Chapter 9

Symbiotic animal management

This is a summary of a longer paper concerned with agricultural strategy in which all the arguments are more fully discussed: Kiley-Worthington, in press, 1990, Food First Ecological Agriculture.

We have examined the arguments for and against circuses and zoos and we have suggested that with certain provisoes both zoos and circuses can be mutually beneficial to the animals and the humans in them. There is no reason to suggest that this will not be the case with other animal husbandry systems as well. In this chapter we will outline what these provisoes are. We have already discussed how we can tell if we have got it wrong for the animal: he will show evidence of distress (Chapters 3 and 4).

However, there are other considerations which we have touched on (e.g. Chapter 8). For example, should we not think of the wider environmental connotations of the animal management system, as Shumaker [122] said: Think globally, act locally.

If so, what does this entail?

Ecologically sound environments for animals

There are two initial points which are relevant here:

In order to understand the importance of these points and to fulfil them in animal husbandry systems, an understanding of two fundamental ecological principles is required. These are:

  1. The inter-relatedness of living things with each other and the environment

    Although the inter-relatedness of all living things with all others in the biosphere has been stressed in recent times [92], it is as well to remember that the biosphere is made up of relatively discrete ecosystems (e.g. the pond at the bottom of the garden, the Sahara desert, the Amazonian forest, and so on [123]). The boundaries to each of these ecosystems are not obvious. For example, one can study how the ecosystem of a rotting log operates (as many ecology students do) the species that live on it, their food habits, population dynamics, and how the nutrients circulate. Alternatively, one can study the ecology of the forest where the log is found, or the island where the forest grows, and so on. Thus, although all things within the biosphere are to some degree mutually dependent, there are within the biosphere many ecosystems. Within ecosystems the mutually dependent relationships between different species are stronger than those between ecosytems.

  2. The self-sustaining nature of ecosystems

    The dependency relationships within ecosystems are crucial. The log can go on rotting long after the wood has burnt down. This is because one of the fundamental characterisitcs of ecosystems is that they are to a large degree self-sustaining; understanding this is fundamental to developing ecologically sound systems of land management (Figure 67). It implies that, for example, there are almost no inputs to a farm, and all the animal fodder is produced on the unit [124]. This idea does
    not have to be confined to agriculture; a city could be both diversifed (they often are) and largely self-sustaining in this sense. Indeed for generations the city of Peking (Beijing) grew all its own vegetables on the night soil (human faeces and urine) which was collected, composted and returned to vegetable plots.

                           Fig. 67. The self-sustaining characteristic of ecosystems.

    Understanding such basic ecological principles and applying them to land management systems is important if we are to be able to overcome many problems that confront us today. An approach based on an understanding of this, and other ecological problems can help with conservation, biological, social, political, ethical, aesthetic, economic and problems of resource utilisation and distribution [92; 93]

    How can zoos and circuses more nearly fulfil these aims?

    a) What the animals eat must be considered carefully. It would be ecologically sound to some animals waste products from the system (e.g. scrap bones and meat from animals, themselves raised in ecologically sound environments). If, on the other hand, the animals contribute to a large-scale change elsewhere in the world - for example, by being fed whale meat which threatens whale populations, or beef raised where equatorial forest has recently been cut down, then it is not ecologically sound.
         It is possible for many zoos to grow a considerable percentage of their own animal fodder using the manure produced by the animals. (This I suggested to Jersey Zoo in 1979, and they are now quite successful in this direction.) It is also quite possible to use existing micro-climates for this; for example, tropical aviaries can be used to grow some tropical food crops for the herbivores.
         This is more difficult for the travelling circus but they can insist on buying fodders that are locally produced and grown causing no ecological problems (e.g. without the use of high chemical inputs, insecticides and herbicides), rather than processed feedstuffs made from imported
    high-protein feeds such as soya and fish meals. They can (and usually do) use waste products from greengrocers, supermarkets and butchers.

    b) The animals may endanger the survival of other species in the urban habitat (e.g. by the transfer of disease), or create a nuisance to other species (e.g. by smells or noise or defaecating and urinating in the wrong places).

