Animal World
 
Close to Our Hearts:Amy Hatkoff on the Sentience of Farm Animals      
Welcome, kind-hearted viewers, to today’s edition of Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants, featuring an interview with vegan child-and-family advocate, parenting advisor, filmmaker, and author Amy Hatkoff from the United States who has written “The Inner World of Farm Animals: Their Amazing Social, Emotional and Intellectual Capacities,” an insightful work that gives a voice to these gentle beings.

The book, which presents facts and anecdotes about our beautiful farm animal friends, has an introduction by renowned British primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall and an afterword by Wayne Pacelle, president of the respected animal welfare group, the Humane Society of the United States. Why did Ms. Hatkoff decide to write “The Inner World of Farm Animals”? Let’s now find out.

I was riding the bus in New York City (USA), and I looked up and I saw this sign; it depicted farm animals and mostly cows. I saw their suffering but at the same moment I saw their essence and I had kind of an “ah-ha!” moment. It was like a lightning bolt had struck me. I got this message that I had to speak for farm animals in the way that I’ve been trying to do for babies.

So I got on the Internet and I Googled and I put in “farm animals and capacities,” and then I put in “pigs and emotions” or “cows and intellect.” And there was a tremendous amount of research documenting that farm animals were sentient beings with very complex intelligence, rich emotional lives, and rich social lives. So, I was able to follow this hunch and put the story together.

Chickens are highly developed beings and the extent of their intelligence is not appreciated by most people. Here is some amazing information that Ms. Hatkoff discovered about our poultry friends during her research. I think, for me, the most surprising was the information I learned about the chickens.

First of all, the avian brain is structured very similarly to the human brain. They process information in the same way that we do, and there is research now that shows that birds have cognitive capacities equivalent to those of primates.

As newborns, we are largely helpless and take much time to learn and familiarize ourselves with the world around us. By contrast, chicks are cognitively developed in many areas from day one!

I had a friend who just had a baby and I was telling her that chickens right from birth have something called object permanence. That’s something that a human baby doesn’t have. They used to think that it was eight months; now they think it’s maybe as early as four or five months. But that means when something’s out of sight, you can’t hold it in mind that that exists.

Baby chicks have that from the moment they are born and we used to joke, “Well, maybe one day Emily will be as smart as a chicken.” But other amazing facts about chickens, they can learn from watching a video, for example.

They showed baby chicks pictures of hens given two bowls and eating only from the red bowl, not the yellow bowl, and then the chicks would go off and eat only from the red bowl, not the yellow bowl. They can count. Italian researchers showed that they can use geometric principles. So much of the premise of the book is that they are closer (to us) than we think.

Aside from their cleverness, chickens, turkeys and other poultry are feeling beings and we are able to understand their emotions if we take time to get to know them.

When I went to visit a sanctuary, somebody put a blind chicken in my arms and I was petting that chicken. I never thought you could hold a chicken, and stroke a chicken, and the chicken did just what my cats used to do. She nuzzled her little face into the crook of my elbow and started to purr. And I’m sitting there, petting a chicken. I mean, as a city person, this was incredibly surprising.

The turkeys followed me, they sat on the grass with me, and they let me stroke their feathers as I went to meet the other animals in the shelter. The very rich, emotional, communicative capacities of these animals I find extraordinarily surprising.

Some say that the deepest love is between mother and child. This profound connection is found both in the human and animal world.

I want to just read a quote by this man, Joseph Stookey who’s in Saskatchewan (Canada).

“Is it love? When we see examples of maternal behavior in people, we simply see it as a strong example of the bond we call love. When we see the same kind of behavior in any other mammal, we credit that to evolution and we leave out and deny the fact that they might love their offspring, when in fact I can’t see any difference.”

And that goes with the expression here, with speaking about how we love our children and how excruciating it is for them to be separated. So, I think if you ask anybody who knows animals, they will tell you it is love. And they see that love and that they can love more purely, in the same way that we would say your dogs love you or your cats love you. The same thing is happening with these animals.

