As humans we feel special. Aren’t we the most intelligent species on earth? Some unfortunately take it even further than that. They feel there are animals that are so dumb they don't feel fear or the consequences of torture, except as an automatic response. Yet way back, Darwin already wrote in The Descent of Man, "There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties", rather the differences are "of degree, not of kind".
What makes us think we are so different then? We are top influencers. Humans have had the greatest impact on changing the face of the planet more than any other species. No one is capable of creating the technologies we have developed…and as far as consciousness goes…well, what about consciousness? Recently, qualities scientists once thought to be exclusive to humans, from morality to culture, are being found in the animal world.
As filmmakers, how can we create stories that not only show us being kind to animals and nature because we are evolved and it’s the right thing to do, but to additionally show that their intelligence, emotions and consciousness are much greater than we knew. That we are all connected in the web of life.
Newly, The Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness, states: “We declare the following: The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
I remember the story of a man and his dog. The story not only shows that many animals have a highly developed sixth sense but additionally, that this animal had the intelligence and thought-process to figure-out how to save his owner’s life.
Apparently this man took a weekly nature walk with his dog. He always chose one of two paths that forked near a town. One path was an isolated hike, few people chose because it was well over 2 miles long, going into the woods, the other was a shorter, popular trail. The man was about to choose the long, path into the woods, which would have normally excited his dog, but this time the dog barked and refused to go. He kept dodging over to the short path, going up the path a bit and showing his guy to go that way. His owner tried to convince him to go the longer trail to no avail and finally took the short, well populated path. As the man got to the end of the short path he had a heart attack. Luckily, at this point he was surrounded by people who came to his aide.
He believes without a doubt that his dog sensed his distressful health situation and kept him on the short path where a) they were more likely to see other people and b) would get to a fully populated area faster where there would be people to help him.
We have read how dolphins and other sea mammals have brains extremely similar to ours. They have families. They communicate, feel, they cry.
It's apparent that dolphins, dogs, cats, rats, monkeys, etc., etc. are a lot wiser than we were lead to believe, but I had an experience recently, with a regular aquarium fish that astounded me. Let me share my experience with Friedwad…a large, meat-eating Albino Tiger Oscar who calls a 100 gallon tank at my son-in-law and daughter’s place home. My son-in-law Scott first got Friedwad when he was still quite small. He put Friedwad in the tank with two other fish. Friedwad killed one as payback for when he had picked on Friedwad earlier. Though Oscars are known as aggressive fish, Snarfblat, the
one remaining Oscar in the tank, became Friedwad’s best friend, except for a couple minor territorial spats here and there. Over the years they both grew large, about 18 inches in size, on their weekly feedings of goldfish. (I personally could never own fish I had to feed living creatures to. I’d be scooping them out as fast as I put them in. That's just me. But to continue the story . . . .) Everything was great for these two, until a new filter created a mishap while my daughter and her husband were away on vacation, and Friedwad’s companion died.
Friedwad became noticeably lethargic after the loss of his buddy. I asked myself, “Is it possible that a cold blooded fish could, on some level, be mourning his friend?” I totally believed so, but still, what happened next was beyond even my understanding. Friedwad usually chomped down the brunt of the goldfish all in one sitting, but it was not uncommon for there to be a couple stragglers which were eaten the next day. This time, however, during the feeding after the death of his pal, Friedwad left one particular feeder goldfish there in his tank for days. It seemed extremely unusual. Eventually, it became time for another goldfish feeding. Surely the little straggler would be eaten during this next feeding. But no, this one goldfish was left alone again during the feeding frenzy. Weeks and many feedings past, it became apparent that Friedwad had chosen this one goldfish, his usual food source, out of the whole lot of them, to become his new companion!
This goldfish lives to this day and is now almost half as huge as Friedwad. He was named “Lucky!” It still is mind-boggling to me and amazes me, the thought process that went into that fish’s decision to spare one little feeder fish to keep as his friend.
Friedwad and Lucky were separated, when my daughter and her husband moved recently. Each went to different homes. Friedwad was put together with another Tiger Oscar companion, and they got along. Lucky was put in a less stressful environment with other large goldfish. But I reflect on the two often, and the elemental, universal need and longing for love and companionship which binds ALL living things, and the consciousness that makes it so.
Be sure to read our older post..."Happy New Year" and also the interview with Llyn Roberts.
More reading and viewing: http://us.whales.org/scientific-evidence-for-whale-and-dolphin-rightsMust see film THE COVE (trailer) http://www.takepart.com/cove