Animals feel pain. Why do people believe they don't?
The psychological disconnect between humans and other animals puts all forms of life at risk.
- As part of the EU Withdrawal Bill, British MPs refused to recognize animal sentience.
- Yet it is well-documented that animals feel a range of feelings, including pain.
- The delusional idea that only humans experience emotions has lead to a variety of catastrophic problems, such as mass factory farming
As a child I loved Rick Raccoon. He was the only stuffed animal I owned of the Shirt Tales crew. The show was necessary Saturday Morning television before I left the cartoon-watching age.
Many years later, I returned home to my Jersey City studio around 3 a.m. As I was winding down, my cat, Osiris, began hissing at the window sill. I heard a shaking noise, as if someone was trying to break through the screen. I quickly slammed the window shut and turned on the deck light, whereupon I see a large raccoon jump from the fire escape. He tried to rip through the metal grating of the door with his claws and teeth. Unsuccessful, he destroyed the mop perched against the railing.
Rick Raccoon this was not.
From afar, raccoons are cute. Initially classified as dogs and bears, they eventually received their own taxonomy—Procyon means "before the dog." While they generally avoid humans, a rabid raccoon, which is likely what I encountered, has no problem attacking you or anything else.
We've long personified animals. Before gods were depicted as humans they were mythologized as animals or animal-human hybrids. There's a catch in that last phrase, however. Humans are animals. We forget that often, as in the whole "dominion over all animals" part of the Bible, opening the doors for us to treat other species however cruelly we choose.
How do animals experience pain? | Robyn J. Crook
Our relationship with other species has always been fraught. Some animals we domesticate and benefit from in a kind and caring manner. Some we effectively barter with; you do this and I'll feed and shelter you. Some we simply slaughter, for food and sport. Being an apex predator has allowed us to torture other species with little regard for their sentience.
That's in large part thanks to the psychological dominance of behaviorism, a system that assumes all reactions to stimuli are preprogrammed. Strains of this thinking linger when anti-homosexual groups pretend to "cure the gay," as if sexuality can be rewired. When it comes to other animals, few scientists take behaviorism seriously, though its legacy persists.
One recent example occurred in 2017 when British MPs refused to include animal sentience in the EU Withdrawal Bill. Hopes of protecting species as the nation exits from Europe were dashed by anti-science pundits, leaving a nation to speculate that the move by the Tories sets up future insidious legislation.
The notion that animals cannot feel emotions or pain flies in the face of the foundation of evolutionary biology. Humans were not born whole cloth with a unique physiological system. We do have unique characteristics, such as a strong sense of agency and an ability to portend the future, yet pain is a signifier that a problem is occurring. This warning system is encoded into every representation of biological life. As experts argue, affect precedes consciousness. Emotions guide cognition.
This said, then, does our repeat denial that animals can feel pain better enable us, in some way, to hurt them? Do we intentionally disconnect their suffering in order to maim them — or worse?
The science of emotions | Jaak Panksepp at TEDxRainier
How pain manifests is strikingly similar across mammalian groups, including humans. Similarities in behavior include loss of appetite, the cessation of socializing, heart rate increase, and an escalation in vocalizations. Though other animals might not voice their pain in a language we speak, by paying attention to signals you understand exactly what's occurring.
Pain is so deeply woven into the fabric of our being that even psychic pain produces physical symptoms. By activating the cortical regions of pain networks, simply envisioning a dreadful act is liable to send shockwaves of physical sensations throughout your body. The activation of your sympathetic nervous system prepares you to fight, flee, or freeze. The idea that only humans are equipped with this preparatory system is absurd.
And, in the case of British officials, a perfect power play. America is no stranger to anti-science legislation; we battle it daily. From climate change to creation "science" every ideology is backed by groups with a vested interest.
According to one expert, except for "companion animals" (aka pets), every animal is open for exploitation in this new British legislation. Such an atrocity is already occurring in New Zealand, where the government is planning on eradicating all invasive mammalian predators by 2050. Wiping out predatory species is a terrible idea; they need only turn to rabbits in neighboring Australia to understand the ecological disaster ahead. As was reported on this week, insect collapse is signaling a catastrophic planetary crisis.
Maybe our unwillingness to grant other species similar sensations is part of the delusional idea that we're in control. Our quarter-million-year run has been fraught with danger and disastrous consequences. To our credit, we've fought hard the entire way. Yet it seems like we're fighting more and more for the wrong causes, displaying a profound ignorance of the nature of interdependence.
The insatiable ego that devours itself—the history of our animality in a half-dozen words. We carved the world into our own image, never understanding the foolishness of our brazenness. Every animal feels pain. Some just have a wide enough view to recognize it's not only them who are suffering. In the end, every animal is paying the price for our sins.
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.
Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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