By Frances Bellow
As humans continue to threaten the health and well-being of animals around the globe, wildlife biologists and other witnesses have begun to note an angrier and more hostile tone in the sounds that many animals make when people are near.
“The guttural ‘baaa’ of a female bighorn sheep has lengthened over the past ten years into a raspy yet clearly audible ‘baaa-stards,’” said Gretchen Leopold, a zoologist at the University of Minnesota and co-author of the paper “Animal Profanity and Invective” (Science, 2014). “And the ewes only vocalize in this manner when people approach. We must therefore conclude that the sheep are expressing rage at the degradation and destruction of their habitat by human beings.”
Elsewhere, ornithologists conducting a census of birds in the western United States have reported a disturbing alteration in the traditional “hoo-hoo” sound of various owls.
“I’m afraid that ‘hoo-hoo’ in many instances has become ‘hoo-the-fukker-yoo,’” said Timothy Chen, director of Avian Studies at Harvard’s School of Winged and Non-Winged Creatures. “It’s unnerving, to say the least, for me and my team to encounter owls that curse us in such vulgar and offensive terms — although we do of course realize that the birds are justified in their anger, given that people seem bent on driving them to extinction.”
Managers of factory farms across the United States have remarked on a similar increase in the use of profanity among chickens.
“These days we rarely hear the full cock-a-doodle-doo,” said Bill Warden, Midwestern regional director of Countryside Corporate Farms and Holdings. “The roosters have pretty much dropped the ‘-a-doodle-doo,’ leaving only a really harsh ‘cock’ sound. It’s also a name that used to refer to them, but now we suspect it refers to us.”