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ARE ANIMALS HAPPY?
THERE exists in the shop window of a naturalist in the East End of London a glass frame containing a carefully mounted group thus composed : in the centre of the frame a small moth is pursued by a dragon-fly in the air above and by a trout in the water beneath ; the dragon-fly is itself about to fall into the jaws of a swallow, which in its turn is pursued by a large bird of prey, while the trout at the same moment is about to furnish a meal to a hungry pike. That group is a pictorial embodiment of an answer which nineteen out of twenty people would give to the question at the head of this article. It represents the general impression of animal life as an existence of perpetual struggle ending in violent death. The same idea pervades Wolff's admirable series of drawings of animal life, published under the title of Wolff's Wild Animals, and containing some of Mr. Whymper's finest engraving. There, as typical groups of animal life, are depicted the hare dying in the snow with carrion crows hovering above; a grizzly in combat with a bison, and a tiger with a crocodile, the terrified deer rushing through the forest with the leopard clutching his flank, the elk pursued by wolves, the antelope overwhelmed in the avalanche. The same ideas pervade all attempts at artistic embodiment or verbal description of wild animal life-warfare and suffering, starvation and destruction.
This view is not simply the casual conclusion of the artist or of the aforesaid nineteen persons who think of omnibus-horses on Ludgate Hill or pigeon-matches at Hurlingham ; this gloomy view of animal life has been endorsed by science whose verdict was pronounced by Professor Huxley after the reading of Charles Darwin's posthumous paper on Instinct. That verdict is a reasoned conclusion derived from a consideration of the working of natural selection and of the vital phenomena incident to the struggle for existence. No race of animals exists except at the expense of pain and suffering to some other race. To keep a cobra in health and happiness, who shall tell what number of vermin must yearly suffer untold agonies ? and yet a cobra is not of more value than many vermin. To the unscientific mind this statement is decisive, but possibly the unscientific would stop here; they would say, ' Remove the carnivora and the rest of animated nature may then be happy.' Science, however, goes further and says, “ The struggle for existence would be just
as hard ; the weaker, the unsuitable, the superfluous organisms must still perish, whether they perish swiftly or by slow starvation. Every race is constantly tending to increase beyond the existing means of subsistence, and the immense annual surplus must be drained off at whatever cost in suffering.'
It needs, perhaps, some courage to enter a protest against conclusions so weightily supported. But to one who feels that there is something to be said on the other side, the desirability, nay, the duty, of saying it is apparent. So truly terrible is the view of the universe thus presented to us, that if one should see any possible way of escape it behoves him to point it out.
Now, in dealing with animal life, its energies and passions, it is impossible for us to do otherwise than argue from our own life and our own energies and passions. We find a number of beings constituted on the same general plan with essentially the same arrangement of organs of sense and nutrition and motion. It is an inference we are compelled to make, that the sensations and the emotions of such beings resemble our own in no less a degree. When we find, moreover, such beings drawing inferences which we should draw under the like circumstances, or making such movements as we should make under corresponding incentives, we are compelled further to conclude that their reasoning faculties also resemble our own. Assuming this, we have for our inquiry a starting-point in our own happiness and misery; and the fairest line of argument will be to consider how far our own pleasures and pains would suffer modification by the change in organisation, in habits and in conditions of life, from our own to those of the lower animals. In the first place, however, there are two considerations which, as they form no part of our subsequent line of argument, we may as well set forth and dispose of at the outset. First. Animals do not commit suicide. I do not
that no animal ever has committed suicide, but there is no species in which it is a deliberate custom. It used to be a popular belief that the scorpion stung itself to death whenever placed in a situation of danger from which there was no escape. The subject has, however, recently been investigated and has been made the subject of some rather cruel experiments) by some correspondents of Nature, and the result appears to be that in one case, when the rays of the sun were repeatedly concentrated by a lens on one point of its thorax, the animal did eventually sting itself in the same place; but that in many other cases, where presumably even more pain was inflicted, no attempt was made by the animal to wound or kill itself. That is to say, the scorpion can commit suicide-it knows how-but it refrains from doing so. There was also a rather exaggerated story related by De Quincey, attributing deliberate self-destruction to a young horse ; but the catastrophe was obviously brought about by an error of judg
ment committed in an excess of high spirits, or perhaps in one of those panics which seem to overmaster the horse more completely than any other animal, and which frequently lead to the destruction of runaway steeds. There is, further, the authentic and periodically recurring instance of immolation in the case of the Norwegian lemmings, probably, if not yet certainly, referred to the persistence of a once beneficial habit. These apart, there is not even a suggestion of suicide as a habit amongst brutes. Other anecdotes there certainly are of dogs who have refused food after the death of their master, but such tales must be accepted with a certain amount of reserve: they are recorded out of a very honourable affection for the dumb hero, but, entirely apart from that, they none of them establish a case of genuine suicide. There is no record of a dog deprived of its master deliberately doing any act which would at once and inevitably cause its death.
But if there is no suicide in the animal world, then the immense probability is that there is no misery sufficiently unbearable and sufficiently hopeless to cause self-destruction. The animal which knows how to kill another knows also how to kill itself. It recognises none of the scruples which prevent man from attempting selfdestruction, or make him pause when he has resolved on it. If animal life were really so unhappy that 'twere better not to be, there is no reason at all why suicide should not be a common occurrence. What prevents it but that which we call the instinct of self-preservation ? And what is the instinct of self-preservation but this: the inherited conviction of every species of animal that its life is worth living ?
