By Ari Liakeas

Have you ever been referred to as IT by someone? How did that make you feel? I imagine it probably made you feel uncomfortable or insulted, leaving afterthoughts of “well that was rude“. So why would you treat a lovely pet like that? It just doesn’t make sense!

Animals Have Feelings Too

Animal lovers or honoured pet guardians worldwide will be well aware of the sentience of our animal friends. They show happiness and excitement when we return home, manage to communicate their needs for food and other daily routines, and respond to their names. Well, cats generally pretend not to, but they are still listening and understanding. 

Some people, and yes, I am one of them, even have close relationships with their plants. They talk and sing to them, which has been proven to help them grow. A fascinating read on this topic is The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird. So, that goes to the next level regarding animal alertness!

Animals show great consciousness and empathy towards us. They know when we are distressed, sad or ill and know how to make us feel better and be supportive. Look at how pets are trained as service and emotional support animals for further evidence.

Animals can teach us a great deal about communication, touch, intimacy, community and the biggest one of all, unconditional love.

To have the companionship and friendship of a pet or the connections made working in animal care is truly a special honour—just like with our human friends and family.

Wild Things

It is easy for anyone who has a furry, feathered or scaly family member to understand their wealth of consciousness and high levels of emotional intelligence., But what about the wild animal world?

Once, when diving, I was saved by a beautiful Angelfish. It kept me from being stung on my foot by a Lionfish; the experience was almost too incredible to put into words. I’m sure any divers reading this will agree that our underwater friends show remarkable levels of playfulness and awareness.

The United Kingdom recently added Lobsters, Crabs and Octopuses to the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, recognising these fantastic creatures as sentient beings. Certainly makes me think twice about ordering them off the menu at my local seafood restaurant—just like I wouldn’t eat a dog.

Want to learn more about the creatures that inhabit our planet? Watch some documentaries by the grandfather of the natural world and lead torchbearer in protecting wild animals and their habitats, Sir David Attenborough. They are a great place to enhance our understanding of animals.

Books like the Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony and films like My Octopus Teacher also offer awe-inspiring tales of how incredible some of our planet’s inhabitants are.

So Why Do Some Still Refer To Animals As “It”?

If we look at basic English, it can be grammatically correct to use the word “It” to refer to an animal. For example, “where is the dog and have you fed it yet?”.

Although personally, because the dog is a family member, I would use “where is the dog and have you fed her yet?” Or “where is Hercules? Have you fed him?”

Recently, a friend contacted me to say she struggled to take her son out for walks with the dog. Some slightly aggressive farm dogs were on their usual walking route, and her son was afraid their dog Lucinda would get attacked. So my friend could only walk Lucinda while her son was at school. 

One day Lucinda decided to guide my friend on a different route, and while on this new path, she found another dog who had been abandoned and dumped by their owners. This poor dog was in a terrible state, completely starved, just skin and bones and covered in ticks, showing real signs of trauma. 

Lucinda, who typically shows signs of jealousy, was being very gentle with this poor abandoned creature, nuzzling him and giving him love. They took him home, christened him Solomon, and he is now on his way to recovery. This was due to my friend’s love, care, and respect with the help of her beautiful dog Lucinda.

After a story like that, how can anyone still refer to animals as “It”? Lucinda showed incredible emotional awareness and saved a fellow dog’s life. It surely indicates that Descartes’s quote,

“Animals are like robots: they cannot reason or feel pain” is outdated.

I am sure not many of us would agree with this statement. Perhaps now, in our modern world and through scientific research into animal consciousness, we are gaining a better understanding of how to live harmoniously and with ever-growing respect for all life on the planet. Well, at least I hope so!