Thursday, June 22, 2006

Slave trader's descendant begs forgiveness in Africa


By Terry Kirby, Chief Reporter
Published: 22 June 2006
Sir John Hawkins was a buccaneering Elizabethan seaman and adventurer, who helped his cousin Sir Francis Drake beat the Spanish Armada. And he was also one of the pioneers of the slave trade, becoming the first person to buy slaves in west Africa and sell them to Spanish landowners in the Caribbean.
Now his descendent, Andrew Hawkins, a youth worker from Cornwall, has delivered an extraordinary personal but public apology for his ancestors' involvement in the trade, kneeling in chains in front of 25,000 Africans in a stadium in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia.
Mr Hawkins's apology took place during a trip this month to west Africa organised by the Lifeline Expedition, a charity project aimed at achieving reconciliation over the slave trade.
Mr Hawkins, 37, from Liskeard, said yesterday: "I apologised on behalf of my family. I apologised for the adults and children taken. I recognise that it's a small, simple act to say sorry - but it was a handful of people who started the slave trade and the ripples of their actions caused evil throughout the continent of Africa.
"It was one of the most memorable things I've ever done. It was a learning experience. You see just how deep the wounds left by the slave trade are. As someone with family links to the slave traders, it was a very difficult thing to see the consequences of their actions. Hopefully a handful of people can now be the beginning of something good."
After he had spoken, the Vice-President of Gambia, Isatou Njie Saidy, came forward to accept the apology and symbolically remove the chains.
The event was part of the Roots Festival, linked to the Alex Haley bestseller, Roots, which tells the story of the origins of black Americans in the slave trade. The Lifeline Expedition group also wore chains and shackles during a "reconciliation walk" in the village of Juffureh, from which Kunta Kinte, the slave whose story is the basis for Roots, is believed to have come from.
Mr Hawkins was among 20 Europeans on the Gambia trip, which is part of a seven-year reconciliation project which started in 2000. It aims to bring people from Africa, the Americas and Europe together to promote fair trade and foster education about issues of slavery, racism and reconciliation.
David Potts, the founder of the Lifeline Expedition said: "We do not think there has been a really sincere apology from Europeans to Africa and we want to do our part in trying to redress that.'' Next year, the group plans a walk between London, Liverpool, Bristol and Plymouth to mark the 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.
Sir John Hawkins was a buccaneering Elizabethan seaman and adventurer, who helped his cousin Sir Francis Drake beat the Spanish Armada. And he was also one of the pioneers of the slave trade, becoming the first person to buy slaves in west Africa and sell them to Spanish landowners in the Caribbean.
Now his descendent, Andrew Hawkins, a youth worker from Cornwall, has delivered an extraordinary personal but public apology for his ancestors' involvement in the trade, kneeling in chains in front of 25,000 Africans in a stadium in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia.
Mr Hawkins's apology took place during a trip this month to west Africa organised by the Lifeline Expedition, a charity project aimed at achieving reconciliation over the slave trade.
Mr Hawkins, 37, from Liskeard, said yesterday: "I apologised on behalf of my family. I apologised for the adults and children taken. I recognise that it's a small, simple act to say sorry - but it was a handful of people who started the slave trade and the ripples of their actions caused evil throughout the continent of Africa.
"It was one of the most memorable things I've ever done. It was a learning experience. You see just how deep the wounds left by the slave trade are. As someone with family links to the slave traders, it was a very difficult thing to see the consequences of their actions. Hopefully a handful of people can now be the beginning of something good."
After he had spoken, the Vice-President of Gambia, Isatou Njie Saidy, came forward to accept the apology and symbolically remove the chains.
The event was part of the Roots Festival, linked to the Alex Haley bestseller, Roots, which tells the story of the origins of black Americans in the slave trade. The Lifeline Expedition group also wore chains and shackles during a "reconciliation walk" in the village of Juffureh, from which Kunta Kinte, the slave whose story is the basis for Roots, is believed to have come from.
Mr Hawkins was among 20 Europeans on the Gambia trip, which is part of a seven-year reconciliation project which started in 2000. It aims to bring people from Africa, the Americas and Europe together to promote fair trade and foster education about issues of slavery, racism and reconciliation.
David Potts, the founder of the Lifeline Expedition said: "We do not think there has been a really sincere apology from Europeans to Africa and we want to do our part in trying to redress that.'' Next year, the group plans a walk between London, Liverpool, Bristol and Plymouth to mark the 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade in 1807.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Crossing the Himalayas: China reopens a passage to India


At 15,000ft above sea level, the Silk Road pass is the world's highest - and loneliest - customs post. Now it is back in business in a bid to revive an ancient trade route
By Justin Huggler and Clifford Coonan
Published: 20 June 2006
High in the Himalayas, a barbed wire fence snakes its way across a desolate landscape. On most days, a thick, white, freezing cloud descends across the peaks, and it is hard to see anything. But now and then a figure looms out of the mist, dressed in combat fatigues. It is like a scene from some old war film. This is where the Chinese and Indian armies have faced off against each other across a border that has been closed for 44 years.
But now there is frenetic activity on both sides of the border. Bulldozers are clearing land. Prefabricated warehouses have been put up. At 14,400ft above sea level, the world's highest custom house is back in business: the border is about to reopen. This is the return of the Silk Road.
The narrow road that threads its way through the hills, up to the Nathu La is barely motorable, better suited to mules than trucks. But, though it may not look it today, for 58 years this road was the main artery of trade between India and China. And now Delhi and Beijing are hoping that here the Silk Road, which once accounted for a staggering proportion of the world's productivity, can be reborn.
Talks are underway between India and China in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, for the reopening the border crossing at the Nathu La pass. If all goes according to plan, it could be open as soon as 30 June. And the Sikkim state government on the Indian side is predicting that by 2010, the total trade across Nathu La could be worth as much as $1bn (£540m).
Even if most observers think that figure is a little ambitious, there is no mistaking the significance of what is going on up at Nathu La. At this lonely mountain border post, the two fastest growing economies in the world meet. And after decades of hostility, suddenly they are hungry to invest in each others' markets.
In the 1750s, China and India between them produced a remarkable 57 per cent of the world's manufacturing output. For centuries, the Silk Road was one of the most flourishing trade arteries in the world connecting China to India, the Middle East and Europe. But in 1962, after a border war between India and China, the Silk Road was closed. The border was sealed off, and trade between the two Asian giants slowed to a trickle.
Not any more. Glimpsing the huge economic potential in co-operation, China and India have shrugged their decades-old rivalry aside. Even as the US President George Bush is courting India as a strategic ally against China, Delhi is cosying up to Beijing economically. They have marked this year as Sino-Indian friendship year, a tribute to a booming trade relationship worth £10bn last year - and that was without a direct land crossing between the two countries. It represented a rise of nearly 38 per cent from the previous year, and is certainly expected to rise this year, according to data from China's Ministry of Commerce.
In India today, the talk is of "Chindia" an economic region with vast domestic markets, where China's manufacturing complements India's IT sector.
