Mammals & Birds cry like human beings


Maneka Gandhi


(Bihar Times) If you have ever seen a donkey cry, your world will never be the same again. Those deep large tears that roll out from under its long eyelashes carving valleys down its cheeks, the trembling of its lips, the hunching of its shoulders. One can only rail at the cruelty of the human species that it could abuse such a tender fragile creature.

Are humans the only ones who cry ? Ask anyone who has seen a street dog lose  even one of her puppies to a passing car or to the beating of a passerby. The night is filled with her howls as she mourns her baby. My dog Milli had a child. He was killed by another dog  . She cried for a week and looked for him everywhere.  When a baby chimpanzee dies, the mother will carry the body around for several days . The gorilla Koko , while in captivity, made friends with a cat and when he died , she wept and mourned.

Have you heard the lonely bird cry that has been left behind inadvertently by the rest of the flight flock ? Have you seen the tears of the cow as she runs desperately behind the cart that is carrying her calf away to slaughter ? I have and it is like a permanent open wound inside my heart. When I stop a truck from taking buffaloes illegally to slaughter and fifty jumbled creatures stumble out from a space meant for eight , I see their faces wet with  the tears of fear and pain.

It is not just human babies that cry when their mothers don’t feed them. Monkey babies cry out to their mothers when they are hungry and when they are being weaned away from being breast fed , they tend to cry more and more. Initially their mothers respond to the distress calls. But as they respond less and less . the infants gradually stop crying and brave themselves to find their own food. Just as children cry when they are frightened or hurt, chimpanzees cry for a long time if something terrible is happening to them, but when they are picked up , they stop.

Since all animals and birds share the feelings of love, care, motherhood, pain, territorial possessiveness and intelligence, it is natural that they will also feel the emotions of depression, loss , fear and all the nuances in between.

All animals can shed tears. Tears are an important protection and lubricant for the eye. They flush out irritants and keep the eye wet to enhance vision. But scientists like to presume that only humans cry “ emotional” tears while all the rest are caused by irritation of the eyes. This inspite of the fact that all experiments have shown that loss or death shows weeping in chimpanzees, dogs, elephants and bears – so far.  In fact those who work  in the field of studying animal behaviour are advised by the standard reference work, The Oxford Companion to Animal Behavior, advises animal behaviorists that "One is well advised to study the behaviour, rather than attempting to get at any underlying emotion".Because of the philosophical questions of consciousness and mind  involved, many scientists have stayed away from examining animal emotion, and have studied instead, measurable brain functions, through neuroscience.

 Studies have found that young mammals and birds cry with distress when they are separated from their mothers. Wildlife experts and hunters both note that the cry of a bear cub separated from its mother sounds very much like a human baby's cry. The Dugong , the sea cow that lives in the Indian Ocean and is now under the threat of extinction by the dredging of the unnecessary and thoroughly corrupt Sethusamudran project , cries copiously when in trouble or pain. When a baby rat cries because he is cold or fallen out of his nest, often his mother brings the fallen pup back into the nest.

When Elephants Weep:  The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and Susan McCarthy is a book that should be read by everyone who has seen an elephant being beaten on its head by its mahout ( last week , the Kairali news channel showed an undercover film on the killing of elephants in Kerala for insurance money by a gang headed by a retired forest officer and his son. They buy sick elephants on the pretext of treating them  and kill them by beating in its head with bats , take out the tusks and nails and then get the insurance money.) or being separated from its herd. When an elephant dies, all the group surrounds it and weeps. When a baby is hurt, the mother will not leave it – even if it means sitting on a railway track. Baby elephants in particular produce a very sad, keening sound. Charles Darwin said that the keeper of the Indian elephants at the London Zoo told him the elephants would weep sorrowfully .

Dogs can experience chronic depression through their feelings of helplessness at being repeatedly hurt.If you walk into most puppy mills, and even shelters and veterinary clinics, you'll probably hear at least one dog "crying".  Not with tears, but pitiful whimpering that is as close to human crying as anything could be. My blind and deaf Great Dane, Gudiya, wants to play with people all the time. If we leave her suddenly , she will hunt  for us for a little while and then make the most awful choked sobs at being left alone again.

Do animals cry ? Of course they do. You simply have to look into their eyes to know. Marc Bekoff has studied animal emotions for thirty years and apart from the behavioral and neurobiological studies , he says that common sense supports  the obvious conclusion is that mammals, birds and fish experience rich and deep emotional lives, feeling passions from pure and contagious joy during play, to deep grief and pain.

