The orca, her dead calf and a shared sense of grief

Among the many quirks of human nature, one that has always struck me as particularly worthwhile is the tendency to project our own feelings onto other animals. This seems to me like a fast route to empathy, a way to bring us closer to different species.

But many scientists disagree. They call this anthropomorphism, and they discourage it. They cringe when a viral video of a piglet apparently twerking to a Rihanna song inspires hundreds of comments praising the animal's confidence, sense of rhythm and musical taste. What if the piglet is actually displaying aggression, albeit to a catchy beat? And who says Grumpy Cat is really grumpy?

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2018, with the headline 'The orca, her dead calf and a shared sense of grief'. Print Edition | Subscribe