The border between China and India lies along some of the most impenetrable mountain terrain in the world, and although there are other border crossings, they are seriously remote, and more the stuff of adventure than trade.
Which is where Nathu La comes in. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Silk Road ran from China, across Nepal to India. But in 1904, the route across Nathu La was opened up - not for trade but for a westward expansion of the Great Game. Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy of India, became increasingly concerned that Russia could exploit Chinese weakness at the time to invade Tibet and threaten colonial India's borders. A decades-old report by a Deputy Commission in Darjeeling had spoken of the route into Tibet via the remote Himalayan land of Sikkim.
And so Lord Curzon sent for Colonel Francis Younghusband, an explorer, adventurer and mystic who could have walked out of the pages of a Victorian novel. Younghusband was dispatched to negotiate with the Tibetans - with a heavily-armed expeditionary force to back him up.
The journey across the mountains was famously so cold that ink froze. Younghusband failed in his mission, but managed to machine-gun down 900 Tibetans along the way. He did succeed in opening up the one practicable direct land route between Tibet and India - a route that was quickly taken over by trade. Traffic across the Nathu La Pass accounted for 80 per cent of the total border trade volume between the two countries in the early years of the 20th century.
That was until 1962, when it was closed. For decades, it became a symbol of Chinese and Indian hostility to each other. The once flourishing road fell silent. Troops glowered at each other. The area became deserted as inhabitants fled to more peaceful areas.
Once a week, postmen exchanged letters from mountain herders on either side of the border at the fence.
Today the atmosphere at Nathu La tells a different story. Tourists trek up to the border, and Indian and Chinese troops pose near each other for photographs. A giant sign on the Indian side provides basic Chinese greetings to call across to the Chinese soldiers on the other side.
India is predicting a tourist boom for the reopened border as well as trade. It will provide a direct route between the former Himalayan kingdoms of Tibet and Sikkim - lesser known, but every bit as exotic. It will also allow tourists to travel directly from Buddhist Tibet to the great Buddhist shrines in Bihar, in India.
Already, the newly completed trade zone has been outfitted with tourist infrastructure, including the world's highest cash point, a cyber-café and long distance telephone lines.
"The reopening of border trade will help end economic isolation in this area and play a key role in boosting market economy there," Hao Peng, the vice chairman of Tibet, said.
The Indian government is equally pleased. "The resumption of border trade is a great historic event, not only for enlarging trade, but also for greater relations between the two great countries," said Christy Fernandez, additional secretary of the Indian Department of Commerce.
But the route is not without its political implications. Tibet and Sikkim may both be exotic, but both were also formerly independent kingdoms. The reopening of the border has raised fears that Tibet's current desire for more autonomy might be crushed by the loftier ambitions of two of Asia's superpowers.
In Sikkim, too, there are concerns. Sikkim was an independent princely state with treaty agreements with British colonial India, and, unlike with most other princely states, that arrangement continued after Indian independence, until 1975, after a widespread rural revolt against the landowning monasteries and a referendum in favour, when India took control of Sikkim.
But there is growing discontent among the native Sikkimese Bhutia-Lepcha community, who, like the Tibetans, are concerned at the influx of "mainlanders" into their lands. Today they account for just 21 per cent of the population of Sikkim.
"Our main concern is being outnumbered in our own homeland," a local politician, Tseten Tashi Bhutia, toldThe Indian Express. "How long can we tolerate this? How long before AK-47s are taken up."
China has long castigated India for the claim that the Himalayan kingdom of Sikkim was an independent country "annexed" by India in 1975. That message will probably change now, as will India's tough line on Tibet, no doubt, even though Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has lived in exile in Dharamsala in India since 1959.
Geographically, it certainly makes sense for Tibet to have use of the pass. Tibet currently has to import and export goods via the port of Tianjin, which is in the north-east of the country.
Chinese Communist troops entered Tibet in 1950. In matters Tibetan, Beijing sees itself as a liberating force which freed the locals of the backward yoke of a theocracy, bringing prosperity and doing much to open up the famously secretive region to modern ways. Beijing points to marvels of engineering, such as the Qinghai-Tibet railway, the world's highest, which was completed in October and is due to start operation on 1 July. While some critics say it will help swamp Lhasa with the dominant Han Chinese ethnic group, the government in Beijing sees it as a major opportunity for Tibet.
Tibet, which last year had a foreign trade volume of £109m, will benefit from resumed border trade, Hao Peng said.
"If only 10 per cent of Sino-Indian trade goes through the pass it means at least more than one billion US dollars a year," he said.
Qiangba Puncog , the chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Government, pointed to economic growth of more than 12 per cent last year in Tibet, above the Chinese average, as a sign of how well the region was doing.
For India, the reopening of the road is first and foremost an opening into China's lucrative market. But the geography also neatly presents a way to improve the economy in eastern India, much of which has been left behind as the economic powerhouses of Bombay to the west and Bangalore to the south forge ahead.
Calcutta is at last beginning to show signs of emerging from its poverty, but the reopened border could present it with an opportunity for regeneration as a commercial port. And outside Calcutta, eastern India remains desperately underdeveloped. While gleaming new office buildings go up in Bangalore, in rural West Bengal people still starve to death. It is in the east that the India's Maoists have seized control of huge areas of land, riding on discontent and poverty.