“Scientific research shows that  spindle cells, which were long thought to exist only in humans and other great apes, have been discovered in humpback whales, fin whales, killer whales and sperm whales in the same area of their brains as spindle cells in human brains. This brain region is linked with social organization, empathy and intuition about the feelings of others, as well as rapid gut reactions. Spindle cells are important in processing emotions. It’s likely that if we seek the presence of spindle cells in other animals we will find them. “

Neuro scientific research has also shown that elephants have a huge hippocampus, a brain structure in the limbic system that’s important in processing emotions. All mammals (including humans) share neuro anatomical structures (for example, the amygdala and hippocampus) and neuro chemical pathways in the limbic system that are tied to feelings.

Can you ignore the pain of an animal that cries like you ? Can you cut open a crying mouse, dog or chimpanzee in a laboratory and justify it in the name of some research which you know is meaningless ?  Can you beat and eat and overuse a frightened helpless being just like you ? What hurts you , hurts all animals equally. If you understand this , you will activate that part of your brain that supplies compassion – and it is the same part that supplies intelligence. There is so much evidence  that those scientists that refuse to believe that animals cry just like us , show how badly we have misinterpreted everything about this planet.


To join the animal welfare movement contact gandhim@nic.in



A very nice and beautiful article by Ms Maneka Gandhi. This is a must read and if possible these type of topics should be included as part of school syllabus for our younger children to understand these and inculcate the values while they are growing. Someone or a group of people should come forward to lobby with the state government to include these types of valuable topics to our state curriculum. Thanks to Ms Maneka Gandhi and also to Bihar Times for providing such space to such a valuable articles.
I also happen to read “How harmful is the Packaged Meat”, which was very informative.
“Can you ignore the pain of an animal that cries like you? Can you cut open a crying mouse, dog or chimpanzee in a laboratory and justify it in the name of some research which you know is meaningless?  Can you beat and eat and overuse a frightened helpless being just like you? What hurts you, hurts all animals equally. If you understand this, you will activate that part of your brain that supplies compassion – and it is the same part that supplies intelligence. There is so much evidence that those scientists that refuse to believe that animals cry just like us, show how badly we have misinterpreted everything about this planet”.
Gopal Keshri




previous articles...

Biomemetics Provides solution to human problems

Chinese food products- the greatest killer

Pets make better partners than humans

How harmful is the Packaged Meat

Stop Slaughter of Cows for Bone Trade

How cruel it is to dump pet animals ? view comments...

Don’t hurt animals on festive occasions

Let the earth beings survive

Glues are made of animal remains

Meat increases risk of cancer

Birds provide springboard to song composers

Is it not an act of Cannibalism?

How many animals do you have to eat before you become man ?

To eat or not to eat Meat

Insulin from Animals 

Is It Healthy Decision to Promote Rat Eating in Bihar

Use of Animal bones in Porcelain

Infection of Tick disease in Dogs and its cure

Vegetarian diet is the best diet for human beings

Non-Veg  Diet causes  Dementia

Excuses for being non-vegetarians

Body odour of Non-vegetarians

Feeling Good

MEAT threatens Planet’s Survival

Am I smarter than you ? Yes, if you are a meat eater.

Need to  orient educational system to deal with animals

How to Avoid Cruelty to Gold Fish?

How To Make Everyday An Animal day

Are Eggs Vegetarian?

Are You One of these People ?

Use of Animal Fats in Cosmetics Industries

Killing of endangered Species for Perfume Industries

Missionary Campaign to Control Cruelty to Animals- needed

Drink Milk, Get Sick

Parents Create Monsters

The Business of Murder:Factory Farming and the Meat Industry in India

Effect of landscaping of birds on environment

Dangers of killing deep Sea-Sharks for  Cosmetic Products

Use of dog in diagnosis of diseases

Sacred Nature of Neelkanth

Cruelty to Polo Ponies

Self-Regulation of Population by Animals

Dangers of Animal meat eating

Arsenic poison in chicken feed

Cruelty to Animals by Govt. Vets

Worship of God with Blood and Suffering of Animals and Birds

Consequences of Chloramphenicol in Shrimp Industry

Hazards of Trade in Peacocks’ Feather

Supreme Court Ban on cruelty to Animals

Are you a Bad Pet Owner?

The Goat That Laughed and Wept

Animal Owners’ personality traits resemble their Pets’

Human Propensities of Goat

Animal sacrifice at the altar of religion

Animal as foster parent

Animal feed from rendering plant

Trade in WildLife

Human Intelligence of Birds

Human Propensities of Cow