she gave birth to two beau­ti­ful twin boys, JP and Basil. I watched her lav­ish at­ten­tion on these boys from the moment they were born. They were al­ways to­gether in the pad­dock, slept to­gether, and you’d of­ten see Lolly check­ing up on them even when they were adults and al­most twice her size.

One day JP got very sick and when it was clear there was no way we could save him, my vet put him to sleep in the pad­dock. Lolly was there for ev­ery sec­ond, nuz­zling JP with a wor­ried ex­pres­sion, nos­ing up to the vet as if ask­ing ‘what can you do?’.

But lit­er­ally sec­onds af­ter I felt the air leave JP’S body for the last time, Lolly be­gan graz­ing. A few sec­onds af­ter she ac­tu­ally bunted JP’S leg out of the way so she could eat the grass un­der it.

I be­lieve it’s im­por­tant our city friends know of our ex­pe­ri­ences like these – hope­fully share these ex­pe­ri­ences with us – so we can all un­der­stand how to be bet­ter farm­ers and bet­ter peo­ple.

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