AN UNHEALTHY SKEPTICISM ABOUT ANIMAL GRIEF

The world has been transfixed over the past several weeks by the spectacle of a mother orca whale carrying her dead infant through the icy waters of the Salish Sea, keeping the infant afloat as best she could, and persisting for more than 17 days in one of the most protracted displays of cetacean grieving ever recorded by marine scientists.

Despite the openness with which the media has talked about Taulequah’s grief, skepticism about animal grief and other emotions is alive and well, even among scientists. Many of the reports about grieving behavior will use scare quotes around “grief” to suggest that animals like Taulequah only look as if they are grieving. Zoologist Jules Howard, for example, wrote in The Guardian a couple of days ago, “if you believe J35 was displaying evidence of mourning or grief, you are making a case that rests on faith not on scientific endeavor.” I find myself increasingly impatient with this kind of response to animal suffering. Read More… (By Jessica Pierce, Psychology Today, 16Aug2018)