[-empyre-] ethology?

Alan Sondheim sondheim at panix.com
Sat Nov 15 08:45:41 EST 2014

Coot mothers will torture their weaker young, literally torture, until the 
young coot dies of exhaustion, anomie, etc. The videos are disturbing. And 
there's bullying, which is definitely a form of torture, among other 
species - excuse the long quote -

When bullying is considered across animals, there is ample evidence that 
many other animals, including other primates, engage in bullying-like 
behaviors. Rats and mice are commonly used as models for social stress 
during different life phases, including adolescence. Studies on these 
common laboratory rodents indicate that social stress, experienced when 
one individual repeatedly attacks another or takes resources from them, 
has immediate and lasting impacts (Kinsey et al, 2007; Vidal et al, 2011). 
Rats who suffered from bullying-like behaviors were less likely to drink 
water or consume other resources (Vidal et al, 2011). Mice that suffered 
repeated social defeats were more anxious and experienced changes in brain 
chemistry (Kinsey et al, 2007). Bullying-like behaviors extend beyond 
rodents, and labs, appearing in many species, including other primates.

Bullying-like behaviors are found in every major group of primates, and 
can sometimes be severe. Among baboons, one of the best-known, non-human 
primates in the world, bullying-like behaviors are common. Baboons are 
common throughout sub-Saharan Africa and many species live in 
female-centered societies that are held together by matrilineal bonds that 
span multiple generations. Groups of related females work together to 
compete over resources and in doing so regularly gang up on females from 
other matrilines (Altmann, 1980). Female baboons have large canines 
(though nowhere near as large as their male counterparts) and their fights 
can be intense and, occasionally, dangerous. Females who regularly lose 
fights and are low ranking are more stressed and have lower reproductive 
success than their higher-ranking group-mates (Sapolsky, 1987). While 
female baboons are not always bully-like toward one another, they 
frequently use intimidation and aggression to modify the behaviors of 
others and to get resources from them (Seyfarth, 1976).

Bullying-like behaviors are not restricted to female primates. Chimpanzees 
live in communities with many males and females and males live in the 
groups their born into their entire lives. Males also form dominance 
relationships with each other based on physical power and friendships, 
which they use in competition over mates. Male chimpanzees regularly 
intimidate each other with bluffs, displays, charges and aggression, which 
can range from making another male move from a resting spot to physical 
violence. One of the areas I focus on in my research is the development of 
behavior in male chimpanzees, paying particular attention to adolescence. 
Adolescence is a time of great change and uncertainty for male 
chimpanzees, when they leave their mothers and enter into the adult male 
social world. When they do that they enter a world of constant posturing 
and networking that threatens to erupt into violence at any moment. Much 
like their human cousins, adolescent male chimpanzees begin at the bottom 
of the male dominance hierarchy (Goodall, 1986) and have to demonstrate 
their value as a friend and ally, while growing and putting on muscle mass 
in order to move up the hierarchy. Because adolescent males are smaller, 
weaker, less experienced and have to challenge other males in order to 
become competitive, they make attractive targets for older males, and 
older adolescents and adults regularly attack them (Sherrow, 2008). In 
short, adolescent males are almost continually bullied as they attempt to 
join the male social world.

In most cases the bullying-like behaviors experienced by male chimpanzees 
are temporary and relatively harmless. The most common form of 
intimidation involves a dominant male puffing himself up, with all of his 
hair standing on end, and walking toward or by another male. This is 
usually enough to compel the subordinate, or lower ranking, male to pant 
grunt (a short uhh, uhh, uhh vocalization which is repeated several times 
and serves to recognize the dominance of another chimpanzee), don a fear 
grimace and put their hand out in a palm up begging gesture. However, if 
two males are close in rank or a male fails to adhere to social norms 
within the community, bullying-like behaviors can become more intense and, 
on occasion, dangerous.

One of the reasons bullying-like behaviors can become so dangerous among 
male chimpanzees is that they regularly gang up on each other during 
aggressive interactions in what are called coalitions. On three different 
occasions, researchers at three different field sites, observed coalitions 
of adult male chimpanzees attack and kill a male from their group, 
apparently because they did not adhere to the social norms of the 
community (Fawcett & Muhumza, 2000; Nishida, 1996; Watts, 2004). One case 
involved the gang attack and killing of an older male, Ntologi, who had 
been a particularly despotic alpha male of the Mahale M community for 
years (Nishida, 1996). In two of the cases young adult males who had not 
formed good friendships within the community, and were highly aggressive 
toward older males were beaten, bitten, kicked and drug, until their 
wounds were so severe that they didnt survive (Fawcett & Muhumza, 2000; 
Watts, 2004).

--- This is from 

It's commonly known that cats 'torture' mice; one explanation is that they 
do this out of boredom, but perhaps there's more to it than that?

Here's more - the question asked, Do non-human animals torture other 
animals? - and the short answer -

It depends on your definition of torture. If you define it as "causing 
harm with forethought and malice" I don't know that you can really say any 
animal tortures another. We don't know what they are thinking. We could 
speculate based upon their behavior, but that would be about it.

That being said chimpanzees regularly engage in infanticide and male group 
raids. There are many occasions where these aggressive behaviors are not 
related to food or mating like they conventionally would appear to be. For 
example, they may raid a group, killing individuals and not claim that 
territory. Typically the infanticide is meant to cause the females to be 
able to go into estrus, but in some instances the males who killed the 
baby may not be the male who mates with her. It could be a less dominant 
male doing the killing in front of the dominant male as a social strategy.

If you subscribe to the idea that rape in anyway is torture, there is 
argument that Orangutans who display bi-maturism (meaning they are not 
fully flanged, but are mature) rape females. This may be a sexual 
strategy, it may not be. It is not a simple 10 minute session, sometimes 
the rape attempt can take hours and cause uproars of screaming from 
females as they attempt to trap them.


This is from 

The jury's really out on all of this, of course, but the implications are 

I doubt re: below, it's empathy; it's a sophisticated reading of the 
other. I also wonder if there is _any_ object to torture at all - it may 
have to do with bonding with other torturers.

At this point I'd move to another planet, but I have a feeling that place 
would be worse...

- Alan

On Fri, 14 Nov 2014, Reinhold G?rling wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Dear Alan,
> it?s always problematic to argue that there is a difference between 
> human beings and other species. The longer one looks at it the smaller 
> the difference become. But I think the use of violence is in fact quite 
> different. It is true that violence between animals often has a kind of 
> theatrical or performative element. What decides a fight is not always 
> being strong: to intimidate the rival is crucial. But I doubt that 
> torture can be found between animals: the object of torture is torture, 
> George Orwell wrote this in his Nineteen Eight-Four. The object of 
> torture is not to intimidate the other but to traumatize the victim, to 
> traumatize the victim?s psyche. And the problem seems to be that this is 
> taking place on the basis of a kind of split: a torturer often develops 
> quite an intense relation to the victim and a quite complex knowledge of 
> his psyche. Is this empathy? Probably yes. Empathy is no guaranty 
> against cruelty. It never was. Shakespeare made it already very clear. 
> From Titus Andronicus till Othello: who is more conscious about the 
> singular psyche of the other than Shakespeare?s cruel heroes?
> Reinhold

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