topic: animals

giving up our first prize

Eating meat adjusts how we think about other animals, could that in turn carry over to how we treat each other? Meat eating is playing a part in the various ecological crises that we are intensifying. We became major predators when we first brought down a large animal and devoured it. A prey species, we have become the greatest predators of all. Is it time that we should give up being predators altogether? A lion […]

the intelligence trap

Many believe that human intelligence has escaped the gravity well of ‘animal stupidity’, and that now we roam an unlimited space of thought where everything must eventually come within our understanding. Beneath this belief lies another: that humans are set apart from other animals – an idea that may be an expression of species neuroticism, and that finds its clearest expression in many religions. This special pleading has been eroded by the discoveries of science, […]

beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I have an ongoing preoccupation with vision – not only ours, but that of other creatures. For us vision is such a dominant and personal way through which we experience the world, that it can be surprising to learn how limited it is in comparison to that of other creatures. We have more limited perception of colour – for example – than not just birds, but also lizards, amphibians and even many fish. The retinas […]

cat magic

In our culture at least, cats have been associated with magic. In European tradition cats were seen as being a typical ‘familiar’ of a witch or warlock. I would like to suggest that, on the contrary, it is cats who perform magic, and that it is we who are their familiars. As in many ‘systems’ of magic, cats cast spells primarily by means of vocal utterances. They gaze at their familiar, that is their human, […]

vitruvian lobster

Thank you Darwin for liberating us from the absurd notion that Man is God’s ultimate and most beautiful creation. When this notion was generally believed – at least in the West with its obsession with Ancient Greece’s perfect white marble nudes (that we now know were painted as gaudily as the carvings that smother Hindu temples) – did no one actually bother to look at other living things? Did no one see butterflies, birds, mammals, […]

into 2012

walking on the beach new year 2012

I came back from my adventure in Iran becalmed; no wind in my sails. It was foolish to expect to find those things I sought there; as if travelling were like going to a supermarket. Iran was a profound experience that I am still processing. Soon after I returned, my dog, Ninja, died; at 15, a frail old lady by the end. Her kidneys failed. I cradled her in my arms as the vet injected […]

yoga bear…

bear demonstrating yoga posture "dancing bear"

This picture is one of several taken by Meta Penca, a 29 year old web programmer from Slovenia, of Santra the bear doing her exercises at the Ahtari Zoo in Finland. Strangely, or not so strangely, this is exactly the same as the yoga posture Merudasana, Balancing Bear Posture (rather more prosaically also known as Upavishta Konasana, Seated Angle Posture.) Taking this name into account and comparing the two photographs, it seems obvious to me […]

confessions of an arachnophobe reformed

My friend Rem modified this photo I took of my dog, Ninja (a name given her by her previous owners) – having caught a rat, but that’s another story – as part of a discussion on facebook… The effect is pretty horrible and there was talk about how much people loathed insects (and arachnids) in general. I used to share these feelings – so much so that, for a long time, I was unable to […]