But, as ever in India, the entire project may yet be held up by slow infrastructure. With the proposed reopening just weeks away, The Indian Express reported this week that the Indian authorities had only just brought the road to the same level as on the Chinese side, and the Border Roads Organisation had admitted that it could not widen the single-lane road to two lanes until 2010.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Of Aldona, Siolim, Anjuna and Morjim... circa 1877

By Frederick Noronhahttp://uk.f356.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=fred@bytesforall.org

Would you believe that in 1877, there were as many as 8988 people living in Aldona? Or that Siolim had 9604 residents,and Anjuna, 8508? Even Morjim had a rather significantpopulation of 3853 at that time.On the other hand, villages like Ambeacho-Goval in Sattaritaluka had barely 12 persons living there. But that was 1877,at a time when the estimated number of Goans living abroadwas just 34,557.Trivia? These loose and seemingly unconnected facts pop outat us from the dusty pages of history stored an interestingyet little-visited library at Alto-Porvorim. If you chanceupon the Xavier Centre of Historical Research, you stand thechance of unravelling a lot of secrets of yesterday's life inGoa.For instance, details about how migration affected this smallstate. Of how the comunidades were run. Or, how valuedgoldsmiths from Goa were even in the early sixteenth centuryPortugal.On one of the well-maintained shelves, one can page throughoriginal copies of the first newspaper to be published fromGoa. Gazeta de Goa was brought out in 1821, and listspolitical and other "news" across its now-fragile pages. Onebrief item reports on the war between Russia and Turkey,giving a hint of what readers in Goa got to read in thosedays.One also comes across facts which everyone seems to haveforgotten about the Goa of the yesterdays."Indian goldsmithery was considered to be of a very highorder. The Portuguese were fascinated by it," points outlibrarian Ms. D'Souza. She points to a book called TheHeritage of Rauluchatim. Raulu Chatim was a goldsmithwho went to Lisbon to display his art in the early'sixteenth century, and this book was written only in1996 by the son of Goa's last Portuguese Governor-General.On other shelves of this library, one can learn a whole vastamoung of interesting tid-bits about Goa. For instance, youcould check out the number of persons -- single, married orwidowed -- in the villages of Assolna, Benaulim or Betalbatimin the year 1881.There's a very useful tide-table, using which one candetermine the high and low-tides simply by looking at thephases of the moons. Similarly, in those days when natureruled, there is a full year's of information about thesunrise and sunset timings.Goan and Portuguese authors also took some pains in trying tounderstand the significance of Hindu festivals, both regionaland national. Maybe one might find the spellings used todescribe these festivals rather quaint today --Makarsakranti, Mahashivratri, Shimga, Vorshpratipad, RamNavam....Looking through some other books, one could get aninteresting collection of information. It might seem like tit-bits of trivia, but surely meant a lot in those days.Even today, this information could give an insight into thelives and times that our grandparents went through.Take for instance, the details about the functioning of theBombay Tramway Co. Ltd. Its speed was restricted to six miles per hour, and five miles per hour in the Abdul RehmanStreet. Ticket rates are published, from Sassoon Dock toParel via the Portuguese Church and Grant Road.There are long lists of rules governing the functioning ofthe comunidades. One can find out statistics about what was then called the West of India Portuguese Railway (now part ofthe South Central Railway). Even the teachers who taught atvillage schools were listed -- obviously there were only a handful, in those days when literacy was something only a fewcould attain.It is interesting to see the manner in which migration out ofthis state was slowly taking root. For instance, in the latenineteenth century itself, there were a number of "clubs" setup by people from Goa across the country.Some examples from Bombay: the Club Lusitano da AssociacaoDramatica on Picket Road, Goa National Dramatic Company onGirgaum Road, the Indo-Portuguese Cricket Club of Bombay, theInstituto Luso-Indiano at Agyari Street and the Instituto deSto. Antonio (the old Anglo-Portuguese School).In Calcutta, one comes across the St. Anthony's Girls School,and there's the Goa Portuguese Association at Karachialongwith the Goa Portuguese Association Cricket Club. Thereare many other clubs and institutions in Pune and even aninstitution called the Goan Death Benefit Association!Goa-linked commercial firms are also listed in destinationsas remote as Ahmedabad, Amravati, Baroda, Bellary, Bhusawal,Bombay, Calcutta, "Cawnpur" (Kanpur), and Karachi. In thatearly age itself, Goans seem to have got involved in a numberof various commercial firms -- ranging from printing works to tailoring, philately, Catholic religious books, wines,pharmacies and handling passenger baggage.Quadrille Band Suppliers of Calcutta had the distinction of being listed along with a hint of its patrons in high places.It goes down as an "estabelecimento musical fundado em 1865,sob o distincto patrocinio de sua excia. o vicerei da India e de sua alteza of governador da Bengala".XCHR's book collection has been steadily growing. From 1993to 1995, for instance, it grew from 13,000 to 16,000. You can see from the above that one doesn't need to be a historian to appreciate the useful facts that emerge from its library andtreasure-house of past information.Besides its many books, XCHR has rare atlases, maps,dissertations and bibliographies, newspapers clippingsand some 200 cyclostyled volumes of government reportsand seminar papers. It also has photocopies ofinaccessible documents and articles.XCHR also houses around 200,000 Mhamai House documents. (Inthe eighteenth century, the Mhamais were engaged in businessat Old Goa, before they shifted to Panjim in 1759. They weretobacco revenue farmers, but faced bankruptcy in 1818.Besides other activities, they ran an agency house for theFrench, and counted the state shipyard as one of their clients.) It has received donations of books from as far apart as Lisbon, Porvorim, Delhi, Candolim, Margao, US,Anjuna and England.Computer printouts of the indexes of XCHR are available,while there is also a microfilm reader on hand. In keepingwith the wealth of information this centre contains, even theprestigious US Library of Congress has evinced interest inits information.It's another fact that people from in and around Goa have nottaken full benefit of this useful collection. But scholarslike Prof. Philomena Antony of Chowgule College haveundertaken interesting work -- for example, on the relationsbetween colonial Brazil and colonial Goa -- through thiscentre.Some other interesting exhibits have also found their way tothis centre. For instance, the family of the late Dr. Manuel F. de Albuquerque of Anjuna, gave a quaint gift to the XCHR.Dr. de Albuquerque was the personal physician to the former Sultan of Zanzibar. His family donated to the centre's museumthree swords, including the golden sword won by the Goan doctor for his discovery and combat of the bubonic plague in distant Africa in 1903! [This article was written some years back, and is being recirculated.The writer is a Goa-based independent journalist.]

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A short history of Anglo-Jewry: The Jews in Britain, 1656-2006

Jews were banned from this country for three centuries, until Oliver Cromwell allowed their return. Today, a ceremony in London celebrates that decision 350 years ago, and the key role they have played ever since. Paul Vallely reports
Published: 13 June 2006
When people ask writer Ashley Perry where his family is from, he replies "Britain". If they ask where his grandparents came from, he gives the same reply. When the more persistent ask where his great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents came from, the reply is still "Britain".
"This answer is usually met with incredulity as most assume that Anglo- Jewry is in the main no more than two or three generations long and has its origins in Eastern Europe," says Mr Perry. But those who assemble today at the Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London know better. A varied group - including the Lord Mayor of London, several Government ministers, MPs, peers and representatives from a wide spectrum of Britain's religious communities - are gathering to celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the Resettlement of Jews in England.
The first record of Jews living in England dates from Norman times. Just after 1066, William the Conqueror invited a group from Rouen to bring their commercial skills and incoming capital to England. It was to become, to say the least, an ambiguous relationship.
In the Middle Ages, lending money with interest - usury - was considered a sin and forbidden to Christians. But medieval monarchs found it useful that Jews were allowed to engage in the practice. The outsiders financed royal consumption, adventures and wars - and made themselves rich in the process. By 1168, the value of the personal property of the Jews (around £60,000) was regarded as a quarter of the entire wealth of England. And when Aaron of Lincoln died not long after - all property obtained by usury passing to the king on the death of the usurer - Henry II inherited the then massive sum of £15,000.
During Henry II's reign, Jews lived on good terms with their Christian neighbours. They helped fund a large number of the abbeys and monasteries and were allowed to take refuge there in times of commotion which came from time to time for religious or commercial reasons.
They needed the refuge. Clerics and Popes routinely stirred up ill-feeling against the Jews as the "killers of Christ". Ill will was fed by the Crusades, in which the Jews were as much a target of the righteous sword-wielders as were the infidel Saracens. One of the most popular - and heinous - myths was that known by Jews as "the blood libel", which appears to have originated in England in an accusation against one William of Norwich in 1144.