    The answer is not to ban zoos and circuses, for they contribute in many ways to the survival and happiness of human beings who create urban environments (Chapter 8). The solution may rather be to think how to overcome the problems for example by:

      • providing suitable facilities and training for animals to defaecate and urinate in the right places and training for their use (see page 210). The muck can then be disposed of in a suitable way, by for example being made available to gardeners (as it often is). Groups of keen allotment holders can often be seen around the manure skip discussing the relative merits of elephant or lion muck for their brussel sprouts!

      • investigate properly the alleged disease risk, and issue advice to the public on prevention and control.
    On the point of disease transfer, the most dangerous creature to associate with is another member of ones own species; this, however, does not result in human beings living as hermits. They have considered carefully the various modes of disease transfer and have developed preventive and curative medicine, and better levels of hygiene and nutrition. This approach has been remarkably successful over the last few decades. Surely the same approach can be used for other species.

    Ecologically and ethologically sound animal management results in smaller numbers of animals overall in most enterprises and an effort to provide the appropriate niche on the farm, in the zoo or circus, which they have evolved to live in. If the animals are omnivorous scavengers, like pigs, then they should be fed appropriately rather than on high-protein imported feeds, and so on.

  3. The importance of diversified systems

    The more diverse the system in terms of the number and type of species within it, the less likely it is to succumb to large changes. The system will, on the whole, tend to be more adaptable although it is dynamic (e.g. changes in population numbers within species).

    Specialised monocultural systems of plants or animals tend to be more disease- prone and, in addition, there is more intra-specific competition. Thus diversification, as a general rule (although there are exceptions), leads to less competition between species and to more easily balanced sustainable systems. Usually neither zoos nor circuses have any problem with this. In fact the problem is sometimes towards too much diversity of species kept in inappropriate environments, particularly of zoos. Both zoos and circuses should be careful to restrict the numbers of their species to those which can optimise the local environmental conditions. It is possible to have very large collections of different species, or to transport water-loving species such as sea lions or penguins, but it is much more difficult to fulfil all these criteria by so doing.

    In the last 15 years, the importance of endangered species and active interest in conserving them has risen dramatically. The usual reason for this interest is aesthetic (it is a shame to lose irreplaceable and beautiful species). Although this is a serious consideration [9; 23], there is also a vested interest in conserving species in order to maintain the stability of the bioshere. As Erlich and Erlich [92] put it, loss of a species is like rivet popping: it weakens the biospherical structure.

    Many zoos justify their existence on the grounds that they are breeding rare species, extinct or nearly so in the wild. In so far as this is true, and the animals are kept in ecologically and ethologically sound environments, then this is acceptable. For it must also be considered that zoos and circuses can sometimes offer a chance for life to wild animals where culling has become essential to maintain the wild biotype. For example, there is at present an active trade in East and Central African elephants to zoos and circuses. These animals would otherwise have been shot since their wildlife parks are overpopulated, and poaching is out of control.

    The buildings the animals are kept in, materials for their construction, the way they are heated and so on must be considered in terms of their effect on the local and global environment. Zoos sometimes go in for high-status permanent architecture, or even for investing huge sums and sometimes scarce and theatened resources into creating naturalistic environments to put across conservation messages (e.g. Jungle World at the Bronx Zoo, New York). The environmental costs and benefits here must be assessed very carefully.

    Circuses often used a minimum of materials of this sort. However, even what they do use must be considered carefully in respect to their environmental effect. For example, how the tents and so on are heated must be considered. Renewable heat and energy supply from solar or wind generators might be appropriate for some.

    A more holistic, ecological approach for all animal husbandry systems is necessary. If animal husbandry systems cause serious environmental problems locally or globally, even if the animals are well fed, well kept and experiencing good welfare (whatever this is!) they remain unacceptable.

