By Martin Leduc
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“What is animal welfare? You know, an animal, it can reproduce, it can eat, and it is. We still want to limit things. This claim comes from the chain’s set LCPthis Friday, May 6, 2022 during the broadcast Politics at the table.
It is more precisely the president of the National Hunting Federation, Willy Schraen who says that. And he confirms it: “God knows that we know them, us, the hunters. »
But in reality, does an animal, whether wild or domestic, spend its entire life eating and reproducing? Details.
Do animals have a conscience?
To be able to feel emotions is have a conscience.
“Whether we’re talking about a fungus or a jellyfish, I do not know, but for most animals, just look at an animal report to realize that Willy Schraen’s claim is false,” states Cédric Sueur, professor of ethology (the scientific study of animal species behavior, editor’s note) at the University of Strasbourg, contacted by news.fr.
For example, many hunting animals, such as deer and membranes, live in groups.
However, a collective scientific expertise from the National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA) explains that “the structuring of these groups presupposes social cognitive capacities”.
Through a wide range of experimental protocols, it is widely believed that animals use their past social experiences and current relationships to adjust their behavior and achieve their goals. This requires mastery of sophisticated means of perception, integration, planning, and communication, which are presumably linked to consciousness.
In their interactions, therefore, animals increase consciousness, and are therefore far from merely “eating and reproducing.”
“We see it very well in elephants, great apes or ungulates (animals whose feet end up in hooves, like cows or deer, Ed) for example,” adds Cédric Sueur.
Animals know how to recognize each other, know the hierarchy, etc. “The concept of morality is very much present there. When an animal is injured, the rest of its group will protect it, ”he says.
Other rather remarkable elements have been observed in birds. Clark’s nutcrackerhides seeds, for example, permanently to prepare for winter.
“And we are talking about more than 30,000 seeds a year, in 5 to 6,000 hiding places. And this little animal remembers more than 80% of the places, even more than nine months later”, raves Sébastien Moro, who runs the Youtube channel for popularizing ethology bird brain. “Man would simply be unable to do that,” he assures us.
Laughing and wrinkling animals
“In most vertebrates, we observe a behavioral change that seems to confirm their state of mind. A cow that is happy to find its meadow will jump in all directions,” gives Cédric Sueur as an example.
According to the professor, it is not insignificant to see an expensive game: “To play is to appreciate what you do. The animal knows that it likes to play, and therefore either asks to be accompanied (human or genus) or wants to do it alone. »
“It’s a little more complicated than that, but it’s not entirely wrong to say that some animals smile when they’m happy,” he says.
Monkeys laugh, for example. “Not roaring laughter like humans, but they have open mouths, their faces spread. Conversely, they frown when dissatisfied.”
Another element that allows researchers to define animals as being relatively conscious: “Like us, they can be optimistic or pessimistic. If the animal experiences positive situations, it will be more prone to discovery, curiosity. Several tests have shown that Says Sébastien Moro.
And this observation, he keeps it experiments performed by researchers on pigsanimals very close to wild boar, which are naturally associated with hunting.
More than just a reflex
In the complete interview with the chairman of the Hunting Association, Willy Schraen assures us that the animals’ behavior is “a simple reflex. An escape after a fear, for example ”.
However, in the various studies that have been carried out, “the animals have shown very large capacities”. Cédric Sueur says, for example, that animals are aware of their and others’ existence.
In a group of great apes, two individuals have been observed hiding from the dominant male to exchange tenderness. They knew the chef would not like it, and made sure they would not have a problem.
We have also been able to study that animals have an awareness of equality and balance. “Take two capuchins. Give a cucumber (food he does not like) to one and grapes (food he likes very much) to the other. You will see that the first one will throw the cucumber in your face,” says the professor.
Moreover, we now know that certain specimens of birds are able to balance their food. Give several types of food to a jay (a species that is not protected in France and therefore can be hunted, ed. Note), it will dig into all the plates to make a meal that it appreciates. A creature devoid of conscience would just eat what he had under his nose, not? asks the popularizer.
And then beyond that, “we can remember the gorilla Koko, who had mastered sign language. It’s not just anything ”.
Are animals then conscious? “Difficult to answer this question because we are not in their head, although many elements tend to validate this hypothesis,” according to Cédric Sueur.
“Let’s just say they have a different intelligence than ours. Their subjective reality is not the same as ours. And then it can be difficult to perceive it with our prism of being human, ”concludes Sébastien Moro.
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