are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

"The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?" - Jeremy Bentham
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Ruairi
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are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Ruairi » Thu Jun 23, 2011 11:35 am

http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/ ... 2011-04-12

some intersting information in it about guinea pigs

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Arepo
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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Arepo » Thu Jun 23, 2011 4:53 pm

Hm, interesting article and I'm glad it's been written. A couple of oddities, though. The Leslie Stephen quote just after the author pointed out that cows aren't smart enough to contemplate death makes little sense... are we supposed to believe a pig is likely to care about the future of its *species*? It seems like there's an undertone of trying to justify omnivorism, despite her protests to the contrary. She keeps emphasising that if animals are well treated they're (probably) better off than the average wild animal, but this isn't really comparing like with like. Most animals raised for commercial purposes in most of the world are very poorly treated - often to the degree that they suffer far more than they would in the wild. Meanwhile, some animals in the wild (esp apex predators) presumably live relatively enjoyable, relatively carefree lives up until near the end. This might be the exception rather than the rule - but so are well-off domestic animals.
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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Hedonic Treader » Thu Jun 23, 2011 7:57 pm

Whether or not wild animals are happier than domestic ones doesn't tell us if either of them are better of existing than not existing. This is another trap that the naturalistic bias presents: The idea that if you show that domestic animals aren't, on average, worse off than animals in the wild, then their creation must be ok or even good. This doesn't logically follow, of course.
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Ruairi
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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Ruairi » Thu Jun 23, 2011 9:42 pm

so what do you suggest to fix this? no animals except humans?

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Gedusa
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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Gedusa » Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:27 am

Yes
Or alternatively just destroy everything :D
World domination is such an ugly phrase. I prefer to call it world optimization

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Hedonic Treader » Fri Jun 24, 2011 6:36 pm

Alternatively, hedonic enhancement. It was interesting to read the part about how domesticated animals have been implicitly selected for lower stress sensitivity. This is a nice confirmation that the hedonic baseline of a mind is genetically co-determined to a significant degree.
"The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it... Knife and pain are two words in surgery that must forever be associated in the consciousness of the patient."

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Arepo
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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Arepo » Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:35 pm

Gedusa wrote:Yes
Or alternatively just destroy everything :D
Seems like we should be fairly confident that the biosphere has negative welfare before we advocate that, not least because advocating it wouldn't exactly do util any PR favours...
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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by tog » Sat Jun 25, 2011 6:09 am

Can someone explain why they think wild animals' lives have negative utility? It's never seemed prima facie plausible to me, and I've yet to be convinced by any arguments for the claim. In particular I don't see how can be confident that fear (from being chased) and stress (from the presence of predators or shortage of food) as experienced by these animals are as highly bad as many here seem to think. Going on my own subjective experience, these experiences are only really bad when they play into some complex cognition that animals might not have (for example, stressed humans can torture themselves with worry, and get upset that they're stressed rather than happy, whereas a squirrel used to being chased presumably doesn't).

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:52 am

I agree with Hedonic Treader. I think this quote from the article is very likely true:
These data also suggest something that might seem a bit radical: if we follow the guidelines of care that provide food, water, comfort, and necessary items for behavioral expression, domesticated animals are not only likely to be as happy as their wild relatives, they’re probably happier.
I actually might not mind being a guinea pig raised in captivity, but I wouldn't want to be one in the wild.

Of course, the next sentence ignores the reality of conditions on most factory farms:
This applies to livestock as much as it does to a guinea pig, in spite of the fact that we raise the livestock solely to be killed and eaten.
I agree with this paragraph:
[Wild animals] have to struggle to survive on a daily basis, from finding food and water to another individual to mate with. They don’t have the right to comfort, stability, or good health. [...] By the standards our governments have set, the life of a wild animal is cruelty.
As far as tog's comment:
tog wrote:Going on my own subjective experience, these experiences are only really bad when they play into some complex cognition that animals might not have (for example, stressed humans can torture themselves with worry, and get upset that they're stressed rather than happy, whereas a squirrel used to being chased presumably doesn't).
I think there's something to what you're getting at with the "subjective experience" point. "Getting upset" at stress or pain is what turns an ordinary recognition of a stimulus into suffering. This is why I'm not sure whether insects can suffer -- I don't know if they have a sufficient level of self-reflection for their aversive reactions to feel bad. I tend to assume that squirrels do have this level of reflection, since they departed ways from us evolutionarily only a few dozen million years ago, but I could be wrong.