    These ecological concerns are not usually raised in welfare debates. It is curious that this is the case since they are fundamentally involved. As a hog or a human I am concerned with my own personal present and future, staying alive and preserving some quality of life for myself (what is usually called welfare). I (the hog or the human) am also concerned (conciously or not) with that of my offspring: future generations. Both the present quality of life, and that of future generations, of hogs and humans is threatened if ecological considerations are not taken into account.

    It is true, I am assuming here, that life itself is important. For example, it has been argued that if there is no life there can be no suffering. If there are, for example, no foxes, there can be no suffering foxes. Here it is argued that the existence of foxes is important, even though they may have to take the risk of suffering. This is in part because all forms of sentient life have some rights to life [9; 20; 24], and in part because the interaction of living systems with each other and the non-living environment ensures that having no foxes will cause other changes in the ecosystems, and this may eventually affect my (and other individuals and species) quality of life. We may not know exactly what the consequences will be, but it is sensible for our own survival and that of our offspring to be cautious.

    Neither an individual nor a species can exist independently of its environment; these ecological considerations are concerned with the animals or the species relationship with the environment. They are fundamental to any debate on welfare: the quality of life.

Aesthetic considerations

It is important not to ignore aesthetic considerations in the design and management of animal husbandry. From the humans point of view, Shoard [125] outlines many aesthetic concerns in the countryside: deafforestation, ugly farm buildings, industrialisation of agriculture, including destroying wild flowers and birds. It is possible to site and design even large farm buildings, zoos, kennels, stables, circuses and so on so that they are aesthetically acceptable, but it is something that needs much more thought.

The aesthetics of animal husbandry systems are complicated by the possibility that the animals themselves may have some form of aesthetic appreciation or objection. For example, horses appear to dislike strong human smells, and like to choose to be where they can have a good view (personal observations). A distinction here between uncomfortable or deprived environments and aesthetically unpleasing ones for the animals is difficult. This is not the place to take this further, but it is a possibility that cannot be ignored.



They should cause no long term or irreversible environmental change by considering the local and global environmental effect of all aspects of the husbandry. In particular:

1) The effect on other species of plants and animals.

2) The long term and short term effects on the physical environment, eg. soils, tree destruction etc.

3) The effects on local humans of the husbandry ( eg any nuisance or environmental value).

4) Provision of appropriate food which causes no adverse ecological effect locally or globally.

5) Provision of other environmental needs of the animal. For example supply of materials for shelter, shade, nesting materials, heating etc and their environmental effect.

6) Appropriate climate and ability to adapt to chances.

7) The origin of the animals, and its local and global effect (particularly if captured from the wild).


Ethologically sound environments for animals

Ethologically sound environments are those which reduce or eliminate prolonged animal suffering. Many environments that have been designed for animals in the last few decades have concentrated on meeting the requirements of the human handlers, rather than giving first priority to the physical and psychological needs of the animals housed therein.

That animals feel pain, can suffer, and that they feel emotions - terror, fear, happiness and joy among others, albeit that these states may be somewhat different from those typically experienced by human beings (whatever that is) - is today, in general, agreed by ethologists seriously concerned with animal welfare (see Chapter 7). The problems arise in defining for each species and individual what is prolonged suffering, and what are their behavioural needs (see Chapters 3, 4 and 5).

It is not argued here that if at any time any of these criteria are not fulfilled, the animal is distressed and therefore its environment should not be considered appropriate. A certain amount of stress and distress is inevitable, and perhaps even desirable during a beings life. It is rather the intention here to point out possible indicators which could be used (perhaps in conjunction) as an aid to making decisions concerning environmental design and acceptability for all types of animal husbandry.

Thus, if we are to be concerned not only with an animal staying alive but also having some quality of life, then I suggest we already have sufficient information to design its environment. It may be that certain judgements we may make prove later to be incorrect, but the rational starting point is to use our existing knowledge in designing ethologically acceptable environments.

