Animals have feelings! (Just like you…)



Do you think animals have feelings?

How could anyone who loves pets imagine that animals don’t have feelings? The excited greetings when you come home, the cuddles, soulful gazes with eye kisses, the concern shown for you when you’re not well. 

The way pets interact with each other, the competition for attention, the need to be right with you when you’re on the toilet, the sulky, sulky looks when you set boundaries. The fun and joy they show in play or basking in a sunbeam. The grief they so clearly show when they lose other animals or humans to death, or distance.

It’s almost ridiculous that I even need to write about this because it is so bloody OBVIOUS that these furry beings have an emotional life very similar to ours. It’s also very obvious to anyone with half a brain that pets and livestock suffer pain- physically, mentally, and emotionally.

It’s all there to see for those who care to look and listen, to connect. 

Yet still there is a debate in the scientific community about this – for isntance, could it be true that lobsters have pain sensation? Might it be kind of cruel to boil them alive? YES! Of course they feel pain with an injury. Just like us!

There’s been a disconnect between humans and animals for a long time. Probably ever since the domestication process began with farming. This is when humans started killing animals who they had cared for, reared, protected, and husbanded. You can’t not bond with livestock that you care for, but the thing is – if you bond too much with them, it’s going to get kind of hard to kill them, don’t you think?

I believe this dissociation became far more severe when we moved to extensive and factory farming.

For one, when you have many, many animals being farmed, you don’t get to know and bond with individual beings like you would on a small farm with a handful of stock.

For two, there are a lot more painful and violent things that need to be done to animals with factory and intensive farming. 

Males when left entire are a problem – both to handle, and because farmers want to carefully select the genetics they breed with. So humans started castrating males. They still do, in extensive operations all over the world, without anesthetic. 

Cattle with horns cause bruising when they are transported, devaluing the meat – so young stock are dehorned, the horn buds cut or burned out of their heads. 

Humans want to know who owns which stock, so they mark them by burning symbols into them with a red hot brand, or cutting a particular shape out of the ear. All with no pain relief. I did all this as kid on the farm, with the calves bellowing and screaming in agony. It was just normal. Just what we do, nothing special, nothing to worry about, nothing to see.

Can you imagine how much suffering this causes? It’s only possible when people see these beings as less than- less sensitive, less feeling, less conscious!

This is all before we consider the horrifying crowding and lack of enrichment that is the lot of factory-farmed stock – pigs locked in a cage they can’t turn around in, chickens in battery cages or huge sheds, cattle in feedlots. Lying in their own mess, never able to feel the sun or grassy ground, to interact with their friends. 

Even the way we talk about them as ‘livestock’ tends to dissociate us from the reality that who we are talking about are living, feeling beings. Without this dissociation, the cruelty couldn’t happen!

I believe that to be able to treat animals like this, humanity has had to pretend that they don’t have feelings, that they don’t suffer as humans do – that they are in fact more things to be exploited than thinking, feeling, conscious beings who have an experience of life, joys, and sufferings very, very similar to our human experience. I’ve seen footage of a mother hen beating the bejesus out a hawk much bigger than herself to protect her chicks. Amazing courage!

Animals feel emotions. They have an emotional life, they love their offspring, their herd, or flock mates. They care for each other, and they care for their humans. They experience pain and fear and trauma, just like humans do. This is clear to anyone who has ever truly observed these beautiful, sensitive beings in the wild, or in captivity. 

There is plenty of research that shows that animals feel, think, they have the same sensations of and sensitivity to painful experiences that we do. They suffer pain, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, worry, and fear just as intensely as you ever have. 

I sometimes wonder why so few dogs and cats bite humans. I have met rescue dogs who have obviously been beaten, and yet they have not bitten the hands that hurt them. And they still have immense capacity to forgive, to love and trust humans. 

I find this awe-inspiring. I believe we can learn a lot from animals in terms of how to meet pain, suffering, and trauma. In general, animals are truly forgiving creatures. So how can we as humans make a change? 

Many decide not to eat any meat, or consume any animal products at all. And that is an option, but many, many mice die in the harvest fields for vegetable-based foods, too. Many species lose their habitat and dwindle when the earth is taken over by monocultures. That still has a negative impact, if a lot less than killing.

How can we help our animals?

I believe that part of the way forward is to ban intensive/factory farming. To go back to small, organically grown farming with small numbers of stock who are cared for and have the best life possible. This will make meat a whole lot more expensive, and therefore a whole lot fewer animals will suffer – and those who are farmed will be farmed with more care and love. 

There are inklings of new movements – mobile abattoirs that go right to the farm, so the stock don’t have to endure the stress and fear of travel. Dairies that share the mother’s milk with the calves and humans. Free-range chicken farms for eggs and meat. 

Natural horsemanship, stress-free sock handling schools, reward-based training for pets, and more and more research that is showing people the obvious, but with evidence to make it irrefutable. Organic farming is another important step – this both provides healthier food and teaches farmers how to connect with and care for the earth better. 

The more we all talk about this, educate each other, and advocate for humane, kind treatment of all animals, the more we make a difference. For instance – how about the family of Magpies here in Australia they fitted with tracking harnesses? The other birds removed these supposedly non-removable devices from each other in a matter of hours. Smart, caring, community-minded, empathic, thinking, feeling beings in action!

Want to learn how to connect with, communicate with, understand and heal your pets? Go to and to learn how!