Non-Human Animals Show Empathy. What Happened To Ours?

Image Credit: Huffington Post Images

According to Wikipedia, Empathy is defined as: the capacity to understand or feel what another being (a human or non-human animal) is experiencing from within the other being's frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another's position.

In my recent research on animals, I've come across interesting concepts and theories. The most notable, the concept of empathy among other animal species.

Scientists used to believe that only humans were capable of experiencing any emotions, most of all, empathy.

However, we now know that elephants, dolphins, whales, chimpanzees, and a handful of other animals also demonstrate emotional reactions that appear to be "empathy" and a type of self-awareness. They are able to recognize themselves in the mirror, mourn the death of their young, and experience a wide range of emotions.

Additionally, several species of animals have areas of their brains that are analogous to our emotional epicenters, the limbic and paralimbic systems.

In fact, it seems as though some nonhuman animals may experience a wider range of emotions, and/or have a larger neocortex and capacity for empathy, then even we do.

Herein lies one of the major problems. Some time ago, (some) humans stopped showing empathy, and started killing indiscriminately -- people, and other animals.

We seem to have forgotten the basic tenets of empathy. We seem to have forgotten what it feels like to be in someone else's, or some other animal's, proverbial shoes.

We kill each other over political differences, racial differences, religious differences, and resources. We kill animals for "research," or for competition and sport, or for a token without even remotely thinking about how painful and torturous it must be for that animal, its family, and the social structure of that species.

For the poachers, they do not care that the large elephant they killed for 200 pounds of ivory was the matriarch leader of a herd of elephants who depended on her for direction, safety, and love. Poachers do not care that they have orphaned the herd who mourn and who go through turmoil, and strife, and have a reduced likelihood of survival.

To the dolphin hunters, they don't care or even acknowledge the screams of sorrow as they murder one dolphin, a mother, a brother as the other pod members look on helplessly. In fact, some men even laugh or smirk.

And that, is perhaps what sickens me, and saddens me most. That "man" can torture and kill innocent animals who were living their lives just moments before, and be snide about it, celebrate it, relish it, or poke fun at it.

To me that is a psychosis. It demonstrates the very opposite of empathy. It is mechanistic, inhumane, and disrespectful. It is a very dangerous lesson to teach our children.

Imagine you are that dolphin, or that elephant, or that rhinoceros. Imagine the sorrow, imagine the fear, imagine the complete lack of understanding of why this is happening to you. You did nothing wrong, except were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Or perhaps, like Cecil the Lion you were tracked with equipment and devices making your escape impossible.

We have become such a technology-based society, that we have forgotten how to feel. We have forgotten how to relate. We have forgotten how to connect among other humans, let alone with other sentient animals.

Our world is quickly becoming a desolate island, a screen that we hold six inches in front of our noses, and it's a hard pill to swallow.

And, because of this, we lose touch with nature, we lose touch with reality, we lose touch with each other.

It is time to stop killing each other and animals. It is time to stop taking hostage other humans and animals. The time to stop is now.

I call upon us all to close our eyes and reflect on what it is to be empathetic. To teach our children respect for each other, respect for animals, respect for differences of opinion, respect for different race, religion, or whatever!

The time to be empathetic is today. This minute. Now.