Our relationship with animals has begun to be deeply studied and talked about in recent years. As the situations where the animals with whom we share the same world fell by human hands came to light, the feelings of compassion and empathy towards animals started to increase. In addition to those who prefer veganism for reasons other than health reasons and animal rights activists, people who maintain their connection with animals while living in the natural world have become an example to the rest of the society. As a reflection of the emotional need of humans for animals, animal symbols are frequently seen in decoration and in daily life. In the fairy tales that accompany our inner journey, animal archetypes and animals with humanoid characteristics become the subject of various symbolic expressions. While all this was going on, the proximity of humans and animals began to attract the attention of scientists.
Canadian academics, Social Psychologists Catherine Amiot and Brock Bastian, have studied the psychological links behind people’s feelings of affinity with other species. In their research, they aimed to determine the measure of animal and human proximity and to answer some questions according to this scale. They wanted to reveal the causes of the phenomenon of animal-human solidarity and the effect of closeness on humans. According to his preliminary findings, although humans and animals are two different species, their relationships are surprisingly complex. The researchers explain where they started out as follows; “Animals are actually everywhere in human life; they make friends with us, they find a place in different fields of art and they are used to symbolize human behavior. Animals are also used as auxiliary figures in children’s lives, in educational and instructive materials, books and movies. Our pets are part of our family. They make our lives easier in many areas. Especially for those who live in the countryside. Moreover, there is the consumption of animals as food, and this is an issue in itself. All of this has led us to consider our psychological connections with animals and the evolutionary roots we share. We have found that some people see themselves as part of a single social group with animals. These people feel that they live a life of solidarity with animals. “
Researchers answer the question of how human-animal solidarity is defined as follows;
“Solidarity, we can say, is investing in a coordinated activity with people you feel safe with. Solidarity involves one’s psychological bonding and commitment with other members of the group. From this perspective, we realized that in our relationship with animals, a relationship dynamics such as “us versus them” is formed and this negatively affects the relationship with animals. The truth is that animal and human make up life on earth together, and they are actually in a form of solidarity. Traditional social identity research was looking at how people define themselves within the group. We have broadened the scope of our research and looked at how people view being in a group with animals as a social group. Some people see their relationship as solidarity because of the bond they feel with animals. Many of these people are people who keep pets in their homes or share a common life with animals in some way. ”
It has been found in the study that those who feel close to animals exhibit more positive attitudes and behaviors to animals than other people show. According to the results of researchers C. Amiot and B. Bastian, animals and humans experience both similarity and being part of the same community. The similar aspects of humans and animals increase the solidarity between them.
One group reported in the study of being close to animals is pets. This is a predictable situation. Keeping animals is sensitive to the lifestyle and needs of other animals. Many pets see their pets as an integral part of the family. Because of this close relationship, the animal in the house is a kind of ambassador for other animal species living in nature. Thus, people become more sensitive to the conditions in which other animals live. These people do not cease to show closeness, despite the risk of diminishing resources or privileges due to their closeness to animals.
Those who prefer vegetarian and veganism are undoubtedly another group that show more devotion to animals. In addition to being preferred in terms of health, the orientation towards veganism as a lifestyle and attitude has increased due to the sensitivity to the situations that animals live in the meat industry. It is said that more scientific studies are needed on this subject.
Findings suggest that those who experience a sense of solidarity with animals are more distantly related to racism and certain forms of prejudice, such as racism.
The study also found that sensitivity to animals is not related to age, socioeconomic status, or religion. Although some scales were used, according to the results, the closeness of some people to animals was also above the scales. This pointed to the immeasurable extent of the animal-human relationship.
Being close to animals is also associated with issues such as empathy and anthromorphism (attribution of human attributes to animals or other beings). As animal archetypes and symbols help us in our effort to understand life lately, it seems that we will need more research that will delve deeper into our relationships with animals.
According to the observations of the researchers; People’s empathy experiences are first directed towards animals. Even if we didn’t have a pet as a child, the animal pictures and toy animals we see in books are actually the first tools that enable us to empathize with animals. This is the first step towards feeling that we are in solidarity with animals. In this respect, it is possible to say that children who live with animals will potentially be adults who are close to animals. It can be said that parents and society have a lot to do with this.
Social Psychologists C. Amiot and B. Bastian summarize their goals as follows:
“Fans de Waal, a well-known primatologist, once wrote:” If one part of the other stays in us, if we feel another, then improving their life will automatically vibrate within us, next to us. ” We hope this research contributes to our understanding of how we can accept and nurture the animal side of the human self. ”
Compiled and translated by: Senem Tahmaz
Katherine Lindemann. (2017). “Why do humans feel solidarity with animals?”. Şuradan alındı: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312188540_Solidarity_with_Animals_Assessing_a_Relevant_Dimension_of_Social_Identification_with_Animals