Wow, March is here, the sun is shining and the birds are singing! It really feels like Spring is here, hurray! Of course, with Spring comes the heartache for us vegans that is fields full of lambs and calves. TV programmes showing life on the farm with farmers insisting that they care about each and every one of their animals and not a ‘livestock’ haulier in sight. Well, I’m sorry but I believe all they care about is the money. Otherwise how can they load their animals onto these lorries, knowing that they are bound for a slaughterhouse?
I am happy to report that I have a new addition to my ‘family’; another sheep named Rose. She cost me £90: a small price to pay to save her life but that’s apparently ‘what she’s worth’. She is so different in character to Hope, it’s been a bit of a shock to both of us!! Hope is so laid back but Rose is very ‘in your face’ and needy. I think Hope is happy to have her around but at a distance, haha! Every day I see how much they trust me and how much they want to be with me. Yesterday, in the glorious sunshine I sat with both of them scratching them (and cuddling Hope because he is so scrumptious!) My snuggle time with them has got me thinking about anthropomorphism and, specifically its use as a derisory term, e.g ‘stop anthropomorphising those sheep; they don’t feel abandoned/betrayed/afraid’.
Don’t they? Really?
I can tell you for certain that Hope and Rose enjoy my company. They bleat as soon as they hear me and its not cupboard love. Yes, they do enjoy their cabbage but its more than that. Hope follows me around and loves his scratches. Rose’s eyes half close when I give her a scratch, her head drops and she just seems to love it. So much so that if I stop, she paws at me! In addition, they are both more settled when I am in the field with them. If Rose is at the other end when I leave she runs at full speed after me. They both seem to love being with me. I believe that my presence offers them security and makes them feel happy.
So, my next question is why do we use that term about animals? Is it to justify our treatment of them?
When you look up the definition, many references say that it was a word used especially about gods. This is because for centuries, anthropomorphism had referred to angels and Gods of human qualities but then , in a work first published in 1858, George Herbert Lewes extended the use of the word to animals; specifically talking about molluscs but he went on “…we are incessantly at fault in our tendency to anthropomorphise, a tendency which causes us to interpret the actions of animals according to the analogies of human nature.”
This coincided with Darwin’s published work ‘On The Origin of Species by Means of natural selection or the Preservation of favoured races in the Struggle for life’ in which he challenges the idea of a hard and fast line between humans and other species. Indeed, 14 years later Darwin published The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals in which he set out to prove that animals and humans share many psychological qualities.
I’ve gone down a bit of a rabbit hole with that but, my point, I guess, is that it’s time to consign the term anthropomorphism, specifically when referring to animals, to the history books. It has been proven, time and again, that animals do feel similar emotions to us: fear, joy and, if not love then affection. I would add trust and abandonment to that list too.
Certainly I have witnessed all these emotions in my animals: my horses’ fear at fireworks, their joy in being groomed by each other or having a good roll, their trust in me when following me to somewhere new; Hope’s fear of men (that tells a story), his joy at cabbage time (his little tail waggles furiously) and his affection for me when he brings his little face up to mine and keeps it there gently breathing on my cheek.
So, surely it’s time to accept this as fact and end the speciesism that facilitates a word like anthropomorphism.