Do women relate to animals more than men?

Lauren Paige – Shankland, University of Grenoble Alpes (UGA) and Shelly Massey, National Museum of Natural History (MNHN)

The Animal Party, this new political formation led by attorney Helen Thuy, was looking for men for the upcoming legislative elections. He had already been punished in previous elections for unevenness.

This creates a small element of surprise, because we are used to parity racing in the other direction. Why are they missing, those who are believed to be willing to aspire to public office? Would they be less concerned with the animal’s condition? With stereotypical answers, automatic images come to mind: that of a hunter (98% of men in France), a butcher (90% of men), a vegetarian (67% of women), and even a well-known actress. to champion their cause. Not to mention primate scientists, who are often women, following pioneers like Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall, or Brigitte Galdegas, and even academics dedicated to studying human-animal relationships.

Besides these eclectic examples, do men really feel less concerned about the fate of animals?

Female Anatomy Antibiotics

Opposition to animal testing is one area in which gender gaps are well documented. This is why women are overrepresented, and in proportions that have changed little for 150 years. in the nineteenthAnd In the last century, 60% of anti-visection leaders were women, which is a high number at a time when they were almost invisible in public. In addition, at this time, three-quarters of the participants in demonstrations in favor of animals were female.

Even today, commitment to animals at public events remains highly feminine: in nine studies that counted women at pro-animal events in many countries, they were three times as many as men.

Conversely, when it comes to physical violence, men dominate, whether the victims are human or not. The probability of an adult female seriously injuring an animal is 39 times less than that of a male, and the probability of shooting it with a pistol is 45 times less.

Among adolescents, a French study published in 2020 that one of us conducted with 12,344 students showed that of the 7.3% who actually hurt an animal, more than two-thirds were male. As far as we know, there is no culture in which women engage in more gratuitous violent behavior than men who have animals. On the other hand, there is no shortage of ethnographic examples where women take care of them, but rather breastfeed them.

Women are also marked by a pathology that can be considered a form of disruptive care: Noah’s Syndrome, this compulsive accumulation of animals that affects three times as many women. As a mirror image, we also note that some pets such as cats become more attached to women than to the men who take care of them.

Gender sympathy in mammals

To shed light on the differences between women and men in their relationships with animals, it can be assumed that it depends on differences in the degree of empathy, which seems to apply in many species to the detriment of animals.

In a comprehensive review, Leonardo Christophe Moore of the University of California, Los Angeles, showed that when it comes to emotional contagion or automatic imitation, females consistently outperform males in different species.

In addition, in gorillas and chimpanzees, we observe more consoling behaviors of females. Among the wild western gorillas, adolescent females show a special reaction (between curiosity and fear) towards the lifeless body of a bush animal they encountered on their way, while the young man seemed indifferent to the situation.

This preoccupation with the fate of others in females does not seem to stop with non-human primates. In mice, females are more likely to cramp when they see another mouse in pain.

Non-human primate females also appear to be more influenced by the behavior of other group members. For example, yawning when certain species yawn (a known behavioral manifestation of emotional contagion) occurs more often in female bonobos.

In crows, females share their food more than others.

In spontaneous games, we also observe more nurturing behaviors: young female chimpanzees carry more sticks as if they were babies (males use them rather than hitting each other) or play in captivity than males with dolls if provided.

Perhaps this is a result of the predisposition or predispositions of young girls to motherhood. In primates (such as macaques, gorillas, etc.), adolescent females often attempt to steal their young from adult females to test and learn the mothers’ craft.

Of course, it will be necessary to study these behaviors systematically in many species to check whether they are present in most or only some of them, and to analyze the social and environmental conditions with which these behaviors are associated. This would also be necessary to guard against the selective evocation of facts that confirm our stereotypical expectations, and which rely so readily on the natural world to justify themselves.

But tentatively, the available work suggests that empathy is more present in females, and that it is most likely an ancient biological phenomenon that relied on the care of the young during the postnatal period.

Human tears and charity

All this is in humans. Thus, newborns cry more than boys if they hear another baby crying.

Later, 4-year-old girls who see pictures of people in distress have more empathetic reactions than boys.

Empathy gaps increase significantly in adolescence, and in adulthood, women recognize more accurately the emotions of others, whether they are facial expressions, sounds, or situations. They dedicate more time and money to others through donations or community involvement.

It now appears well established that empathic abilities differentiate between men and women, as evidenced by this study of nearly 670,000 participants.

Kill an animal for science

Behavioral differences between men and women were recently confirmed directly during a behavioral study conducted at Grenoble Alpes University. During one experiment, nearly 750 participants from all walks of life had to give doses of a toxic product to an animal as part of a pharmaceutical research protocol (the animal was a very realistic robot, but they weren’t familiar with it). Despite the animal’s cues of distress, the majority of participants injected 12 doses, believing that they would doom the animal.

Observing the behavior revealed that women felt more stress than men and above all took lower toxic doses on average. During the experiment, four participants, all women, shed tears.

Assassins are assets

If political involvement in a party that presents itself as the party of animals is less attractive to humans, is it for reasons rooted in their biology? Partially perhaps, but on the condition that you don’t see a rigid inevitability in it. There are many cases in which men show greater empathy for animals than women, moreover, this stems from individual psychological actions but is also encouraged and directed by the social environment, which often determines who can benefit.

Then, in at least one case, net fishing among the Aka pygmies, a cooperative fishing practiced by both men and women, it is the women who kill. Among those people in the jungle, hunter-gatherers in the Central African Republic in the heart of the tropical jungle, women kill the duikers, these small antelopes in the jungle that the acacia hunts, both men and women, with a net (Massi, personal in 2005 and 2016). If the animal is small (eg in the case of a blue docker), the hunters delegate even the smallest, including children, the possibility to gain experience in killing an animal. Men may allow women to kill these small antelopes because it is a task that does not require their physical strength, and is intended for larger animals such as elephant, jungle buffalo, bush hog, giant jungle hog, or bongo.

In conclusion, the very extraordinary presence of female animal killers isn’t necessarily a tragedy for an animal party candidate, even if it seems to invalidate the stereotype of sympathetic and nonviolent women. This means that the relative flexibility of cultural roles can also make it conceivable that men devote themselves to the animal cause, and that electoral parity may someday… be natural.

Laurent Bègue-Shankland just published “Face aux Animaux” by Odile Jacob.

Laurent Bègue-Shankland, Professor of Social Psychology, Member of the French University Institut (IUF), Director of MSH Alpes (CNRS/UGA). Latest work: animal encounters. Our emotions, our biases, our contradictions. Odell Jacob, 2022 University of Grenoble Alpes (UGA) and Shelly Massey, primatologist, lecturer at the National Museum of Natural History at the Museum of Man and Vice President of the Francophone Society of Primatology (SFDP), National Museum of Natural History (MNHN)

This article has been republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Leave a Comment