When we return, we’ll resume our interview with Amy Hatkoff, author of “The Inner World of Farm Animals: Their Amazing Social, Emotional and Intellectual Capacities.” Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

I think you feel in your heart that these animals are beings, though it’s so easy not to think or experience farm animals because we don’t have access to them. They’re really the forgotten ones, the ones tucked away.

Welcome back to Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants, as we continue our engaging talk with Amy Hatkoff, the vegan author of “The Inner World of Farm Animals.” Informed by her work as an advocate for children and families, a parenting advisor and a filmmaker, Ms. Hatkoff’s book reveals a deep knowledge of farm animals and includes touching stories and beautiful photographs that connect readers with the animals and their peaceful nature.

So what would you say that “sentient” means?

Sentience really refers to feeling and awareness, that you’re aware of what is happening to you, you’re aware of what’s happening to your body, you’re aware of how your body feels, you’re aware of what’s happening to others around you. It’s being, having an awareness.

And that really is kind of counter to what we often think. I think we feel that way about our dogs and cats, but I think we don’t often think that a farm animal, for example, has a wide range of those feelings and as well as the cognitive capacities and emotional capacities.

Cows get excited when they solve problems; they form friendships with small groups of people. They live by moral codes. They’re very altruistic. If a friend of theirs seems to be upset, a cow will learn less rapidly, they will eat less, and they will groom that animal. They have a great deal of really kind of empathy towards their fellow bovines.

That’s beautiful.

And pigs can learn to play video games on the computer, and I think movies like “Babe” and others have given us an awareness that pigs have an intelligence. They are incredibly sensitive, they mourn themselves to death over the loss of a friend. They don’t like to be alone. They’re frightened when they’re not with their group. Sheep, the amazing thing about sheep, when they are separated from their flock, they have great anxiety.

But if you show them a photograph of a familiar sheep, or familiar breed of sheep, all their stress signs will go down. Even squid, that struck me to learn that squid have personalities. I thought that was extraordinary. But you know, they’ve got fear, depression, anxiety, joy, and boredom. They really can suffer terribly if they don’t have stimulation.

What is your vision or hope for the future? What can we do individually to stop the plight of farm animals? Go and meet the animals. I mean I think if we want to change the way we treat animals, that’s one of the quickest ways. I think everybody should visit the sanctuaries. I think it’s really great to start speaking to children, for school classes to go to a sanctuary.

Ms. Hatkoff also believes the adoption of the vegan diet is key to changing how farm animals are perceived by society.

I think we just have to wake up. And there are so many alternatives that are being offered to us if people wanted to stop eating animals. (There are) tremendously wonderful publications about being a vegan and how to do it and what are the health benefits of that. So, I think it’s all of us, stepping up to the plate and being conscious Earth citizens.

Amy Hatkoff has these wise parting words for us about how humanity can create a wonderful future relationship with farm animals.

And I think if we want to make changes in this right now, there is a tipping point, and I just read the other day children are becoming vegetarians, I forget the numbers, but in very high numbers. So I think, how society can change awareness? I think that it’s all there, it’s all in front of us. I think we have to be receptive, step back, take a breath, keep on envisioning, how can this world be better, safer, more humane, more supportive, more peaceful to everybody?

When we’re peaceful to one person, that peace has a lot of ripples. So we’re all going to benefit. It’s all going to come back to us. But we’re really at a tipping point too with the safety of our planet. So making a change with regard to factory farming would be one of the biggest impacts, to protect us from global warming. And again, there’s so much information out there now and sites people can go to, to really get as informed and find out how they can advocate, how they can champion for these changes.

Amy Hatkoff, we salute you for opening the eyes of so many people to the sweet nature of farm animals. May your work continue to bring much needed public awareness that these animals are sensitive, sentient beings who are full of love and that the vegan diet is a splendid way to show our care for them!

For more details on Amy Hatkoff, please visit
“The Inner World of Farm Animals” is available at

Thank you for joining us today on Animal World: Our Co-Inhabitants. Up next is Enlightening Entertainment, after Noteworthy News. May the true love within move you to the highest state of being.

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