Most days I feel as though I have more savvy using empathy with my animals than I do with people. Part of that is the fact that I spend more time interacting with animals than I do with people, and part of that is that I find communicating with my animals challenging and rewarding. The satisfaction that I feel when I effectively communicate with my animals and watch them thrive on my cattle farm is similar to the “athletic high” that I used to feel competing in swimming and running. The added bonus is that I know my hard work offering the best care to my animals will result in the production of the highest quality of beef that I will feed to my children and you will feed to yours.
A few weeks ago I talked about what is important to my cattle and how good care requires not only an understanding of how a calf thinks, but also being able to empathize with the animal and “view the world as he does”. (See previous posts archived under the topic of Animal Welfare). Humane care must be defined at the animal’s level in order for it to have qualitative meaning.
Have you ever tried to let go of your “human thoughts and tendencies” and truly put yourself in the place of an animal? It is very challenging, and it is something that cannot be completely learned and understood without many hours of observation and interaction with the animal. You can read about it in a book or listen to someone explain it, but “hands on” work with the animal is imperative to your success in offering quality care that is based on the needs of the animal.
For instance, I am a naturally “straight-line thinker” and a planner. I am very logical and task oriented. I want to get from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible. This was a huge obstacle for me as I tried to understand my animals because they are not “task oriented” and what makes sense for them does not necessarily correspond with my view of the world. They live in the present and they are concerned with survival. They do not view the world in straight lines and “tasks”. They are concerned with:
- Safety from predators (survival)
Safety from predators trumps everything else because a calf is a prey animal. That is his genetic make-up and the way that his brain is constructed. Food, comfort, and play come into effect when safety is insured. Remember, my calves live in the present and are incapable of imagining the future.
So, how do I make that “Patchwork Quilt” that Ashley Grace describes (see Ashley Grace’s corner) as I understand and have empathy for my animals? I let go of my human tendencies and thoughts, and focus on the qualities that go into being a good “prey animal leader”.
Can anyone offer any ideas of what qualities are necessary in order to be a good “prey animal leader”? Please leave your ideas in the comment section of this post so that we can talk about them!