It suggested that he and other Jews killed a young Christian boy to use his blood in the ritual preparation of unleavened bread for the Passover ritual - a claim which spread from England to France and Spain and throughout Europe in medieval times and which resurfaced in Nazi propaganda in the 20th century.
In 1218, in what became the precursor of anti-Jewish laws all over the world, Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, made Jews wear a badge - an oblong white patch of two finger-lengths by four - to identify them. Barons, to whom Jews lent money, encouraged the mob responses to such claims, in which Jewish homes were ransacked and records of their debts were destroyed.
At the end of the 12th century, as part of an epidemic of religious fervour during preparations for Richard the Lionheart's Third Crusade against the Saracens, massacres of Jews were staged at Stamford fair, in Bury St Edmunds and, most notoriously, in York. In 1190 the city's Jews were given refuge in Clifford's Tower at York Castle only to be besieged by a mob demanding they convert to Christianity. Most of those inside committed suicide; those who surrendered were slaughtered. By 1290 the inevitable happened when Edward I - who had found an alternative source of finance in the Italian merchants known as the "pope's usurers" - banished the Jews from England.
For more than 300 years no Jew, officially, existed in the country. It was not until Charles I was beheaded that the Jews felt safe to return. Then, in 1656 a Dutch Jew named Menasseh ben Israel, petitioned Oliver Cromwell to allow his people to return.
Cromwell, a devout Puritan and a man of common sense, could see the attraction of allowing them back. For a start, there was the popular belief that the Second Coming of Christ could not occur until Jews existed in all the lands of the earth. And there was also a shattered national economy to rebuild after a devastating Civil War.
But when he summoned a national conference of the most eminent judges, divines, and merchants in the kingdom at Whitehall, the debate was inconclusive. The lawyers were happy. But the clerics and moneymen were opposed. To stop them reaching the wrong decision, Cromwell dissolved the meeting and gave the rich Jews of Amsterdam permission to come to London and transfer their vital trade interests with the Spanish Main from Holland to England.
Thus it was that in the middle of the 17th century, around 300 Marano merchants - Spanish and Portuguese Jews - settled in London. In 1701 they erected the country's first purpose-built synagogue, Bevis Marks, the only building in Europe where Jewish worship has continued without interruption for more than 300 years.
Resettlement was not a smooth process. Just as the relationship between Jew and Gentile had blown hot and cold during the medieval settlement, so it was in the new dispensation. Various coalitions of aristocrats, Christian zealots and businessmen tried to re-expel the Jews. But the new Jewish merchants were too useful. They had brought in £1,500,000 in capital which had increased by the middle of the century to £5,000,000. Marlborough's wars against the Spanish were financed by them. During the Jacobite rising of 1745 they showed particular loyalty, offering finance and volunteering for the corps raised to defend London. Their investment provided one-twelfth of the nation's profits and one-twentieth of its foreign trade.
As a reward, what was known as "The Jew Bill" was introduced in 1753 to allow them to be naturalised as British citizens. It was passed by the House of Lords, though it fell in the Commons with the Tories making great outcry against this "abandonment of Christianity".
The response of the Sephardic community was as nuanced. Many prominent Jews - like the Disraelis - allowed their children to grow up as Christians. Slowly acceptance came. In 1837, Queen Victoria knighted Moses Haim Montefiore. Four years later, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid became the first Jewish hereditary peer. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Salomons, was elected in 1855, and the first Jewish MP, Lionel de Rothschild, took his seat three years later when the parliamentary oath was changed from an exclusively Christian one.
By 1874, Benjamin Disraeli became Prime Minister. He had been baptised a Christian but was open about his Judaic inheritance, once needling a Commons opponent with the jibe that "when the ancestors of the right honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon". Finally, by 1890, all restrictions for every position in the British Empire, except that of monarch, were removed to Jews, some 46,000 of whom now lived in England.
It was at this point that the big influx of Jews into this country occurred. From the 1880s onwards, the pogroms in Germany, Poland and Russia caused many Jews to flee. These were not Sephardim but Ashkenazi Jews with a more distinct East European and Yiddish culture. They soon outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese.
By 1919, the Jewish population had increased to about 250,000 primarily in cities like London, Manchester and Liverpool. But though their culture was more distinct - and though they maintained it, building kosher businesses, welfare networks, Jewish schools and cultural bodies - unlike their fellows in places like Poland, the Jewish community in England (apart from a handful of ultra-Orthodox isolationists in places like Stamford Hill) generally embraced their integration into wider English culture. And unlike their American counterparts, British Jews anglicised their names and their customs, starting youth movements like the Jewish Lads Brigade in emulation of the British Scouts.
Families like the one which founded the jewellers, H Samuel, in Liverpool attempted to overturn prejudice and seek public office. In 1806 the city's Seel Street synagogue became the first in England to deliver sermons in English. In Manchester groups of Jewish intelligentsia were shaping new expressions of Judaism, including the Reform Movement, the political notion of Zionism and creating tools for activism which made the Jewish community strong in the traditions of British socialism and trade unionism. This in part explains why anti-semitism, which in most of Europe is most prevalent among the working classes, in Britain met stout opposition from many ordinary people, as events such as the Battle of Cable Street showed. Indeed anti-semitism has been more common among the British upper, rather than the lower, classes - a phenomenon which Ashley Perry puts down to aristocratic resentment.
"The British consider themselves the height of civilization, the founder of democracy and the force that brought culture to much of the world," he says. But the Jews remind them that "there is one people that has lived with the British for many years which reminds them that their 'civilisation' is relatively new".
And though the nation did not open its arms unreservedly to Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime in the 1930s, it did allow some 40,000 Jews from Austria and Germany to settle in Britain along with 50,000 Jews from Italy, Poland, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe - and the 10,000 Kindertransport children rescued on the eve of war.
Today, when many fear that anti-semitism is on the rise again, they acknowledge that, in the judgement of the Jewish peer Lord Janner, "in the UK it's not as serious as it is in France, Denmark, the Netherlands or Belgium." Instead Lord Janner perceives a different threat. Today there are about 350,000 Jews in the UK - around two-thirds in London, with around 40,000 in Manchester and significant communities in Leeds, Glasgow, Brighton, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Gateshead and Southend. That spreads the community pretty thin.
"Not less than 30 per cent [marry outside the faith] and that's really serious," Lord Janner says. They have, perhaps, for some of their number, integrated and assimilated just a little too well.
Men of influence
Menasseh Ben Israel
Friend of Rembrandt whose family suffered the full force of 17th-century anti-semitism when they fled the Inquisition in Portugal. Petitioned Oliver Cromwell for the readmission of Jews to England. His campaign was eventually successful after Cromwell ruled that a law banning Jews should no longer be enforced.
Daniel Mendoza
Such was Mendoza's standing as a prize fighter in late 18th-century London, newspapers reported his latest victorious bout ahead of the storming of the Bastille in 1789. The Jewish boxer from Aldgate, who learnt to use his fists in fights over anti-semitic remarks, is regarded as the father of scientific boxing and published The Art of Boxing in 1789.