Invention and substitution can and must often be used to fulfil these criteria, in much the same way as some wild animals use them in adapting to new environments. For example, seagulls usually live near the sea, eat fish and carrion, nest on cliffs and swim on the sea. However, they have in some cases adapted to living at some distance from the sea, eating from garbage tips and nesting on buildings. All their behavioural needs are apparently met in such areas, and they continue to perform all the behaviours in their repertoires, including flying and swimming. Another interesting example of adaptation to unnatural conditions is the South African butcher bird (shrike) which naturally hangs its prey on the thorns of certain species of acacia but nowadays also uses the barbs in barbed wire fences [127].

It is a question of where the limits to adaption are for a particular species or individual in different environments. It is argued here that they are where there is behavioural restriction, and where there is evidence of distress.

Since there is little evidence that domestication has changed fundamental behaviour (Chapter 7), we should give the animals the benefit of the doubt and design both domestic and wild animals environments to fulfil their ethological needs. These are summarised in Figure 73 and discussed here.

If then we have ways of assessing when the environment is apparently unacceptable to the animal, how should their environments be designed? There is a basic blueprint and that is to consider first the species evolutionary background by taking account of:

a) social organisation

b) habitat

c) the natural food, its nutrient content and textures

d) the performance of the entire behavioural repertoire

e) the species specific characteristics of the receptors

f) the species specific brain anatomy

g) the species communication system - in detail

h) how the animals learn, and what that species might be expected to learn

Let us look at each of these in turn.

a) Taking account of social organisation

The animals should be kept in the social groupings that they associate in with in the wild, and that they have evolved to live in. Different species have different requirements: pigs live in family groups and cats are semi-solitary. Horses and cattle are social herbivores but have rather different social organisations; for example, horses live in family groups which can join together into larger herds, the strongest bonds appear to be between generations (mother to daughter). In cattle, the bonds between peers - within generations - are very strong. This difference is illustrated in Figure 74 where the distances between mother and young of these two species are contrasted. Consideration of such factors should give rise to different types of management for each species. For example, separating post-weaned youngsters into peer groups is reasonably appropriate for cattle, but for horses it is extremely traumatic and can trigger the start of behavioural problems and abnormalities [29] because the bond between mother and young is particularly strong.


Fig. 69. The social lion, who normally spend much of their day sleeping or rolling around, can be relatively easily catered for in the circus or zoo.


Fig. 70. The social sea lion is relatively easy to cater for in terms of his social needs, but must have proper water living and swimming facilities which are more difficult to provide in a travelling show, although not impossible.


b) Taking account of habitat

The place where the animals are kept should approximate the type of habitat they have evolved to live in. For example, keeping forest-living animals in large open environments with little cover is likely to cause them trauma. With thought, it is almost always possible to cater for the species demands in this way. For instance, by reversing day and night hours, it is possible for nocturnal animals to be seen active by diurnal human beings (e.g. in the Charles Clore pavilion, the small mammal house at London Zoo).

c) Taking account of animals food

The food animals are fed must also be appropriate. For example, the practice of giving high-concentrate protein diets to some herbivores - which is considered good management is often inappropriate. Cellulose converters have evolved to convert cellulose and they should be fed diets high in cellulose. If this is not done, physical and psychological problems can result. Some of the zoo antelope are now at risk from mad cow disease because of the practice of feeding them high protein concentrate foods made from other infected cattle brains!

d) Allowing for the performance of the entire behavioural repertoire which does not cause suffering to others. (Chapter 4).

e) The species specific characteristics of the receptors

For example, the horses eye differs from the humans in its anatomy and physiolog. What view of the world does the horse have that might be different from the humans? (Figure 71). Whales and mice (and maybe many other species) can hear ultra-sound; electric fish pick up electric signals, and bats eco-locate.

f) The species specific brain anatomy

This can tell us something about the relative importance of different brain functions for the species (Figure 72). Here we need much more information on species specific differences. Nevertheless what differences in the gross anatomy, or indeed the size of the brain tells us is still debatable [132]. However, the mutilation or sacrifice of many animals in order to find out more about such questions would not be ethically desirable, or ethologically sound. There is great scope for further anatomical studies on animals already slaughtered, and much more could be discovered using simple behavioural techniques, such as discrimination tests.


