white sheep

Do Animals Have Souls?

The animal lovers in your family will enjoy this interesting and moving segment of Science Friday. Ira Flatow interviews primatologist and prolific author Frans de Waal about his latest book Mama’s Last Hug:Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves.

Pet owners know their dogs and cats are responsive and loving but animals appear to have other human emotions too:

  • A dying chimpanzee comforts a grieving primatologist
  • A jackdaw pines away after its mate escapes
  • Rats that are tickled and played with appear to have happy expressions and pinker ears

Consider this thought bomb: animals are considered beneath humans yet scientists observed behaviors, preferences, and responses that indicated individual personalities. Does God have a sense of humor? A love of variety? He gave animals a unique way of experiencing and interacting with the world. Amazingly, there is a different being inside each of us, animal and human, suggesting a spiritual energy separate from brain structure and matter – a soul.

Nothing in science can explain why people and animals are different from each other. Why don’t we turn out like factory replicates of others with the same raw materials – genes, food, water, region – and inputs – experiences, education, religion? Like us, animals vary, by a little or a lot.

Will our food sources change to conserve resources (raising cows and pigs is resource-intensive) and to avoid consuming beings that share some of our emotions: grief, loneliness, curiosity, happiness? Is this why Americans abhor the idea of eating cats and dogs, because we have firsthand experience with their moods and personalities?

Can you eat something with a soul?

Subsistence living peoples expressed reverence for a hunted animal, acknowledging its spirit and thankful for its part in their survival. Compare this with stuffing a burger in your face while watching tv. Maybe we don’t need hamburgers if we are not consuming mindfully; goo in a packet would suffice. Hunters who get up close and personal with their food sources deserve a goo packets pass.

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