I was writing something the other day that involved a red squirrel, an Eccles cake and a half-transformed mutant, when a thought crossed my obviously disturbed mind. Are Squirrels capable of snobbery?
This is actually an interesting question as it happens, particularly in relation to animal behaviour and consciousness etc. Do squirrels even have consciousness? Does any animal come to think of it?
I think the answer is almost certainly yes. At least the larger animals do for sure. The likes of the squirrels and the dogs etc. For instance there are tales of cats adopting baby Zebras and whatnot so that’s a good indicator. I’m pretty sure they’re aware that a Zebra isn’t the same as a cat. It’s decidedly more equine for a start. And looking around for stories I actually came across this:
Exactly what I’m talking about. I’m quite sure the cat knows the squirrel is a squirrel and I’m quite sure the squirrel knows its different to the others. I know the man says the squirrel thinks it’s a cat but it has to know that it’s different. Either it can’t communicate with the other cats and so it knows it is different by proxy (which I think is unlikely considering that the others seem to have accepted it) or it can communicate and therefore it’s probably been pointed out that it’s different by the other kittens. The only reason that the squirrel acts like a cat is probably a behavioural thing as cat behaviour is all it knows. Same way as if you were brought up by chimps then you would probably adopt their behavioural ways.
But there are other ways we can see that animals have consciousness. There are stories like that of Greyfriars Bobby, a dog who stood by his master’s grave for years after he died, as though he were guarding it or grieving or paying respect to the dead. I know in recent years that some historians have claimed the story to be a load of dog-shot and maybe it is, but the idea at least has a strong basis in fact. There are reports all over the place about dogs grieving and changing behaviour after the death of an owner or another pet so it’s not inconceivable that Greyfriars Bobby could be true. And if they are at least aware of death and are able to visibly grieve then that surely proves they have some sort of consciousness and are capable of other emotions such as snobbery.
In conclusion, squirrels, as well as cats, dogs and other animals, almost certainly. have a consciousness, a prerequisite for emotions such as snobbery. And anybody with a pet can tell you that they get moody and happy and sad and affectionate and downright mischievous at time… And guilty as well! So it stands to reason that if they can feel all those emotions then can also suffer from snobbery. So in answer to my original question: Yes. squirrels are capable of snobbery.
I think I’ll leave you with this quote from Carl Sagan which I think is appropriate on this occasion:
‘Humans — who enslave, castrate, experiment on, and fillet other animals — have had an understandable penchant for pretending animals do not feel pain. A sharp distinction between humans and ‘animals’ is essential if we are to bend them to our will, make them work for us, wear them, eat them — without any disquieting tinges of guilt or regret. It is unseemly of us, who often behave so unfeelingly toward other animals, to contend that only humans can suffer. The behavior of other animals renders such pretensions specious. They are just too much like us.’