Thursday, 30 September 2021

What makes us judge some animals unfairly?

Why do some animals have a bad reputation, and what makes us judge some creatures unfairly?

Many animal lovers claim to like all animals, however, some creatures seem to get a bad deal and are harder to ‘love’ because of their appearance, reputation, or myths about their behaviour. 

Appearance counts for a lot, whether or not we admit it. Cute, fluffy, big-eyed beasts are the ones who steal our hearts first. Perhaps they appeal more to our nurturing instinct, and over many thousands of years, animals who have become domesticated reflect this. Either that, or they are ‘useful’ to us for protection, transport or, in some cases, food.

But what about the much-maligned species – the ones that we don’t want to like? 

Is it because they are visually unappealing, or because they have a bad reputation, or perhaps because we don’t understand them?

                                             The wasp is a pollinator with bad PR?

Take the humble wasp. In summer they annoy us, buzzing around our garden while we enjoy drinks and snacks, threatening to sting us if we annoy them. Not as cute as the fluffy bumblebee, but not as terrifying as hornets (even worse). But how, exactly, do they help nature? Well, wasps are effective predators of small insects, keeping down aphid numbers, and so providing a useful service. Some are also pollinators, helping certain fruits to thrive. Perhaps we’ll not be so quick to swat them away in future.

                                    Wolves have an undeserved bad reputation

Another animal that has an undeservedly bad reputation in the wolf. Handsome, regal, aloof and dangerous? But not so far away from the domesticated dogs that we love and welcome into our lives, with many similar traits. They are pack and family animals, loyal to their group, and only hunt because they are carnivores and need to eat. Unscrupulously hunted in many countries, they have managed to survive through intelligence and by adapting. Myth and folklore have added to the bad reputation of the wolf - undeservedly so.

Other creatures who have an undeserved ‘bad press’ include sharks, spiders, pigeons, bats and rats. Think of a horror film, and perhaps one (or more) of these is almost certain to appear. But each species has a highly refined set of skills that enables it to thrive. So before we flinch at their appearance, perhaps stop for a moment and consider what they can do…. Build an intricate web, navigate over thousands of miles, use sonar to ‘see in the dark’ – just some of the amazing behaviours they demonstrate.


                             Bats are associated with horror, but are extremely smart

Every creature has a unique set of skills and qualities, so let’s appreciate them for the amazing things they can do!

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