One thing to note is that if squirrels don't suffer in these cases, then they also aren't happy when good hormones are flowing through their bloodstreams. In that case, they vanish from our calculations entirely, right?
Last edited by Brian Tomasik on Sun Jun 26, 2011 7:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Ruairi
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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Ruairi » Sun Jun 26, 2011 2:41 pm

so yea its possible that insects react to noxious stimuli without actually feeling pain, just a reaction, but if they didnt have pain to inform them it was noxious what other evolutionary tool might they use? like why would they have gained that response mechanism, what would ahve been the genetic mutation.

sorry im just thinking out loud

i thought tog was suggesting that maybe animals dont view death the same way we do? you dont see other animals grieving over the loss of a loved one in the same way you see humans, usually. and perhaps being chased and all the things we view as horrific are just usual life to them

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Jun 26, 2011 7:21 pm

Ruairi wrote:like why would they have gained that response mechanism, what would ahve been the genetic mutation.
Keep in mind that insects evolved first, so if indeed insects can't suffer, then the neural structures for suffering were a mutation from what insects have.
Ruairi wrote:so yea its possible that insects react to noxious stimuli without actually feeling pain, just a reaction, but if they didnt have pain to inform them it was noxious what other evolutionary tool might they use?
From Jane A. Smith's "A Question of Pain in Invertebrates":
Invertebrates, it seems, exhibit nociceptive responses analogous to those shown by vertebrates. They can detect and respond to noxious stimuli, and in some cases, these responses can be modified by opioid substances. However, in humans, at least, there is a distinction to be made between the "registering" of a noxious stimulus and the "experience" of pain. In humans, pain "may be seen as the response of the whole awake conscious organism to noxious stimuli, seated.., at the highest levels in the central nervous system, involving emotional and other psychological components" (Iggo, 1984). Experiments on decorticate mammals have shown that complex, though stereotyped, motor responses to noxious stimuli may occur in the absence of consciousness and, therefore, of pain (Iggo, 1984). Thus, it is possible that invertebrates' responses to noxious stimuli (and modifications of these responses) could be simple reflexes, occurring without the animals being aware of experiencing something unpleasant, that is, without "suffering" something akin to what humans call pain.
Ruairi wrote:i thought tog was suggesting that maybe animals dont view death the same way we do?
Interesting. Personally, I've suffered a fair amount, but grief over death has never been part of it. Do you think it's different for other people?
Ruairi wrote:you dont see other animals grieving over the loss of a loved one in the same way you see humans, usually.
It's hard to say how far it extends, but certainly some animals grieve in this way:
the Indian elephant which sheds tears of pain when injured, or tears of grief when a family member is killed. Amazingly, elephants seem to have a concept of death and enact long burial rituals.
See also:
Mother seals who see their babies clubbed to death by hunters shed tears.

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by RyanCarey » Mon Jun 27, 2011 12:41 pm

Sanalaxy, welcome to the site. Unfortunately, this is not the right place to start a new discussion. Instead of clicking "submit" in the reply section, you need to find the "new topic" button.
You can read my personal blog here: CareyRyan.com

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by tog » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:19 pm

Alan Dawrst wrote:I think there's something to what you're getting at with the "subjective experience" point. "Getting upset" at stress or pain is what turns an ordinary recognition of a stimulus into suffering. This is why I'm not sure whether insects can suffer -- I don't know if they have a sufficient level of self-reflection for their aversive reactions to feel bad. I tend to assume that squirrels do have this level of reflection, since they departed ways from us evolutionarily only a few dozen million years ago, but I could be wrong.

One thing to note is that if squirrels don't suffer in these cases, then they also aren't happy when good hormones are flowing through their bloodstreams. In that case, they vanish from our calculations entirely, right?
I think we may be talking about slightly different issues. My suggestion was that, even if squirrels do have sufficient self-reflectiveness for aversive reactions to feel bad, the actual thoughts and feelings that go through their heads when they're being chased (or are aware of the presence of predators or a shortage of food) may be different from the ones that would go through human heads in a way that makes them less bad.