Benjamin Disraeli
Entered Downing Street in 1874 as Britain's first Jewish prime minister. He was in fact baptised an Anglican after his father, Isaac, a literary critic and historian, fell out with the family synagogue. His most lasting achievement was the creation of the modern Conservative Party.
Lionel de Rothschild
By the beginning of the 19th century, the De Rothschilds were prominent members of society, bankrolling Britain in the Napoleonic Wars. But when he was elected to the House of Commons in 1847, Lionel was barred for his refusal to take the Christian oath of allegiance. It took another decade of red tape before Lionel became Britain's first Jewish MP.
Yehudi Menuhin
When his family were turned away by a landlady because they were Jewish, his mother vowed her unborn son would be called Yehudi, the Hebrew for Jew. He went on to become one of the most famous violinists of the 20th century and founded the Yehudi Menuhin School.
Harold Abrahams
After a lacklustre performance in the 1920 Olympics, the Bedford-born sprinter and lawyer became the first British athlete to hire a personal trainer. Four years later, Abrahams won the 100 metres at the Paris Olympiad - the first non-American to do so at a Games. His rivalry with Eric Liddell became the subject of the film Chariots of Fire.
Issy Smith
Born Ishroulch Shmeilowitz in 1890 in Egypt, his name was anglicised to Issy Smith by a recruiting sergeant when he enlisted in the Manchester Regiment at the age of 14. During the second battle of Ypres in 1915 he ran towards German lines carrying a wounded comrade 250 yards to safety before repeating similar actions throughout the day. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Ernst B Chain
The son of a Berlin industrialist, Chain fled the Nazis in 1933 to work in Oxford. On the eve of the Second World War, he rediscovered the work of Alexander Fleming and found a way of mass-producing penicillin. Along with Fleming and Howard Florey, Chain was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945.
Moses Haim Montefiore
Mentioned in the diaries of Dickens and George Eliot, Sir Moses was one of the Victorian era's most prominent Jews. After a career in the City, during which he co-founded the Alliance Life insurance giant, he devoted himself to a life of philanthropy. A loan raised by Sir Moses helped the British government abolish slavery.
When people ask writer Ashley Perry where his family is from, he replies "Britain". If they ask where his grandparents came from, he gives the same reply. When the more persistent ask where his great-grandparents or great-great-grandparents came from, the reply is still "Britain".
"This answer is usually met with incredulity as most assume that Anglo- Jewry is in the main no more than two or three generations long and has its origins in Eastern Europe," says Mr Perry. But those who assemble today at the Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London know better. A varied group - including the Lord Mayor of London, several Government ministers, MPs, peers and representatives from a wide spectrum of Britain's religious communities - are gathering to celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the Resettlement of Jews in England.
The first record of Jews living in England dates from Norman times. Just after 1066, William the Conqueror invited a group from Rouen to bring their commercial skills and incoming capital to England. It was to become, to say the least, an ambiguous relationship.
In the Middle Ages, lending money with interest - usury - was considered a sin and forbidden to Christians. But medieval monarchs found it useful that Jews were allowed to engage in the practice. The outsiders financed royal consumption, adventures and wars - and made themselves rich in the process. By 1168, the value of the personal property of the Jews (around £60,000) was regarded as a quarter of the entire wealth of England. And when Aaron of Lincoln died not long after - all property obtained by usury passing to the king on the death of the usurer - Henry II inherited the then massive sum of £15,000.
During Henry II's reign, Jews lived on good terms with their Christian neighbours. They helped fund a large number of the abbeys and monasteries and were allowed to take refuge there in times of commotion which came from time to time for religious or commercial reasons.
They needed the refuge. Clerics and Popes routinely stirred up ill-feeling against the Jews as the "killers of Christ". Ill will was fed by the Crusades, in which the Jews were as much a target of the righteous sword-wielders as were the infidel Saracens. One of the most popular - and heinous - myths was that known by Jews as "the blood libel", which appears to have originated in England in an accusation against one William of Norwich in 1144.
It suggested that he and other Jews killed a young Christian boy to use his blood in the ritual preparation of unleavened bread for the Passover ritual - a claim which spread from England to France and Spain and throughout Europe in medieval times and which resurfaced in Nazi propaganda in the 20th century.
In 1218, in what became the precursor of anti-Jewish laws all over the world, Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, made Jews wear a badge - an oblong white patch of two finger-lengths by four - to identify them. Barons, to whom Jews lent money, encouraged the mob responses to such claims, in which Jewish homes were ransacked and records of their debts were destroyed.
At the end of the 12th century, as part of an epidemic of religious fervour during preparations for Richard the Lionheart's Third Crusade against the Saracens, massacres of Jews were staged at Stamford fair, in Bury St Edmunds and, most notoriously, in York. In 1190 the city's Jews were given refuge in Clifford's Tower at York Castle only to be besieged by a mob demanding they convert to Christianity. Most of those inside committed suicide; those who surrendered were slaughtered. By 1290 the inevitable happened when Edward I - who had found an alternative source of finance in the Italian merchants known as the "pope's usurers" - banished the Jews from England.
For more than 300 years no Jew, officially, existed in the country. It was not until Charles I was beheaded that the Jews felt safe to return. Then, in 1656 a Dutch Jew named Menasseh ben Israel, petitioned Oliver Cromwell to allow his people to return.
Cromwell, a devout Puritan and a man of common sense, could see the attraction of allowing them back. For a start, there was the popular belief that the Second Coming of Christ could not occur until Jews existed in all the lands of the earth. And there was also a shattered national economy to rebuild after a devastating Civil War.
But when he summoned a national conference of the most eminent judges, divines, and merchants in the kingdom at Whitehall, the debate was inconclusive. The lawyers were happy. But the clerics and moneymen were opposed. To stop them reaching the wrong decision, Cromwell dissolved the meeting and gave the rich Jews of Amsterdam permission to come to London and transfer their vital trade interests with the Spanish Main from Holland to England.
Thus it was that in the middle of the 17th century, around 300 Marano merchants - Spanish and Portuguese Jews - settled in London. In 1701 they erected the country's first purpose-built synagogue, Bevis Marks, the only building in Europe where Jewish worship has continued without interruption for more than 300 years.
Resettlement was not a smooth process. Just as the relationship between Jew and Gentile had blown hot and cold during the medieval settlement, so it was in the new dispensation. Various coalitions of aristocrats, Christian zealots and businessmen tried to re-expel the Jews. But the new Jewish merchants were too useful. They had brought in £1,500,000 in capital which had increased by the middle of the century to £5,000,000. Marlborough's wars against the Spanish were financed by them. During the Jacobite rising of 1745 they showed particular loyalty, offering finance and volunteering for the corps raised to defend London. Their investment provided one-twelfth of the nation's profits and one-twentieth of its foreign trade.
As a reward, what was known as "The Jew Bill" was introduced in 1753 to allow them to be naturalised as British citizens. It was passed by the House of Lords, though it fell in the Commons with the Tories making great outcry against this "abandonment of Christianity".