Figure 71. The visual fields of a girl and a horse contrasted. Note the much greater binocular field on vision for a girl, but a much more restricted monocular vision. Some horses can see right around to the person on their back if they put their head

g) The species communication system

This is particularly important for animals that are trained and are used to help humans with tasks, or perform in one way or another, such as guide dogs, police or sheep dogs, horses, and circus animals. For successful working relationships between species (humans and others) reciprocal animal/human communication is central. Proper knowledge of inter- and intra-specific communication is also essential for the good husbandry of any animal. This can be taught, although some humans will be better than others at this as in everything else. Individual animals have their own personalities (see (i) below) even within an age or sex group, but until the species communication is reasonably well known, it is often very difficult to understand this, and to predict possible actions. One example is the sophistication of the visual communication in horses. They are able to pick up subliminal visual cues that humans find difficult or impossible (this is called the Clever Hans effect). An understanding of this aids all training and working with horses [29].


Figure 72. Differences in the gross anatomy of the brains may or may not tell us something about the mental abilities of the species. The size of the forbrain (the convoluted part) is often considered to indicate intelligence and ability for rational thought. If this is the case, then the dogs abilities in this direction are much less than the horses! Indeed, the horses cerebrum has more convolutions and therefore greater surface area than that of humans, and the cows is not much different. What all this means we dont really know, but perhaps we should not underestimate animals cognitive abilities.

h) Grasping how animals learn, and what they might be expected to learn

This is particularly important if the animal is to be a companion or be trained. Learning plays an important part even in the everyday husbandry of large numbers of food animals. Appropriate learnt responses can simplify husbandry, and reduce trauma for the animal. For example, sheep or cattle can be trained to come to an auditory signal, instead of having to be herded or even chased to the desired point. However what, and how quickly, animals of different species learn varies, so one must have a grasp of the species specific characteristics. Little is known about this from the scientific literature at present, but there is a considerable amount of knowledge among those looking after and training different species, [See 107 for a thought-provoking critique of the scientific approach.]

The factors mentioned above are important to the species and must be taken into account when designing appropriate ethologically sound environments, but there are also factors concerned with the individual that must be considered. These are: i) the individuals past experience ii) individual personalities.

i) The individuals past experience

Animals, like humans, become accustomed to particular types of environments. Battery hens have usually never had to compete with many other hens to find food, to obtain shelter and so on; nor have they been able to move around. When they are released from their batteries, they often find the change extremely traumatic and some even collapse from the stress. This is not to say that battery hens environments are ethologically sound, nor to say that they should not be allowed the opportunity to experience the great outdoors, but rather to emphasise the effect of past experience. Good or bad experience in their past will affect the animals behaviour: as a human, for example, weaning too early in dogs gives rise to difficulties in socialising [110]. A horse, elephant or an eland that has been frightened at some time going into a trailer may show great resistance to going in again.

ii) Individual personalities

Even within an age or sex class, animals, like humans, have individual personalities. This is the result of their genetic inheritance, and past experience. Individual differences and personality profiles have not as yet been the subject of much study in ethology, but an understanding of this is central for any successful trainer [29; 107].

A consideration of all those factors (summarised in Figure 73) related to species and individual characteristics is fundamental for designing ethologically sound environments for animals. If these criteria are correctly fulfilled, then the animal should show no evidence of distress.



The Criteria that must be taken into account:-

1) The animal should be allowed to perform all the behaviour in his repertoire which does not cause prolonged or acute suffering to others.

2) The animal should be able to associate in the appropriate groups size and structure to his species and past experience.

3) The animal should be in an appropriate physical environment (eg forest or simulate forest if forest dwelling etc).

4) There must be no evidence of prolonged distress (as defined on page 76).

5) The animals telos must be catered for by:-

a) Considering the way the animal perceives the world, his receptors; his brain aaatomy, his cognitive ability, his specific learning abilities and his communciation system.

