Animals and Emotions

Do you think animals have feelings? Maybe only certain animals have feelings? As humans, we cannot technically assume what emotion another living species is feeling, we can only guess by using our best judgment. I personally feel like all living things have feelings/emotions, but these feelings are displayed in different ways. I also feel humans have a better understanding of animal emotions when we actually bond and interact with the species.

When I’m around my dog, I have a pretty good idea on how he is feeling. When I see my dog’s tail wagging, I know he is happy and exited, or when his ears are relaxed and he is staring at me with the “puppy eyes,” I know he is looking for love and affection. I only know this because I have a special bond with my dog. I can tell how he feels, and about 90% of the time, he can tell how I feel. Humans have had a long-term bond with dogs. Going back over thousands of years ago, dogs were one of the first animals to be domesticated. Dogs were willing to take human commands, which was especially useful while hunting. Somewhere in the mix, humans and dogs created a bond like no other. Even though we have a strong relationship with dogs, there are times when dogs retaliate and show aggressive behavior.

Now what about an orcas? Can an orca be domesticated? Are they willing to take command? Can we make a bond with them like we do dogs? I believe we can make a bond with whales, but to some extent. However, I do not believe in the domestication of orcas, nor do I believe in their willingness to take commands. Whales are huge animals, and like all other animals, they have a mind of their own. 

Orcas are intelligent creatures. In the movie Blackfish, researcher Howard Garrett explains how the orcas knew they were being hunted, and they knew it was their young that would be taken from them. So, the orcas without young would steer the boats one way, while the mothers and young would go another way. During a hunt for whales, a baby orca, today known as Tilikum, was taken from his family. In the movie, diver John Crowe says, “It’s like kidnapping a little kid away from its mother.” You could hear the other whales crying out as Tilikum was lifted away. The emotions of the whales were basically ignored.

Over the years, Tilikum was trained to perform and was used for breeding more orcas in captivity and is responsible for three deaths. But what made him snap? What goes on in the mind of these creatures? Maybe Tilikum had a flash back of humans taking him from his family; maybe he was frustrated or tired, we wouldn’t know. Instead of seeing the signs or frustration, anger, sadness, fatigue, etc., during training, trainers at SeaWorld would punish the whales until they cooperated. Once again, the emotions of the whales were ignored, and probably will still be ignored until another “accident” occurs.



1 Comment

  1. Animals are far more intelligent than we give them credit for and I completely agree with you they definitely have the capability of complex emotions and if we are going to play the role of caretaker we need to be more sensitive to these.

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