The response of the Sephardic community was as nuanced. Many prominent Jews - like the Disraelis - allowed their children to grow up as Christians. Slowly acceptance came. In 1837, Queen Victoria knighted Moses Haim Montefiore. Four years later, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid became the first Jewish hereditary peer. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Salomons, was elected in 1855, and the first Jewish MP, Lionel de Rothschild, took his seat three years later when the parliamentary oath was changed from an exclusively Christian one.
By 1874, Benjamin Disraeli became Prime Minister. He had been baptised a Christian but was open about his Judaic inheritance, once needling a Commons opponent with the jibe that "when the ancestors of the right honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were priests in the temple of Solomon". Finally, by 1890, all restrictions for every position in the British Empire, except that of monarch, were removed to Jews, some 46,000 of whom now lived in England.
It was at this point that the big influx of Jews into this country occurred. From the 1880s onwards, the pogroms in Germany, Poland and Russia caused many Jews to flee. These were not Sephardim but Ashkenazi Jews with a more distinct East European and Yiddish culture. They soon outnumbered the Spanish and Portuguese.
By 1919, the Jewish population had increased to about 250,000 primarily in cities like London, Manchester and Liverpool. But though their culture was more distinct - and though they maintained it, building kosher businesses, welfare networks, Jewish schools and cultural bodies - unlike their fellows in places like Poland, the Jewish community in England (apart from a handful of ultra-Orthodox isolationists in places like Stamford Hill) generally embraced their integration into wider English culture. And unlike their American counterparts, British Jews anglicised their names and their customs, starting youth movements like the Jewish Lads Brigade in emulation of the British Scouts.
Families like the one which founded the jewellers, H Samuel, in Liverpool attempted to overturn prejudice and seek public office. In 1806 the city's Seel Street synagogue became the first in England to deliver sermons in English. In Manchester groups of Jewish intelligentsia were shaping new expressions of Judaism, including the Reform Movement, the political notion of Zionism and creating tools for activism which made the Jewish community strong in the traditions of British socialism and trade unionism. This in part explains why anti-semitism, which in most of Europe is most prevalent among the working classes, in Britain met stout opposition from many ordinary people, as events such as the Battle of Cable Street showed. Indeed anti-semitism has been more common among the British upper, rather than the lower, classes - a phenomenon which Ashley Perry puts down to aristocratic resentment.
"The British consider themselves the height of civilization, the founder of democracy and the force that brought culture to much of the world," he says. But the Jews remind them that "there is one people that has lived with the British for many years which reminds them that their 'civilisation' is relatively new".
And though the nation did not open its arms unreservedly to Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime in the 1930s, it did allow some 40,000 Jews from Austria and Germany to settle in Britain along with 50,000 Jews from Italy, Poland, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe - and the 10,000 Kindertransport children rescued on the eve of war.
Today, when many fear that anti-semitism is on the rise again, they acknowledge that, in the judgement of the Jewish peer Lord Janner, "in the UK it's not as serious as it is in France, Denmark, the Netherlands or Belgium." Instead Lord Janner perceives a different threat. Today there are about 350,000 Jews in the UK - around two-thirds in London, with around 40,000 in Manchester and significant communities in Leeds, Glasgow, Brighton, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Gateshead and Southend. That spreads the community pretty thin.
"Not less than 30 per cent [marry outside the faith] and that's really serious," Lord Janner says. They have, perhaps, for some of their number, integrated and assimilated just a little too well.
Men of influence
Menasseh Ben Israel
Friend of Rembrandt whose family suffered the full force of 17th-century anti-semitism when they fled the Inquisition in Portugal. Petitioned Oliver Cromwell for the readmission of Jews to England. His campaign was eventually successful after Cromwell ruled that a law banning Jews should no longer be enforced.
Daniel Mendoza
Such was Mendoza's standing as a prize fighter in late 18th-century London, newspapers reported his latest victorious bout ahead of the storming of the Bastille in 1789. The Jewish boxer from Aldgate, who learnt to use his fists in fights over anti-semitic remarks, is regarded as the father of scientific boxing and published The Art of Boxing in 1789.
Benjamin Disraeli
Entered Downing Street in 1874 as Britain's first Jewish prime minister. He was in fact baptised an Anglican after his father, Isaac, a literary critic and historian, fell out with the family synagogue. His most lasting achievement was the creation of the modern Conservative Party.
Lionel de Rothschild
By the beginning of the 19th century, the De Rothschilds were prominent members of society, bankrolling Britain in the Napoleonic Wars. But when he was elected to the House of Commons in 1847, Lionel was barred for his refusal to take the Christian oath of allegiance. It took another decade of red tape before Lionel became Britain's first Jewish MP.
Yehudi Menuhin
When his family were turned away by a landlady because they were Jewish, his mother vowed her unborn son would be called Yehudi, the Hebrew for Jew. He went on to become one of the most famous violinists of the 20th century and founded the Yehudi Menuhin School.
Harold Abrahams
After a lacklustre performance in the 1920 Olympics, the Bedford-born sprinter and lawyer became the first British athlete to hire a personal trainer. Four years later, Abrahams won the 100 metres at the Paris Olympiad - the first non-American to do so at a Games. His rivalry with Eric Liddell became the subject of the film Chariots of Fire.
Issy Smith
Born Ishroulch Shmeilowitz in 1890 in Egypt, his name was anglicised to Issy Smith by a recruiting sergeant when he enlisted in the Manchester Regiment at the age of 14. During the second battle of Ypres in 1915 he ran towards German lines carrying a wounded comrade 250 yards to safety before repeating similar actions throughout the day. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Ernst B Chain
The son of a Berlin industrialist, Chain fled the Nazis in 1933 to work in Oxford. On the eve of the Second World War, he rediscovered the work of Alexander Fleming and found a way of mass-producing penicillin. Along with Fleming and Howard Florey, Chain was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945.
Moses Haim Montefiore
Mentioned in the diaries of Dickens and George Eliot, Sir Moses was one of the Victorian era's most prominent Jews. After a career in the City, during which he co-founded the Alliance Life insurance giant, he devoted himself to a life of philanthropy. A loan raised by Sir Moses helped the British government abolish slavery.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Who says that animals don't experience pleasure?


They feel remarkably similar emotions to humans - including euphoria, love and mischievousness, argues Jonathan Balcombe in an extract from his new book
Published: 31 May 2006
Science has neglected animal pleasure. Research tends to focus on evolutionary explanations for natural phenomena. By considering only natural selection and reproductive success, it overlooks the experiences of animals - their feelings, emotions and pleasures.
To appreciate the importance of pleasure to animal survival, consider the interplay of evolution and experience. Evolution concerns the adaptiveness of what an animal does or doesn't do. It is the stuff of genes and survival. Experience, on the other hand, relates to an animal's conscious, sensory encounters with the world.
Evolution and experience are complementary, not exclusive. Just as an animal is the product of genetics and environment, so too do both evolution and experience guide decisions and behaviours. When an animal - let's say a raccoon - eats, she is satisfying a basic need of survival: to sustain herself. But in choosing, seeing, smelling and tasting food, she also experiences it.
