Our animal counterparts have quite a few lessons to offer (the value of napping, for one). Humans are fundamentally social animals, and in learning to coexist more peacefully, the animal kingdom could teach us a thing or two.
Research has shown that animals are capable of great depth of emotion and complex systems of social cooperation, and we know that animals can care for each other and for human beings.
"Science has discovered a lot about the inner lives of diverse species, more than we often give ourselves credit for," Marc Bekoff, author of The Emotional Lives Of Animals, wrote in a Greater Good blog post. "Indeed, animals’ lives aren’t all that private, hidden, or secret; a flurry of research has offered insight into the emotional lives of animals. We now know that animals have a point of view and that they experience deep feelings."
Here are 11 things that animals' social behavior can teach us about being good to each other.
They respect their elders.
In African elephant tribes, matriarchs remain the leaders of the group until they die, often well into their 60s and 70s, and the elephants benefit from having an elder matriarch's experience. Research has shown that elephant groups with older matriarchs are more effective at fighting off predatory lions. Matriarchs older than 60 did not show any signs of cognitive decline, and they had more success recognizing and responding to predatory threats.
“Otherwise you might expect them to marginalize until they die, but this suggests that they don’t have the same sort of cognitive decline as humans,” evolutionary ecologist Karen McComb told the New York Times. “Of course, human women in their 60s are doing quite fine, aren’t they?”
They exhibit signs of empathy and compassion.
Anyone who's had a longtime pet knows that animals can be unbelievably attuned to humans' states of emotional and physical well-being. A recent study backed that up, showing that dogs yawn more in response to their owners' yawns than to others, which suggests that dogs are empathetic towards their owners.
Plenty of research suggests animals are capable of great depths of empathy. In one study, Carolyn Zahn-Waxler from the National Institute of Mental Health had intended to examine young children's emotional responses to family members' emotions, but found that some pets showed as much worry as children when their adult owners feigned distress. The pets would stick near their owners and put their heads on their laps in response to the display of emotion.
And in a now-famous 1964 study, psychiatrist Jules Masserman found that rhesus monkeys refused to pull a chain that would deliver them food if doing so would hurt another monkey. One monkey avoided pulling the chain for 12 days (until virtually starving) to avoid hurting a companion.
They're nice to their neighbors.
Monkeys who live in groups often exhibit highly pro-social behaviors. Red colobus monkeys (pictured above) are so friendly that they even socialize with members of other species, according to BBC Nature, grooming others as a sign of friendliness and respect. Baboons are also highly social, sometimes interacting playfully with neighboring groups of chimpanzees.
They can sense others' feelings.
We've all heard that animals can detect fear, but their ability to tap into what others are thinking and feeling (even subconsciously) extends far beyond sensing either weakness or a threat. In one particularly extraordinary case, a cat named Oscar at a Rhode Island nursing home predicted the deaths of close to 50 elderly individuals by planting himself on their beds just hours before they died.
"His mere presence at the bedside is viewed by physicians and nursing home staff as an almost absolute indicator of impending death, allowing staff members to adequately notify families," geriatrician Dr. David Dosa wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine. "Oscar has also provided companionship to those who would otherwise have died alone. For his work, he is highly regarded by the physicians and staff at Steere House and by the families of the residents whom he serves."
They help each other out.
Elephants are some of the smartest animals out there -- and they might be better than many humans when it comes to working together. Evolutionary psychologists have found that elephants are highly adept in social coordination when pursuing shared goals. A Cambridge study found that elephants can learn to coordinate with a partner on a task that required the pair to simultaneously pull two ends of the same rope in order to obtain a reward. Not only did they act effectively together, but if their partner was delayed, they waited for up to 45 seconds.
Dolphins have a sophisticated "language" and communication system, using sounds, in some cases, to avoid violence or confrontation. The common bottlenose dolphin has a vocal repertoire of 14 sonically distinct social signals, according to scientist J. Andrea Bernal Shirai. The dolphins "burst-pulsed" as a way to avoid possible aggression in situations of high excitement and energy, possibly when competing for food.
