Growing up, I don't think I ever heard the phrase "Sentient Beings"; if I did, it didn't register. Nowadays, it seems we have to qualify everything, even categorize things regarding feelings, pain threshold, and ability to think. So the term "sentient beings" gets used a lot.
When you read that something is a sentient being, we automatically know that means the creature has been found to think, feel emotions, and feel pain. I am over-simplifying, but that is it in a nutshell. So humans determine whether another being thinks, feels emotions, and feels pain. I already have an issue with this. If you do any kind of healing work, you know that emotions and pain are subjective, and thinking must occur in all beings, or else there would be zero movements. Let's take a closer look.
If you turn your head, that was proceeded by thought to turn your head. The thought may be involuntary or subliminal, but it was there. In the wild, an animal hears something, stops what they are doing to listen more closely, and then reacts. There is thought in all of that. Emotions and pain are subjective. Each being feels in a different capacity and for different reasons. Some may be more sensitive to emotional situations, and some may have a lower or higher tolerance for pain. Is someone who is not emotional considered to not have feelings? Does someone with a high pain threshold not experience pain? Of course not.
I cannot tell what anyone else is feeling or experiencing, or thinking; I only know what they tell me. This is true for all animals, not only humans. Humans have a hard enough time understanding other humans from different areas of the world. It is not reasonable to expect humans to know what another species is experiencing. Humans assume a lot when it comes to animals. We think cows going to the slaughterhouse "don't know what is happening " and "don't feel anything" when their calf is taken from them. False. They do. They just express themselves in a language humans do not understand. If you were in a foreign country and didn't speak the language of those people, would you announce that they had no feelings, did not think or did not feel pain? I would hope not. So why do humans assume so much when it comes to animals?
Humans make a lot of assumptions. We make these assumptions for a few reasons. We want to justify our own behavior and excuse ourselves from any wrongdoing, and we want to bond with our companions by assuming their behavior is like our own. The first part is done on a regular basis when humans decide to eat other animals. The justification is that they don't feel anything, they aren't as smart as us, they are here for us. I totally disagree but that is for another blog. The second part is done with our animal companions. Let's take a closer look at that.
Your dog is suddenly crawling under the bed or going into another room to be by themselves. You assume they are depressed or scared. While this may be the case, in my experience with talking to animals, it is neither. While it can happen, the most common reason is that they want to be alone for a bit. While dogs are pack animals, humans do a lot of things unlike a natural pack, such as playing music or tv too loud, using technology all the time, using chemicals to clean, just to name a few. Sometimes they need to get away from the human-produced commotion and be still. Cleaning products can also be a big factor. When you change products, pay attention to their behavior. If they stop entering the room after changing a cleaning product, it can be that the cleaning product bothers them.
Barking. People hate barking. I wonder if dogs hate us talking all the time as much as humans hate their barking! Barking is their language. There are many different types of barking used to express different things. Paying attention to the different sounds and when they are used, will help you understand what your dog is trying to convey. Like humans, once understood they will stop relaying the message.
Things that animals normally do not have in regards to feelings are spitefulness, conniving behavior, hatred, and some other notable human traits. While behavior may be similar, it is not as "extra" as humans believe it to be. For example, hatred. Animals do not hate anything. They may dislike or mistrust based on scent, intuition, or experience. Spite. That is totally human. "You did this so I'm going to do that to get back at you." If an animal reacts in a way that makes you believe it is spiteful, then analyze what you think is the cause and correct it. Most of the time, animals react or do something to express something. For example, "the dog suddenly is peeing in the house. Are they being spiteful because we are not home as much? " No. They are peeing in the house because 1) you are not home as much and therefore they are not getting to go outside as much as they are accustomed to 2) they physically can't hold it, 3) they are trying to get your attention so you understand their message but this does not have the bratty intentions of "spite".
Sentient Beings. All creatures big and small are important and valuable to the ecosystem, whether or not we label them Sentient Beings or not. Humans think we are the most important because we are humans. Whales, dolphins, giraffes, elephants, etc all live to protect their species and believe they are important. Notice I didn't say "most" important. That is because other beings know that they are just part of the big picture and understand that each organism, every being is important. We all share the earth.