6) The animal must be considered not only as a representative of a species, but also as an individual and his past experience must be assessed in order to design the most appropriate environment for him as a) a member of a species and b) an individual

Ethically sound environments for animals

Opinion concerning what humans attitudes to animals and the environment should be have varied with history. In the early days, during the era of human hunter-gatherers, it appears that humans lived very much in a give-and-take situation with Nature, as they do today [115; 133]. The humans must have a certain respect for the natural order of things, and how nature works, but at the same time, they are dominated by it and are aware of this.

The first agriculturalists, it seems, had much the same attitude, a very definite respect, and in addition the beginning of efforts to dominate and twist nature for their own ends.

Self-sustaining peasants have retained much of this attitude today, for obvious survival reasons. Nature and animals are respected, sometimes admired and/or worshipped. It is understood that in order to survive the human must work with nature and have some understanding of her controls. There is no question of complete domination of nature, but rather one of a symbiotic relationship with nature. Peasants would dearly love to dominate nature, but know that they cannot.

Among many other populations of humans, particularly urban ones, a war was declared on nature throughout the 16th-21st centuries. This has its origins in part in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic philosophy of the superiority of humans [24]. The result has been that humans have made real efforts to overcome and to subdue and dominate nature and animals, losing any real respect for other living creatures but themselves. In fact, with the growth of industrialisation and urbanisation, even of the farm, zoo or wildlife park, the predominant cultural attitude in the west has been, and still is, extremely anthropocentric. Nowhere is this more obvious today than in the conventional teaching of agriculture, veterinary and medical sciences and animal management. This is illustrated by the French verb to farm or cultivate: exploiter.

If we really did have dominion over nature, then we would not suffer from earthquakes, storms and floods, plagues of locusts, diseases and even death. Technologically we do have a great environmental effect, but we certainly dont have control and rarely have much comprehension, particularly of the long-term effects of some of our manipulations, as is becoming ahundantly clear. The world is too full of examples from the Ganges floods to the generation of nuclear waste, from Ethiopia to Brazil.

On the other hand, the radical Respect for Life philosophy is, although thought provoking, impractical without very massive changes in all aspects of modern human lifestyle. It is not possible to survive without destroying life or potential life, every time one eats a cabbage, or even a fruit or nut. A modified edition of this theory has some relevance however. Others have suggested [22] that a respect for life position does not necessarily mean that nature is sacred, or that all living things have unqualified right to life. However this approach can lead to species separation - Animal Apartheid (Chapter 7). As I have argued, I am not convinced this is always (or even sometimes) desirable and mutually beneficial for humans and animals.

Some argue convincingly that animals must be objects of moral concern (Chapter 7). However, Rollin [23] recognises that the interests of one species do trump others; thus the right to life is not absolute, as Regan [24] maintains. More importantly though, he does point out that the killing of animals or causing of their pain and suffering is a moral decision.

Each individual should have the ability to fulfil their telos [134]; that is, their species and individual characteristics and so they may serve and be served by others, so long as the relationship remains symbiotic. As well as cooperating and benefiting from the presence of others, each individual also manipulates and profits from them.

Passmore [135] and, in a more watered down form, Attfield [136] propose an attitude of stewardship towards animals and nature. Such an approach implies both comprehension and knowledge of the animals or natural system, and management, which although we at present do not have a great deal of this, we could achieve. A less attractive aspect of this stewardship approach is its implication that big brother knows best approach, and the judeo-christian assumption that humans interests will always trump those of other species, this cannot be accepted without much more thought.

The close association of some humans with animals that comes from farming, pet keeping, sport animals, zoos and in the training of animals for various forms of work (guide dogs for the blind, sheep dogs, stock horses, draught buffalo, timber elephants) including entertainments, such as in circuses - provided the animals physical and behavioural needs are catered for (telos) - can increase enormously the quality of life for both humans and for the animals. This also educates the humans to understanding that there are other skilled able and interesting beings who inhabit the world, as well as humans, and to whom s/he can relate too closely. Why should for a human a close relationship with any other animal but a human be a sign of that humans sickness or shortcomings?

