WTF Fun Fact 13031 – A Bear Sense of Beauty

Is there a bear sense of beauty? How do we explain wild bears who are seen at scenic spots staring off into the mountains, trees, forests, and river vistas? We may never understand this behavior. But if we use our own behavior as a reference point (which humans so often do), it may be that bears – just like us – enjoy a really good view.

Do bears have a sense of beauty?

Let’s start with one thing we do know – bears are smart. Their brains are difficult for us to understand because they’re not organized in a familiar way, but their size and complexity indicate that bears have a capacity for intelligence that was previously unknown to most humans.

Now, not every bear will share the same behavior, especially when it comes to something subjective, like beauty. But the fact that some bears seem to be able to scout out a good view for the day is fascinating. Some also build their dens near scenic points (and not just the ones that humans and their picnic baskets frequent). You know what they say about real estate – location, location, location.

So, does a bear staring into the beauty of the mountains mean there’s a bear sense of beauty though?

Sharing beauty with bears

The staring behavior was first noticed by people studying bears in the wild. After all, a bear showing up at a scenic parking lot in the Smokies is not going to arouse the same level of interest – just terror.

Canadian artist Maureen Enns and rancher Charles Russell have long been advocates of living alongside bears. They’ve also discussed the penchant for beauty they’ve witnessed from the creatures. They aren’t scientists, but they have gotten up close and personal with grizzlies and found them to be quite serene when they’re not threatened. Enns was one of the first people to publicly suggest that bears appreciate beauty. This was after seeing them gaze at a stunning view one day.

Since then, others have remarked on similar behavior. But investigating the bear’s sense of beauty doesn’t appear to be on any major research agendas right now.

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Source: “Sharing the wild with bears” – LA Times

WTF Fun Fact 12408 – Meaty Moral Questions

If you’re fully committed to eating meat regardless of what anyone tells you, you may not find this compelling. But the question of why so many of us continue to eat meat despite 1) loving animals and 2) knowing the environmental wreckage the meat industries cause to the planet is – at the very least – an interesting philosophical question. A so-called “Meat Paradox,” if you will.

Put aside your actual choice and your own defenses for a second and consider what a curious situation it really is. We’re not saying everyone should become vegetarians, but ethically speaking, it makes sense to do so if you’re an animal lover and/or concerned about the planet.

Not convinced about the planetary consequences? That’s ok; it’s rare to be taught about them, to begin with! Here’s a great set of facts from IFL Science, a website devoted to translating scientific research for the rest of us, without judgment:

“Raising livestock for meat, eggs, and milk accounts for roughly 14% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Beef production is the biggest driver of forest loss within agriculture. The meat industry has been linked to a host of other environmental harms, including water pollution.

Eating too much meat can be bad for your health too, particularly red and processed meat which is thought to increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Feeding the world’s appetite for meat costs the lives of billions of animals a year, and animal welfare is a concern on farms worldwide, with pigscows, and chickens often subject to overcrowding, open wounds, and disease.”

People get all sorts of sensitive and defensive when it comes to their life choices (which we don’t care about one way or another). So remember that this is purely an ethical inquiry: If we love animals and care about the planet, how do so many of us eat meat without guilt?

The answer? Well, some of us do feel guilty or queasy about it, but it’s so ingrained in our culture that meat-eating is unproblematic that we just go for it. But for others, it requires a little trick of the brain that we don’t even realize is going on. It’s called “moral disengagement,” and it’s exactly what it sounds like. We have to disengage from thinking about the moral implications of what we’re doing. And we do it in many ways, including:

  1. Telling ourselves we’re just one person/family and our own meat consumption doesn’t affect much.
  2. Trying to remove animals from the equation and eating meat that doesn’t look much like a formerly breathing thing – like chicken nuggets or burgers.
  3. Avoiding cooking our own meat so we don’t have to deal with the “raw materials.”
  4. Not referring to certain meats as animals. For example, calling cow meat “beef.” (This doesn’t really work for the winged animal world though.)
  5. Convincing ourselves (or letting others convince us) that eating meat is necessary for health. (And while we can’t speak to others’ medical conditions, there’s no condition that requires as much meat as most of us eat.)

We’re sure you can think of others. And, you never know, maybe you’ll learn something interesting about yourself if you stop and think about how you eat meat without picturing the animals they once were.

Self-inquiry is a bit of a lost art, but no one said you had to tell anyone the answers in your brain. Just use them to learn about yourself! It’s kind of cool to assess how our brains work. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “The Meat Paradox: How Your Brain Wrestles With The Ethics Of Eating Animals” — IFL Science