This year’s new Animal Welfare Sentience Bill will enshrine for the first time in U.K. law that animals are capable of experiencing pain, joy, and other emotions. Whether you eat animals or not, it is hard to accept the cruelty of the factory farming industry where unwanted animals can be crushed or gassed and the horrendous conditions in which they are exported live across borders.
Why would we as a species allow this to happen? The question of whether animals have souls or are sentient is not something you would even consider as a dog owner, but it is also difficult to ignore the rituals that animals carry out amongst themselves. Elephants, when passing the remains of one of their herd for example will pick up the bones and conduct some kind of mournful ceremony together. Can we ignore these actions that would be considered spiritual if carried out by humans?
Accusing an animal of being a biological machine displays a lack of human compassion in itself, but to regard them as little more than ‘food’ while human overconsumption threatens our global civilisation arguably displays our present lack of enlightenment as a species.
If animals do indeed possess feelings it makes sense that they also love to get high. Animals display boredom, contentment, and anticipation. Three major factors that come into play when considering the act of consuming drugs recreationally. When humans take psychedelics they not only experience time distortion or tunnel vision, there are also sensory changes that improve their visual focus and sense of smell. This, in a predatory beast, would boost their hunting skills. The act of getting high may play a major role in their own survival.
The Amazon may attract annoying humans to its ayahuasca ceremonies but it is also ruled by Jaguars, one of the most impressive predators on the planet to dominate a large swathe of Central and South America.
They are also known to nibble on some vegetation too, such as the yage vines of the Amazon Rainforest. As the effects take hold they visibly go from fierce to cute and kitten-like, proving that even terrifying beasts need to chill out now and again.
Chewing an ayahuasca vine will not have the same effect as a DMT potion. It is more likely to act as a form of catnip than hone any of their fearsome senses but either way, I wouldn’t hang about to find out.
In Siberia, reindeer are known to feast on the hallucinogenic mushroom Amanita Muscaria commonly known as fly agaric. It causes them to act stupefied, make strange noises and twitch uncontrollably. It is also considered to be the origin of Santa’s sleigh story where he is flown by these creatures across the sky.
Humans that take these magic mushrooms are reported to experience dream-like hallucinations, along with synesthesia, where your senses become not only enhanced but cross-wired.
More interestingly, the Sami people of northern Finland collected and drank the urine of intoxicated reindeer to get high themselves. Reindeer urine was considered a purified distillation of this hallucinogen but how this was fathomed is anyone’s guess.
On the island of Tasmania, poppy farmers dread the local wallabies that consume their plants that are grown to produce painkillers for the pharmaceutical industry.
Wallabies are strikingly relaxed creatures but these small marsupials have been observed running around in circles until they pass out fast asleep. Cute.
Marine biologist Lisa Steiner was observing a school of rough-toothed dolphins in the 90s when she noticed a few of the juveniles knocking an inflated pufferfish to each other. Dolphins are known to torture their prey before eating them but Steiner noticed that they seemed highly exuberant and intoxicated.
The pufferfish emits one of the deadliest poisons in the world when it feels threatened. This tetrodotoxin is a lethal substance but in small doses creates hallucinogenic effects.
The act of teenage dolphins passing around their prey is a true spectacle. Just ‘don’t bogart the pufferfish dude!’
If any animal could appear to look like it was into psychedelics, look no further than to the colourful Mandril of Congo. The male of the species is known to ingest iboga, an extremely powerful root. They use it to ignite their fierce anger when they battle for territorial dominance.
If the thought of being attacked by a mandrill is not enough – imagine being attacked by one out of his head on a hallucinogenic plant.
Little is known as to why Madagascar’s red-fronted lemurs seek out highly toxic millipedes, rub them all over their genitals, and then swallow them. I personally found this act very difficult to explain to my ex-girlfriend recently when she got back from work early. Crushed insects are mostly used as a topical ointment to relieve skin irritation. Why they would chew them is anyone’s guess but they look like they enjoy it that’s for sure.
Essentially pleasure has to be the reason we do anything, especially procreate. It must be at the source of all our kinetic existence. Nothing could be more natural or necessary than seeking pain relief or distraction from our day to day, whether you’re a panda or an insurance salesman. The better you feel, the easier it is to survive. And as Buddha said ‘life is suffering’. He meditated and kept things simple though. No pufferfish for Buddha.