I can think of feeling emotional fear for a few minutes without having time to develop all the anxious and upset thoughts that typically go with it, and while unpleasant it's nothing like as bad as being unhappy or worried about something important. I'm suggesting chased squirrels may feel something like that, though not necessarily without any associated extra bad thoughts and feelings.

PS: I'm assuming Ryan Carey's last reply was ironic!

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Ruairi » Sat Jul 02, 2011 8:29 pm

oh like if one of us was chased it would be a really traumatic experience and you might suffer from post traumatic stress but for them its very different!

haha i giggled anyway :)

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Arepo » Sat Jul 02, 2011 11:37 pm

RyanCarey wrote:Sanalaxy, welcome to the site. Unfortunately, this is not the right place to start a new discussion. Instead of clicking "submit" in the reply section, you need to find the "new topic" button.
It was a spambot - now deleted.
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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Brian Tomasik » Sun Jul 03, 2011 12:10 am

Ruairi wrote:oh like if one of us was chased it would be a really traumatic experience and you might suffer from post traumatic stress but for them its very different!
- El-Hage, Wissam and Catherine Belzung. "Unavoidable predatory stress in mice: An animal model of posttraumatic stress disorder." 2002.
- El Hage, Wissam, Guy Griebel, and Catherine Belzung. "Long-term impaired memory following predatory stress in mice." 2005.
- Zoladz, Phillip R.. "An ethologically relevant animal model of posttraumatic stress disorder: Physiological, pharmacological and behavioral sequelae in rats exposed to predator stress and social instability." 2008.
- Stam, Rianne. "PTSD and stress sensitisation: A tale of brain and body Part 2: Animal models." 2006.

From the abstract of the last citation:
Animal models that are characterised by long-lasting conditioned fear responses as well as generalised behavioural sensitisation to novel stimuli following short-lasting but intense stress have a phenomenology that resembles that of PTSD in humans. [...] Weeks to months after the trauma, treated animals on average also show a sensitisation to novel stressful stimuli of neuroendocrine, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal motility responses as well as altered pain sensitivity and immune function.
In general, see Wikipedia's excellent summary of "Animal psychopathology."

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by LadyMorgana » Tue Jul 19, 2011 2:00 am

Tog, I'm glad you challenged what often comes across as a utilitarian assumption that wild animals are unhappy on the whole. I'm tempted to think that we tend to overestimate the daily stresses for wild animals of being chased, hungry etc., because they're more used to it than us, but you should still think carefully about what happy experiences wild animals have that could outweigh the stress that they clearly do experience to some degree, and the pain of being, say, eaten alive (which I imagine is about the same level of suffering as it is for a human).
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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Brian Tomasik » Tue Jul 19, 2011 12:27 pm

LadyMorgana wrote:but you should still think carefully about what happy experiences wild animals have that could outweigh the stress that they clearly do experience to some degree, and the pain of being, say, eaten alive (which I imagine is about the same level of suffering as it is for a human).
Agree. Much of the reason I think wild-animal suffering outweighs happiness is just that wild animals have such short lifespans. In order to offset the pain of being eaten alive, I would want at least a few years of happy life as compensation. Many wild animals don't live more than a year or two (especially if you count small fish, insects, etc.). And if you include the overwhelming majority of individuals that don't survive to maturity, the average lifespan of even mammals and birds is probably just a few months (?).

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by Jesper Östman » Wed Jul 20, 2011 2:57 am

A relevant question there is what the typical death (or types of deaths) look like. At least among big animal relatively few seem to be eaten alive. But perhaps it's much more common for smaller animals (or there are other common deaths which are comparably painful)?

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Re: are wild animals happier than domestic ones?

Post by LadyMorgana » Wed Jul 20, 2011 9:24 am

You're coming up with a lot of good points recently! I imagine that you could replace "being eaten alive" with most types of animal deaths and our arguments would still run though. We really need some research done into this...
"Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind" -- Bertrand Russell, Autobiography

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