Do you remember when it was generally accepted that animals did not feel pain? When pain-killing drugs were not administered by veterinarians? How about the notion that animals were not self-aware, they had no idea of themselves? Or when we considered they did not possess emotions? They didn’t use tools either. And let’s not forget the idea that animals could only understand a very limited vocabulary, fifteen words I believe depending on the species. They were here to serve us, and therefore we turned a blind eye to their peace of mind. They had no language, no sense of family, i.e. mothers had no bond other than instincts with their children? Remember those days? And they certainly could not converse with us.
Most of the ideas I have described above have been disproven by science. Well, all but one.
For expediency’s sake let’s look at just one of the ideas, the idea of self-awareness, and see how our viewpoint has changed over the years, and why it changed.
In 2006 the world of science proclaimed, through a research test, that elephants are aware of themselves; evidenced by an elephant named ‘Happy’ who looked in a mirror and touched her trunk to her forehead to investigate a yellow dot placed there and not touching the dot in the reflection of herself in the mirror. The test was devised in 1970 by Gordon Gallup, who performed the same test on Chimpanzees with similar results. Since that time the ‘mirror test’ has been used on Dolphins, Horses, Elephants and a few other species with results that suggest these animals have self-awareness. Our loyal friend, Dog, has failed this test a number of times, bringing an interesting conclusion from some in the research field, that canines do not have self-awareness.
However in 2017 a self-awareness test was designed for dogs, not with mirrors, but with scent as the qualifying factor. When exposed to different urine samples of other dogs (including the subject’s) it was determined that, yes, the dog was self-aware because he did not investigate his own pee, just everyone else’s. The reason our canine friends had failed the test before was because WE had not yet learned how to test dogs. Once we learned they use scent and not visual cues as their first line of discovery, we could in fact ‘prove’ dogs are self-aware.
Now, if someone were to ask a guardian of a dog (or any companion animal for that a matter) most guardians would agree they ‘knew’ their dog was aware of himself. But now, now it has been proven by science and so it has become a ‘fact’. It is accepted by the general populous as such. Science has evolved to catch up with the animal himself - and will continue to do so in the years to come. And self-awareness is just one factor; consider all the other antiquated notions that have been proven false.
What will the future bring? What revelations will science unveil that those of us who work closely with animals already know? And is the proof necessary in light of what has been discovered in the last several decades? Is it possible, in the future, that it is proven animals are capable of (and do) speak to us in a conversational manner?
I know it will be. Some of us talk with them now.
Truth, whether proven or not, is still truth.
Science has advanced much of the thinking of our society as it relates to our communion with animals and the future can only bring more understanding by ourselves of the Beings we share with Mother Earth.