"Bottlenose dolphins make longer burst-pulsed sounds when they are hunting and at times of high aggression, and make it possible for each individual to maintain its position in the pod's social hierarchy," Phys Org explained. "Dolphins emit these strident sounds, for example, when in the presence of other individuals moving towards the same prey, forcing the least dominant mammal to quickly move away in order to avoid confrontation."
They can find love in a hopeless place.
An unlikely love affair between a swan and a tractor reveals an important truth from the animal kingdom: Love is blind, and it can be found in even the most surprising places. Swans mate for life, and when eight-year-old Schwani couldn't find another swan to be with, he sought partnership elsewhere. At a German hotel, the swan became infatuated with the groundskeeper's tractor. According to CBS, Schwani "just can't get enough of the mechanical companion."
"He follows me around all the time, no matter where I go -- whether I cross the street or go deep into the animal garden to take came of the pathways, the swan comes along," hotelier Herman Josef Hericks told CBS. "And if I take a break, then it stands right next to it ... as if ready to get in."
They enjoy group playtime.
They make love last.
Many species of animals mate for life, including swans, wolves, albatrosses, termites, bald eagles and gibbons (the closest species to humans to do so, although they do occasionally seek pleasure outside the relationship). Most bird species that mate for life, like eagles, pigeons and turtle doves, will only choose another partner after their mate has died. And despite popular wisdom from Friends, lobsters don't make the list (their mating system more closely resembles a harem).
They get by with a little help from their friends.
Love of Animals
Love of Animals
Love of animals and animal friendship is a feeling of affection that humans often have towards non human beings, such as animals. Humans share special bonds of loyalty and love with their animals and pets. It is a pleasurable (#) relationship between humans and animals that brings these two diverse species together.
Animals show humans affection as they receive it. Many people do not believe that animals are capable of loving or showing affection.
Groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Hearts United for Animals (HUA), and many other clubs that support animal rights stand by the fact that animals have feelings, and DO have the ability to feel emotion, just like humans. Animals have a sense of love, loyalty, and friendship as well as many other emotions and traits.
Unethical treatment of animals is a large controversy in the past and remains important in today’s society as well. Animal abuse can usually be categorized into two branches: Active cruelty and passive cruelty. Active cruelty simply means non-accidental injury that is caused with malicious intent. Passive cruelty is animal neglect and the lasting effects of the neglect towards the animal. Unethical treatment and cruelty could range anywhere from neglecting your pet, leaving a pet malnourished, actual physical abuse, animal testing, or even using animals as a form of entertainment, such as dog fighting.
There are many other forms of abuse, especially in puppy mill settings. The definition of a puppy mill is: a commercial farming operation in which purebred dogs are raised in large numbers. Living quarters and milling methods are not monitored closely enough, and millions of dogs die each year in the care of mills and pet stores. Many animal rights advocates will petition and fight against the cause of puppy mills. A method that has raised many animal rights issues would be the process of debarking. This is where a sharp metal rod is placed in the vocal chord of the dog, and hit into the throat to rupture the vocal chord, ensuring that the dog will never bark again. This is just one of the many inhumane ways that mills control their animals.
Another love of animals act would be vegetarianism. This is the practice of a diet where all animals are excluded, including poultry, game, fish, or any slaughter by-products. Many people believe that eating animals as a source of our food is wrong and they refrain from doing this by avoiding eating meat.
There are extremes on one end of the spectrum to the other with love of animals. Some people buy their pets clothes, shoes, purses, beds, accessories, and many other items that some people find frivolous. Others have a pet they see for ten minutes a day, long enough to feed them, and put them back outside. Some owners beat their pet on a regular basis, while other pet owners are against animal abuse.
Love of animals can be shown in many different ways, between humans and animals and also just amongst animals. Animal rights advocates stand for the humane treatment of animals and fight for animal rights. This is one of the many ways someone could show love of animals.
Ethical treatment of animals could be strengthened by everyone! Anyone who has ever had an animal, or loved an animal should want to support the cause. With some teamwork and strength, animal cruelty could be ruled out.