Secondly. Animals increase and multiply. Not only do they not destroy themselves, but their tendency is to perpetuate their own species, and by means of varieties to give rise to new species. Primâ facie, this again suggests happiness. Why should those varieties which have, through natural selection, become permanent-why should they have increased from one or two solitary individuals to the myriads now representing their descendants? There are only two explanations possible: either there has been a divinely implanted instinct compelling them to reproduce their kind to the same life of misery they themselves have lived, or, on the other hand, the life of the species has been a happy and prosperous one. Unless one is prepared to recognise the hand of a Creator in the compulsory perpetuation of agony, it seems impossible to suppose that the species of animals now dominant have had a miserable existence. Surely on any natural principle of selection those whose existence is on the whole most in harmony with natural surroundings--those who are able to extract the largest amount of pleasure from their condition of life-they are the organisms we should expect to find most numerous on the face of the earth.
Pains and pleasures are the guide for conduct in the animal world, teaching the individual, and through the individual the species, what to do and what to avoid. Mr. Romanes (summing up the researches on this subject of Mr. Herbert. Spencer and Mr. Grant Allen) says:
They clearly point to the conclusion, which I do not think is open to any one valid exception, that pains are the subjective concomitants of such organic changes as are harmful to the organism, while pleasures are the subjective concomitants of such organic changes as are beneficial to the organism-or, we must add, to the species.
In other words, those species which have survived and multiplied have done so because their actions (as a whole) were associated with pleasurable feelings, and because those actions which they were prevented by painful associations from doing were those which would have been hurtful. That, indeed, is the raison d'être of pleasure and pain, for that purpose were they called into existence as part of organic life. They must have been evolved as the subjective accompaniment of processes which are respectively beneficial or injurious to the organism, and so evolved for the purpose or to the end that the organism should seek the one and shun the other.
Pleasures and pains begin in almost the lowest stratum of animal life, rising in the very dawn of consciousness, and they have helped to guide individual action, and specific growth or decline, throughout all the ages from the times of Eozion to the present day. If any animal or any species found delight in habitually doing that which was hurtful, one of two things must ultimately happen: either the species must acquire a dislike to the hurtful act, or else it must dwindle and disappear. And with reference to those species which bave survived--those which have triumphed and are spreading the earth—it is safe to infer that the activities which have constituted the greater part of their lives have been associated with pleasurable sensations.
May we then draw a distinction between the organisms which have failed in life and the organisms which have succeeded, and must we admit that those which have failed bave, during the time of their decline, had an existence on the whole of more misery than happiness? Apparently we must do so. The latter days of the British wolf or of the dodo cannot have been very happy. Those rare tentative forms which appear in the geological record as in the nature of an experiment may have had a precarious and chequered existence. Possibly Archæopteryx was not altogether happy, but the birds which succeeded him have solved the problem of existence and their happiness has been cheaply purchased by his vicarious sacrifice. Can we carry the argument any further? Can we estimate the total surplus of animal happiness over animal unhappiness at any given time by comparing the number of the vigorous organisms with the number of the decaying? If so, there is at present, and there
always has been, a large surplus of pleasure. Now, as at any previous geological horizon, the orders which are disappearing must be very few and very widely scattered as compared with those orders which are advancing and multiplying. The more widely aberrant any species is from the type of its parent group (the type of success and happiness) the poorer it is found to be numerically, and the less widely is it distributed on the earth's surface. Even, therefore, if we admit that the process of decay and approaching extinction in all cases involves individual misery (by no means a necessary inference) -even if we admit that universally, we admit only a very small set-off against the happiness of the vast majority of flourishing and healthy forms of animal life.
With these preliminary considerations in our favour, let us consider the principal constituents of human happiness and unhappiness, and draw what inferences we can from our own case to that of the lower intelligences.
The psychology of pleasure and pain has yet to be worked out. Mr. Herbert Spencer has laid the physiological foundation and Mr. Grant Allen has developed it, but their analysis leaves untouched altogether the higher or purely cerebral pleasures. Moderu psychologists since Bain have considered those pleasures alone which arise directly from sensation, and not those which are concerned with reason or reflection.
For we must draw a wide distinction (a distinction which no one has drawn since Hobbes) between satisfactions and conveniences, as Hobbes called them, or, as we might call them in modern phraseology, pleasures of the cerebral hemispheres and pleasures of the local ganglia, otherwise central pleasures and peripheral pleasures. Take as the type of one kind the pleasure you experience in winning a game at chess, and of the other kind the pleasure of warming your hands at a fire on a cold day. There is, of course, the corresponding distinction to be drawn between physical suffering and mental disappointment or trouble. This we may shorten by limiting the word “pain' to the former and by using the Ford • distress' or “trouble' in speaking of mental suffering.
Now, taking the total pleasures of man's life, we shall find that the local or ganglionic pleasures, the conveniences, largely predominate, both in volume and intensity, over the central or brain satisfactions; while, on the other hand, of the total pains mental troubles constitute by far the larger share. Perhaps this general statement requires some little support. Take, then, the last part of it first, that which applies to troubles and pains. The statistics of Friendly Societies show the average annual sickness in middle life to be six days. Considering the source from which this estimate is derived it is, no doubt, above the mark, for it includes every slight derangement out of which a claim on the funds of a society could be manufactured, and a blistered finger counts for as much in the returns as an attack of