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The abandoned monkey who has found love with a pigeon

“Aw,” says pretty much every commenter, “I wish the human race would put aside its differences and live happily alongside one another like animals do”. Almost every comment is along the same lines. What drivel!

OK, there’s no denying the cuteness of a story where a baby monkey, abandoned by it’s mother, formed a bond with a pigeon, recovered from its depression, and the two are now inseparable. Fair play, all well and good. But it’s the response of pretty much every commenter that irritates me. The sheer blindness of their attitude.

First off - animals do not, in general, “live happily alongside one another”. They constantly kill each other, then eat each other. The symbiotic animal relationships where both parties benefit are pretty rare, far outweighed by the ‘you are prey / you are predator’ relationship, or by a parasitic relationship. So no, there’s not much happiness with the way animals live in an inter-species manner. This story is the rare exception, not the rule.

Secondly, neither of the animals in the story “put aside differences”. A small simian in its early stage of development latched onto pretty much the only thing that triggered its natural baby/mother behaviour. Similarly the pigeon merely allowed the monkey to do that without flying away, and likely gets a benefit of its own too (I’d suggest perhaps a sense of protection from predators, or even something as simple as easier access to food). Neither animal made a concious decision, they just followed their instincts. So there’s nothing to learn from this behaviour in terms of modelling attitudes. We, as humans, generally do exactly the same thing - by following our instinct far more often than we follow our reasoning. That’s why we worry about terrorist attacks in our cities, but never worry about road safety when we cross the street. Which is more likely to get you killed? Not the one your instinct tells you to fear, that’s for sure.

Thirdly, what a depressing and mis-begotten attitude we seem to have for our own species. How many thousands of animals are saved every day, globally, directly because of the choices of individual humans? Many, many thousands. From the owl taken to a sanctuary after seeing it on the side of the road, to the stray cat you feed each night, to the dog you took from the pound, to simply putting out food for the birds in winter. Individual people do an awful lot of compassionate acts. Sure, it can be argued that people as a culture do a lot of damage, but that would be comparing the individual example of our two animal friends above with the group mentality of a species. When you compare on a like-for-like basis I think it’s very easy to prove that one animal looking after another species of animal is one heck of a lot rarer than one human animal looking after another species of animal. Similarly it’s pretty obvious that while our individual compassion’s are much higher than the animal kingdom’s, we’re (sadly) not much further developed as a group entity, and like animal species, the human species blithely do our thing with little to no regard for how our species’ actions effect any other species.

This story doesn’t illustrates the superior compassion of animals, and the nastiness of humans. It illustrations the compassion of humans and how we like it when animals display similar behaviour (because that’s so rare), and that’s why we like the story. The individual animals in this story behave like we do as individuals, so that’s cute. But beyond that we can infer nothing.

Why then are so many comments from this story of the nature they are? Well, I would wager large money that any of the commenter’s voicing the thoughts as described above would take in a stray and care for it. They are the type of people naturally pre-disposed to caring for animals in that way, and so they are the people that find a story about animals behaving in a similar manner the most compelling and cute. It’s a shame that tends to lead to some terribly poor logic about why they like the story.

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