By Claudette Vaughan

Dr Rupert Sheldrake has written a book on the psychic connection between humans and non-human animals. If Jeffrey Masson has done it tough writing books on the emotional life of animals imagine the scorn Dr Sheldrake encounters down in the groves of academe when the term telepathy is mentioned!

Bearing the wrath of scientists is nothing new to anti-vivisectionists but the question begging to be asked is: Why does our species so often get it wrong about animals?

In addressing neglected topics such as telepathy and our species ability to influence the animal kingdom through our thought atmosphere, Dr Rupert Sheldrake is building bridges in important ways towards understanding animal and human capabilities beyond the mere physical.

Ironically feminists have said it all before in that women are more than just their bodies. Let us hope that the animal rights movement can get to a place some day where we can shout the same message for non-human animals. They are more than just their bodies.

Consequently we have a long and urgent task ahead of us. Dr Sheldrake is a visionary as his work unlocks doors into the animal kingdom. Here he speaks about ideas on animal consciousness that may, for some, be provocative. Claudette Vaughan takes the view that Rupert Sheldrake is showing the way to a better world.

Q. Non-human animals are often victims of amoral human indignities. We cannot talk to them as we can with human beings, yet we do communicate frequently with them on mental and emotional levels. Are animals equal with humans in relation to telepathic capabilities? I.e. some have the gift, in others it remains dormant.

A. I think many animals are more sensitive telepathically than human beings, especially modern western human beings. But of course in the animal world there are probably great differences not only between species but also between individuals. Animals only seem to be telepathic with people when they form bonds with them, as many dogs do with their owners. Such bonds also occur with cats, parrots, horses and other domestic animals. But even among dogs there's a wide range in sensitivity. In our surveys, we've found that about 50% of dog owners say their animals are telepathic with them. And some people who've kept a series of dogs are convinced that some are much more sensitive than others

Q. Some non-human animals display traits of a highly evolved being as some humans display traits of highly unevolved beings . Would you agree with the statement that animals talk, but the trouble is most humans aren't listening?

A. I think that most animals are concerned with their immediate needs and interests, like most people. And of course they follow their instincts. Many cats, given the chance, will catch and kill young birds, mice and other animals not because they're hungry, but because they have a strong instinct to chase small animals catch them and kill them. Many companion animals communicate with their owners in fairly understandable ways, both to do with their needs and also to do with the expression of affection. It's harder to know when it comes to wild animals. Some people seem more sensitive than others, and in traditional societies communicating with animals one was of the major functions of shamans.

Q. Extra Sensory Perception (ESP) in animals has been shown time and time again unable to replicate itself in sterile laboratory conditions. If scientists insist upon it, as have do, isn't it therefore a case of faulty methodology taking precedence over results?

A. My own experiments on ESP in animals have taken place under field conditions, in peoples' homes, and have given repeatable statistically very significant results. These are perfectly valid experiments and are all filmed to give an objective record. These are described in detail in my book DOGS THAT KNOW WHEN THEIR OWNERS ARE COMING HOME, and papers on these tests have been published in a range of scientific journals, and are available in full text versions on my website.

Q. You come from a background where the first 10 years of your professional life you worked as a molecular biologist, first as a doctoral student and then as a research fellow. Have you ever vivisected?

A. The first twenty years of my scientific career, including my work for my Ph.D., was on plant development. This did not involve any work with animals. In fact, one reason I chose to work with plants was because I had no wish to get involved in vivisecting or destroying animals. I have never worked with dogs in any harmful way. All my experiments on dog behavior have been conducted with companion animals in ways that were in no way cruel and were carried out with full co-operation of the dogs' guardians.

Q. What life event brought you to the field of animal telepathy?

A. I became interested in animals behavior as a child when I kept homing pigeons and helped release racing pigeons for their races at a local railway station. This made me interested in unexplained powers of animals, an interest that has lasted all my life. My first involvement with hands-on animal research was in the 1970's when I worked on pigeon homing. I became interested in telepathy with domestic animals through experiences with companion animals and through listening stories that many people told me about their own observations with their dogs and cats. I then realised this was an area could actually be opened up for experimental research using fairly simple and straight forward methods that did no harm to the animals.

Q. In your book, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home you write about morphic fields. Can you explain what a morphic field is?

A. Morphic fields are concerned with the organisation of self-organised systems. For animals in social groups, morphic fields hold the different members of a group together and coordinate their activity. So, for example, a flock of birds can turn at the same time because they are in a morphic field phenomenon. They are not all just looking at the next bird at the same moment; their reactions are too quick for that. I think they are responding to a kind of collective field. I would say that the same schools of fish, pack wolfs and indeed, groups of people.

Q. What are your views on the English animal rights movement?

A. The animal rights movement is very varied. At one end are moderate organisations like Compassion in World Farming which does great work in the field of education and in campaigning for more human methods of farming animals and slaughtering them. I have worked with this group and have spoken at one of their conferences. I also support the campaigns for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. However some animal rights groups which make bomb threats against scientists working on animal experimentation adopt tactics close to those of terrorists, and I cannot support such methods, even though I may be in sympathy with some of their aims.

Q. In your view how can we best improve our relationship with animals?

A. The single most important step in improving our relationship with animals is to eat less meat, or give up eating meat altogether. I myself have been a vegetarian for over 25 years. For people who do eat meat, and who do not want to give it up, the best way would be to avoid all animals raised in factory farming conditions and eat meat only occasionally, making sure to buy meat that comes from organic and or free range production systems. Otherwise I think we should be kind to the animals otherwise, we should obviously be kind to the animals we know and to speak out against any forms of behavior by others that cause them suffering.

Q. One last question. I have a theory for you. In the 70's there was an explosion of what was then called paranormal work and ESP experiments being conducted. As soon as the Russians and Americans cottoned onto the value of telepathy (for destructive purposes) they started experimenting on ways of how to use it as a weapon of destruction to kill off their enemies -- and that is why we collectively as a species today are really no better off or educated into the intricacies of hidden but assessable worlds and dimensions -- what do you think?

A. There's a prejudice against telepathy within institutional science precisely because of the strong materialist ideology that's still predominant there. However the question of the existence of telepathy is really a scientific and experimental one and I think there is now a lot of evidence for it. My own research with animals, summarised in DOGS THAT KNOW WHEN THEIR OWNERS ARE COMING HOME, AND OTHER UNEXPLAINED POWERS OF ANIMALS shows these abilities are very widespread in the animal kingdom. And my most recent book, THE SENSE OF BEING STARED AT, AND OTHER ASPECTS OF THE EXTENDED MIND summarises the evidence in the human realm, which I think is now pretty conclusive. The US Department of Defence and CIA funded research on remote viewing in the 70's and 80's more because of an interest in psychic spying that in direct destruction of enemies. The fact that very little of this work goes on today in universities is not to do with the research carried out by the military during the cold war, but a reflection of the still-strong prejudice against this research among influential scientists and funding agencies. If science funding reflected the interests of taxpayers who pay for it, then ESP would be quite high on the research agenda. But science funding in fact reflects the interests of small groups of influential scientists who sit on funding committees together with representatives of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. This distorts the entire research effort in the direction of molecular biology, biotechnology and genetic modification. I'm hopefully, however that a fairer and more democratic system is possible and could change the atmosphere within institutional science.

Rupert Sheldrake: