5 questions about humanties relationship with domestic animals
1. Do horses enjoy being ridden by humans?
There is no quick answer to this. I’ve met many riders that claim that their horses love being ridden. I can only answer the question from the perspective of observation and written studies.
People normally wait until a horse is 2-3 years old to start riding them. However it takes a horse between 5 and a half to 9 years to develop their epiphyseal plates (cartilage). It’s therefore very easy to damage a horses back and permanently cause pain through riding. Even if the back is fully developed, studies have shown that riding causes physical damage to a horses back.
Bits cause pain, as a horses mouth is very sensitive. Whips are painful too, contrary to popular belief, a horse does feel pain from a riding whip.
Also contrary to popular belief, horse shoes aren’t great. They’re not natural and can cause medical complications, deformed hoof growth and provide much less grip on ice, wet grass etc.
All of that aside, there may well be horses that enjoy being ridden, but I suspect, given all of the above, that most of them would enjoy a walk more without a human on their back.
2. Is there such a thing as a happy chicken?
Naturally wild chickens (Red jungle fowl) live in tropical forest habitats in south Asia. Hens produce 4-7 eggs once or twice a year. They sleep in trees (they fly up to suitable branches at night time). They weigh up to 1.5 kg and live up to 25 years.
Today a domestic chicken produces over 300 eggs a year, normally can’t fly, weighs up to 10.5 kg and normally doesn’t live longer than a year.
A happy chicken is wild! Failing that, local farm chickens (the type where you can see the chickens roaming freely outdoors) are normally much happier than supermarket chickens.
3. Are zoos a good thing?
Zoo is a broad term, as it includes ‘conservation zoos’, ‘safari zoos’ and ‘entertainment zoos’. It’s also a difficult question as there are positive and negative answers.
Some species of animal such as Scimitar horned oryx , New Guinea singing dog, Khans spray toad, Micronesian Kingfisher and the California Condor, became extinct in the wild, but managed to live on due to populations in zoos. Some of the above species have since been successfully reintroduced into the wild.
A lot of zoos are nothing more than a ‘tourist entertainment experience’, meaning that animals that roam sometimes hundreds of kilometres or more in the wild, are put in small glass or metal enclosures a few square metres in size, only to be irritated all day by sometimes inconsiderate tourists.
4. Would any animal ever choose to be domestic?
There are currently an estimated 7.7 billion people on planet earth. With so many people around, it’s clear to observe that the vast majority of animals prefer to remain wild, otherwise there would be far more stories of animals flocking into peoples houses!
There are a lot of urban animals that are used to humans and can be quite tame. They’ve adapted to having so many humans around, but they still don’t seem to insist on being domesticated.
There are a few exceptional accounts of wild animals seemingly deciding to become domesticated to the point of living as if a pet, but the stories are very few and far between.
5. How many domesticated animals are there compared to wild?
It’s impossible to say, but according to one study led by Prof Ron Milo and published in The proceedings of the national academy of Sciences,
*60% of all mammals on earth are domesticated live stock, 36% of mammals are human and 4% of mammals are wild!
*70% of all birds on planet earth are domesticated farm birds, 30% of birds on earth are wild.
It’s safe to say that there are too many domesticated animals and not enough wild animals left!