From the animals point of view such a relationship may be equally rewarding and exciting. In humans, an increase in the quality of life as a result of education is takenen for granted by all human societies, although they may educate their children in very different ways. Why should this not be the case for animals, provided it is done in such a way as to fulfil the above criteria? At least until proved otherwise, it would seem sensible to consider this to be the case.

Thus there is no rational reason why animals should not be used by humans, and humans used by animals, for most activities, provided the animals are kept, trained and so on in ethologically and ecologically sound environments. The fact that they are not always, simply indicates that changes should be made, not that we should ban the use of animals for certain things, or assume that they would be better off dead. We do not have this attitude generally to other humans!

Good animal management today is still modelled on the patronising stewardship attitude. Thus it involves much interference for the animals good. The well-meaning but misplaced parallel in treatment of infants or imbeciles and adult animals is in part responsible for this: adult animals are not children or stupid adults. That is not to say that they should not have equal consideration [21].

There is a fine line to be drawn between over management and resulting interference with the animal for his own good, and educating the animal so that he had certain skills and abilities. Education is intended to enhance the animals abilities, knowledge and understanding of the world so that he can improve his enjoyment of it in one way or another. As far as animals are concerned, the wider the appropriate experience of different situations, the more able he may be to cope with them.

Over management and the somewhat patronising stewardship attitude, by contrast, results often in over protection of the individual, and has the opposite effect; it can be self defeating. For example, a valuable stallion is not allowed to associate with mares and court and mate them in a natural way because he may be injured by the mares. He is kept isolated from them, and only mates them when they are restrained with hobbles, switches and so on. The result of this is that he becomes inept at normal equine communication, he has not learnt to be sensitive to and to interpret all the mares signals during courtship which will tell him of her next action, and he is much more likely to be injured as a result. The more animals are kept confined and restrained for their own good the more they are likely to cause havoc or be injured. The same is of course true for educating human beings. If the child or the puppy is always protected from being anywhere near the fire, he will not learn that it hurts and sooner or later may well be seriously burnt. He must learn by experience and with the help of a good educator that fire hurts so that he will avoid being burnt.

Exactly where the lines are drawn between education and over management or protection will remain an area of debate. We must recognise that they are not obvious or clear in every case, and they have been drawn in the wrong place if the animal (or human) shows any sign of distress as defined here.


FIGURE 74. The distance typically maintained between cow and calf compared to those between mare and foal

In practical terms, how then are we to conduct our relationships with other animals, and how should we design their environments? Is there a practical alternative that fulfils the criteria set and reduces the problems to the individual human, animal and the biosphere as a whole and which will in the long run benefit us individually?

The symbiotic approach proposed here implies a healthy respect of evolution and the complex and intricate workings of the biosphere. It recognises that humans are the most manipulative species of the moment, but also that they have as yet relatively little comprehension of the workings of the biosphere, or the individual living things. It is a rationalistic holistic approach, but also cautionary: it is wiser not to rock the biospherical or ethological boat. Causing change is more likely to be disadvantageous than advantageous, even though it might be ingenious or amusing and apparently show short-term advantages. It is in the long run more likely than not to be disadvantageous to my own, or your, survival, and that of our offspring.

We are now in a position to design practical housing for most animals with these criteria in mind. There is a growing literature on how to do this for different species [29; 137; 138].

Thus to summarise, the right or ethically acceptable husbandry system for animals is one where:

  1. The local and global ecological effect of the system is considered in relation to the biological, environmental and aesthetic value to humans and other animals (Figure 68).

  2. The animal is in the type of environment which is ethologically sound (Figure 73) where he is happy and not showing distress, and able to perform all the behaviour within his repertoire provided this does not cause suffering to others.

  3. Consideration to him as a sentient being of moral concern is shown.

  4. The animal, human and rest of the environment have a symbiotic relationship, which is of mutual benefit rather than competitive. The relationship of the human to the animal could be considered rather as one of an employee than a tool or slave.

These criteria add up to what might consitute a Bill of Rights for Mammals and Birds.

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