Someone, Not Something:
Farm Animal Behavior, Emotion, and Intelligence
“Farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear, and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined…they are individuals in their own right.” — Jane Goodall
Farm Sanctuary was founded in 1986 when Farm Sanctuary President and Co-Founder Gene Baur rescued Hilda from a stockyard dead pile. Since that time, we’ve met, loved, and provided refuge for thousands of animals. Many people see two classes of animals: The animals with whom we share our homes, and everyone else. But other animals are not different in any way that matters morally from the dogs and cats with whom so many of us share our lives. At Farm Sanctuary, we share our lives with farm animals — chickens, turkeys, pigs, goats, sheep, ducks, geese, and cattle. And we can tell you from personal experience that farm animals have the same range of personalities and interests as cats and dogs.
In her introduction to The Inner World of Farm Animals, Dr. Jane Goodall writes that “farm animals feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear, and pain. They are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined…they are individuals in their own right.”¹
And Dr. Temple Grandin, in Animals in Translation, writes that “when it comes to the basics of life…[other] animals feel the same way we do.”² She goes on to explain that both humans and other animals share both the exact same core emotions (“rage, prey, chase, drive, fear, and curiosity/interest/anticipation”) and “four basic social emotions: sexual attraction and lust, separation distress, social attachment, and the happy emotions of play and roughhousing.”³
Professor Joseph Stookey from the University of Saskatchewan explains: “Whenever scientists do projects on any animal species to better understand their cognitive abilities, emotions, memory, etc., almost inevitably, we are more awed by their abilities when the results finally come in. . . . [W]e are still a long way from understanding how animals think, how much and how long they remember, how they learn, etc.”
Time and time again, contrary to the assumptions of certain scientists, we learn that animals can anticipate the future, delay gratification, dream, play, use language and tools, and do everything else that some thought they couldn’t do. As Richard Dawkins rightly notes, evolution worked in other species just like it worked in us, so, of course, other species have emotion, cognition, and self-awareness, just like we do.
In this section, we’ll be talking about some of the recent science regarding farm animal emotion, cognition, and social behavior. Of course, this research is in its infancy, and the fact that something has not been shown in farm animals doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. As Dr. Grandin rightly notes, “[W]e don’t know what animals can and can’t do. The fact that we’re constantly being dumbfounded by brand-new abilities no one had a clue animals possessed ought to be a lesson to us about how much we don’t know.”4
1Hatkoff, A. (2009). Inner World of Farm Animals, New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, pp. 12–13.
2Grandin, T. (2006). Animals in Translation, New York, NY: Scribner, p. 88.
3Grandin, T. (2006). Animals in Translation, New York, NY: Scribner, pp. 93, 100.
4Grandin, T. Animals in Translation, Harvest Books (Jan 2, 2006), p. 291.