"Animals Have Feelings Too," Say Scientists

By Brisbane News Group, Australia (Originally in English)

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In many cultures the cow is a vital part of life, providing daily sustenance from its milk and the great variety of products derived from it. However, many who rely on the cow’s selfless service in giving them nourishment are unaware of this noble creature’s refined sensibilities, and those of other animals as well.

Studies conducted by animal welfare researcher John Webster and his colleagues at Britain’s Bristol University have found that cows and other farm animals have the capacity to experience fear, sorrow and happiness and can even respond to intellectual challenges.

The experiments were done on pigs, goats, chickens and cattle, all of which demonstrated these behavior patterns, suggesting that such animals may be so emotionally akin to humans that welfare laws need to be revised.

In support of this view, professor Webster states, "Sentient animals have the capacity to experience pleasure and are motivated to seek it. You only have to watch how cows and lambs seek and enjoy pleasure when they lie with their heads raised to the sun on a summer's day just like humans."

The Bristol studies found that cows in a herd form friendship groups of between two and four animals that spend most of their time together, and often show affection by grooming and licking each other. On the other hand they can also show dislike, bearing grudges for months or even years.

From my own experience in the rural area where I live and observe the neighbor’s cows, friendship, affection, bullying and sorrow are often apparent in the herd. For example, recently the youngest and smallest of the group, Caramel, was being bullied, chased away and left out of the group, occasionally causing him much distress. While the other cows would happily graze in the paddocks together, lonely Caramel would cry out in a plea to join them. In most cases, after hearing his cries, the others would allow him to enter the herd, but not without bullying him first. However, now that Caramel has grown bigger he is able to stand up for himself so the others are reluctant to torment him, and more often the cows now all graze together.

Other research conducted at Cambridge University involved measuring cows’ brainwaves with an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine while the animals had to find a way to open a door and get food. The test revealed that the cows became excited at the prospect of finding the food, suggesting that, like humans, they were stimulated by the problem-solving process.

The Bristol and Cambridge studies show that farm animals are not simply passive, unfeeling creatures that roam around in barnyards and paddocks eating grass or feed all day, but are complex beings with emotional traits similar to ours. Thus, since we humans recognize that out of compassion we should avoid inflicting pain or suffering on our fellow humans, it is only logical that we should also avoid harming or injuring other sentient beings that experience human-like emotions. And a key to this process is the pursuit of a vegetarian diet. As Supreme Master Ching Hai says, “Because meat contains hatred and suffering in it while the animal is being killed, it also represents death and transmigration; [so] we can’t help but be affected by it. If we want to protect ourselves, nourish our compassion and keep the enlightenment state, it’s best to keep the vegetarian diet.” (Excerpt from Videotape #344 Everything is Possible If We Believe in God)

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