The physical pleasures of life - like the pains - are current, even though they have evolutionary significance too. It is these experiences, not the deeper evolutionary forces underlying them, that put wind in the sails of a racoon's existence. And a mouse's. And a pigeon's.
Pleasure helps animals to maintain a stable state. When we are cold, we seek warmth and it feels good. When we are hot, that same warmth no longer feels pleasant and we seek a cooler spot. The same phenomenon applies to tastes (pleasant when hungry, unpleasant when full), though not to sounds and lights. Michel Cabanac, a professor at Laval University, Quebec, calls this phenomenon "alliesthesia", from the Greek, meaning "other-perception". Alliesthesia applies to other animals as well as humans.
Nature rewards a cold animal who finds warmth, and vice versa. All an animal needs for alliesthesia to work is the capacity to experience surroundings as pleasant or unpleasant, and to move to a preferred environment. Sensory pleasure induces behaviours that improve homeostasis, or the regulating of the body's condition.
Here's another illustration of the dichotomy between evolution and experience. Many birds bathe - dipping their bodies, flapping their wings and shaking their feathers while standing in shallow water. The American biologist Bernd Heinrich, working in the Maine woods, has compiled many observations of ravens bathing, and he acknowledges several possible adaptive bases for this behaviour. These include hygiene, combating skin parasites and thermoregulation (maintaining a stable body temperature). But when a raven bathes, she is surely not aware of any evolutionary benefits. She is probably responding to a desire to get wet and cool, just as we enjoy the feeling of cool water or air on our skin when we are sweltering.
So, while Darwinian evolution and survival undoubtedly influence animals' actions, animals aren't responding consciously to these influences. On the other hand, it does seem as though they are behaving according to their moods, their desires and perhaps even a pre-planned daily schedule. Heinrich concludes that they do it simply because it feels good.
A recent theory of feline purring is another variation on the theme of pleasure having direct survival benefits. The theory, proposed by Elizabeth von Muggenthaler of the Fauna Communications Research Institute in North Carolina, maintains that a cat's purr has mechanical healing properties that speed up the repair of broken bones and other damaged tissues. Several cat species purr, including pumas, ocelots, servals, cheetahs and caracals, as well as the domestic cat. Purring may be cats' answer to ultrasound therapy, which appears to improve bone growth and density. That purring in cats is believed to display contentment raises the question of whether purring evolved first as a healing benefit, then later as a communication signal, or vice versa.
For pleasure to aid animals, they need the physical equipment to with which to experience it. That we experience bliss, joy, comfort and satisfaction suggests that some other animals do too, because they are built like us in all the relevant ways. All vertebrates - mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes - share the same fundamental body plan: a bony skeleton that supports a muscular system that enables the animal to move about, a nervous system that shuttles signals to different parts of the body and whose centre of operations is the brain, a circulatory system that transports oxygen and other nutrients to body tissues, digestive and excretory systems that process food and eliminate wastes, a hormone system that helps to regulate body processes, and a reproductive system evolved to ensure propagation.
To this shared foundation we can add a sensory system. All vertebrates, with rare exceptions, have the same five basic senses as us: sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. With all this equipment in common, it is no surprise that humans and animals share much of the same physiological and biochemical responses to sensory events.
The senses are the interface between an animal's nervous system and its surroundings. When we experience something painful or pleasurable, our brains signal to our glands to secrete chemicals to help us deal with the situation. Human emotions are linked to two brain structures, the amygdala and the hypothalamus, and mediated by biochemicals including dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Many animals, especially mammals, possess the same neurological structures and brain chemicals as we do. That needn't necessarily mean that they share our feelings, but careful observation suggests that they do. There are, for example, remarkable similarities in brain regions in guinea pigs experiencing parent-offspring separation distress and in human brains during feelings of sadness.
It is known that a variety of discrete emotional-behavioural control systems inhabit the same regions of the brains of all mammals. According to the American neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, the core emotions - fear, rage, panic, play, seeking and lust - arise from the deep recesses of our primitive brains, and are believed to have evolved long before consciousness.
The brain releases dopamine in response to rewards like sex, food and water. The ability to produce dopamine has probably existed in animals for hundreds of millions of years. Even the humble sea pansy, a jellyfish relative, produces it, though probably not in relation to pleasure and pain. Goldfish prefer to swim in places where they have received amphetamine, which stimulates the release of dopamine from their brains.
Opiate receptors in human brains allow us to perceive pleasurable stimuli such as sweet tastes. Panksepp has shown that, when rats play, their brains release large amounts of dopamine and opiates. When both humans and rats are given drugs that block these receptors, they rate the sweetness of normally "liked" foods as less pleasant than normal.
Kent Berridge at the University of Michigan has devoted much of his career to the study of pleasure in the animal brain. Working mainly with taste in rats, Berridge's work suggests that brain networks cause "liking" reactions to certain things in the animal's environment. These reactions suggest the conscious experience of pleasure. The crucial feature of positive states, he argues, is that potentially pleasurable events (eg the taste of sugar) be accompanied by positive patterns of behaviour (eg, licking of the lips).
Animals' brains appear to respond to many types of sensory pleasure, including food, drugs and sex. More abstract forms of pleasure - including social joy, love, intellectual pleasure, aesthetic appreciation and even morality - are still largely unexplored, but interest in these is stirring.
Dr Jonathan Balcombe is an ethologist and research scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in Washington DC. He will be speaking at the Dana Centre, Science Museum, London SW7, on Thursday 1 June. Tickets are free but must be pre-booked (020-7942 4040; http://www.danacentre.org.uk/). His book Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Macmillan) is out now
The pleasure principle
* Sheep prefer a photo of the face of a just-fed sheep to that of a hungry one, and a smiling human face to an angry-looking one.
* In African springs, hippos spread their legs and toes to allow fish to nibble between them, much like pampered clients going for a massage or manicure at a spa.
* Reef fish line up to receive the attentions of cleaner fish, who advertise their services.
* When researchers experimentally brushed horses' necks, the animals' heart rates dropped, particularly in preferred spots for being groomed by other horses.
* Birds, as you might expect, have musical minds: trained finches can assign newly heard pieces to familiar composers, and pigeons can differentiate Baroque from modern genres.
* Bathing birds are known to lift a wing at the spray of garden sprinklers on hot days.
* Calvin Klein's fragrance Obsession for Men is strongly seductive to female cheetahs.
* Lemurs and capuchins pass around large millipedes like a marijuana joint, rubbing and mouthing them. Powerful defensive chemicals send them into a blissful stupor.
* Dolphins mischievously sneak up on gulls resting on the water. They dunk the bird before letting go.
Science has neglected animal pleasure. Research tends to focus on evolutionary explanations for natural phenomena. By considering only natural selection and reproductive success, it overlooks the experiences of animals - their feelings, emotions and pleasures.
To appreciate the importance of pleasure to animal survival, consider the interplay of evolution and experience. Evolution concerns the adaptiveness of what an animal does or doesn't do. It is the stuff of genes and survival. Experience, on the other hand, relates to an animal's conscious, sensory encounters with the world.
