Reading the signs: Goats’ emotional literacy

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An Indian billy, having a think. Nothing gruff here.

If summer’s book end on Monday closed what is known in England as the silly season, then a report published this morning must be deemed serious research and gives something of a fillip to those who have never seen animals as anything but sentient beings.

A study conducted by Dr Alan McElligott of Queen Mary, University of London and Natalia Alburquerque of University of Sao Paulo opens ‘new paths to understanding the emotional lives of all domestic animals’. It found that at the country’s only caprine refuge – Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats, in Kent – the ruminants responded to pictures of smilingly cheerful faces over those with a grumpy demeanour.

Why does this matter? All pet owners would gamble their souls to assert their pets not only understand but love them, so this really ain’t news. Well, seemingly it is.

In order to take seriously what we all know intuitively to be true, scientific research must be undertaken. And naturally, single data-point extrapolation would render its conclusion void. So we shalln’t do that.

Rather, let us consider how rational is it in the absence of corroborating data [by which we mean that which maps onto the metaphysic of reality] baldly to deny any possibility all living creatures enjoy access to processes necessary to leading the fullest lives? If we term animals as dim because they don’t understand humans – which gives permission to odd people to brutalize their beasts somehow – then the logic demands accepting the counter-factual that we are dim in virtue of not understanding them.

Animals are sensitive to things where our senses are blunt. Was it not the case birds silenced themselves and animals galloped inland in advance of 2004 Tsunami? Have animals managed their affairs such that each community lives in peace alongside one another? Do whales need telephones to speak to others thousands of miles away? Seemingly, an Elephants’ Graveyard is a mythical notion but animals have a sense of their own mortality, taking themselves off for a dignified death. 

What humans lack is abundant in animals and vice versa. The logic of judging one group superior as a result seems flawed. All of us have gifts and abilities, undiminished by lack of others.

Reading signs and acting on that information is available in every living creature, enlarging the modality of emotional literacy. Nanny knows best when the kids are united. [Do stop. Ed]  

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