Evolution and experience are complementary, not exclusive. Just as an animal is the product of genetics and environment, so too do both evolution and experience guide decisions and behaviours. When an animal - let's say a raccoon - eats, she is satisfying a basic need of survival: to sustain herself. But in choosing, seeing, smelling and tasting food, she also experiences it.
The physical pleasures of life - like the pains - are current, even though they have evolutionary significance too. It is these experiences, not the deeper evolutionary forces underlying them, that put wind in the sails of a racoon's existence. And a mouse's. And a pigeon's.
Pleasure helps animals to maintain a stable state. When we are cold, we seek warmth and it feels good. When we are hot, that same warmth no longer feels pleasant and we seek a cooler spot. The same phenomenon applies to tastes (pleasant when hungry, unpleasant when full), though not to sounds and lights. Michel Cabanac, a professor at Laval University, Quebec, calls this phenomenon "alliesthesia", from the Greek, meaning "other-perception". Alliesthesia applies to other animals as well as humans.
Nature rewards a cold animal who finds warmth, and vice versa. All an animal needs for alliesthesia to work is the capacity to experience surroundings as pleasant or unpleasant, and to move to a preferred environment. Sensory pleasure induces behaviours that improve homeostasis, or the regulating of the body's condition.
Here's another illustration of the dichotomy between evolution and experience. Many birds bathe - dipping their bodies, flapping their wings and shaking their feathers while standing in shallow water. The American biologist Bernd Heinrich, working in the Maine woods, has compiled many observations of ravens bathing, and he acknowledges several possible adaptive bases for this behaviour. These include hygiene, combating skin parasites and thermoregulation (maintaining a stable body temperature). But when a raven bathes, she is surely not aware of any evolutionary benefits. She is probably responding to a desire to get wet and cool, just as we enjoy the feeling of cool water or air on our skin when we are sweltering.
So, while Darwinian evolution and survival undoubtedly influence animals' actions, animals aren't responding consciously to these influences. On the other hand, it does seem as though they are behaving according to their moods, their desires and perhaps even a pre-planned daily schedule. Heinrich concludes that they do it simply because it feels good.
A recent theory of feline purring is another variation on the theme of pleasure having direct survival benefits. The theory, proposed by Elizabeth von Muggenthaler of the Fauna Communications Research Institute in North Carolina, maintains that a cat's purr has mechanical healing properties that speed up the repair of broken bones and other damaged tissues. Several cat species purr, including pumas, ocelots, servals, cheetahs and caracals, as well as the domestic cat. Purring may be cats' answer to ultrasound therapy, which appears to improve bone growth and density. That purring in cats is believed to display contentment raises the question of whether purring evolved first as a healing benefit, then later as a communication signal, or vice versa.
For pleasure to aid animals, they need the physical equipment to with which to experience it. That we experience bliss, joy, comfort and satisfaction suggests that some other animals do too, because they are built like us in all the relevant ways. All vertebrates - mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes - share the same fundamental body plan: a bony skeleton that supports a muscular system that enables the animal to move about, a nervous system that shuttles signals to different parts of the body and whose centre of operations is the brain, a circulatory system that transports oxygen and other nutrients to body tissues, digestive and excretory systems that process food and eliminate wastes, a hormone system that helps to regulate body processes, and a reproductive system evolved to ensure propagation.
To this shared foundation we can add a sensory system. All vertebrates, with rare exceptions, have the same five basic senses as us: sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. With all this equipment in common, it is no surprise that humans and animals share much of the same physiological and biochemical responses to sensory events.
The senses are the interface between an animal's nervous system and its surroundings. When we experience something painful or pleasurable, our brains signal to our glands to secrete chemicals to help us deal with the situation. Human emotions are linked to two brain structures, the amygdala and the hypothalamus, and mediated by biochemicals including dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Many animals, especially mammals, possess the same neurological structures and brain chemicals as we do. That needn't necessarily mean that they share our feelings, but careful observation suggests that they do. There are, for example, remarkable similarities in brain regions in guinea pigs experiencing parent-offspring separation distress and in human brains during feelings of sadness.
It is known that a variety of discrete emotional-behavioural control systems inhabit the same regions of the brains of all mammals. According to the American neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp, the core emotions - fear, rage, panic, play, seeking and lust - arise from the deep recesses of our primitive brains, and are believed to have evolved long before consciousness.
The brain releases dopamine in response to rewards like sex, food and water. The ability to produce dopamine has probably existed in animals for hundreds of millions of years. Even the humble sea pansy, a jellyfish relative, produces it, though probably not in relation to pleasure and pain. Goldfish prefer to swim in places where they have received amphetamine, which stimulates the release of dopamine from their brains.
Opiate receptors in human brains allow us to perceive pleasurable stimuli such as sweet tastes. Panksepp has shown that, when rats play, their brains release large amounts of dopamine and opiates. When both humans and rats are given drugs that block these receptors, they rate the sweetness of normally "liked" foods as less pleasant than normal.
Kent Berridge at the University of Michigan has devoted much of his career to the study of pleasure in the animal brain. Working mainly with taste in rats, Berridge's work suggests that brain networks cause "liking" reactions to certain things in the animal's environment. These reactions suggest the conscious experience of pleasure. The crucial feature of positive states, he argues, is that potentially pleasurable events (eg the taste of sugar) be accompanied by positive patterns of behaviour (eg, licking of the lips).
Animals' brains appear to respond to many types of sensory pleasure, including food, drugs and sex. More abstract forms of pleasure - including social joy, love, intellectual pleasure, aesthetic appreciation and even morality - are still largely unexplored, but interest in these is stirring.
Dr Jonathan Balcombe is an ethologist and research scientist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, in Washington DC. He will be speaking at the Dana Centre, Science Museum, London SW7, on Thursday 1 June. Tickets are free but must be pre-booked (020-7942 4040; http://www.danacentre.org.uk/). His book Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Macmillan) is out now
The pleasure principle
* Sheep prefer a photo of the face of a just-fed sheep to that of a hungry one, and a smiling human face to an angry-looking one.
* In African springs, hippos spread their legs and toes to allow fish to nibble between them, much like pampered clients going for a massage or manicure at a spa.
* Reef fish line up to receive the attentions of cleaner fish, who advertise their services.
* When researchers experimentally brushed horses' necks, the animals' heart rates dropped, particularly in preferred spots for being groomed by other horses.
* Birds, as you might expect, have musical minds: trained finches can assign newly heard pieces to familiar composers, and pigeons can differentiate Baroque from modern genres.
* Bathing birds are known to lift a wing at the spray of garden sprinklers on hot days.
* Calvin Klein's fragrance Obsession for Men is strongly seductive to female cheetahs.
* Lemurs and capuchins pass around large millipedes like a marijuana joint, rubbing and mouthing them. Powerful defensive chemicals send them into a blissful stupor.
* Dolphins mischievously sneak up on gulls resting on the water. They dunk the bird before letting go.