Do prey run from predators due to a fear of dying (survival instinct), or does being chased just trigger the instinct to run with no cognitive understanding as to why?
If you feel that prey run from a predator due to a fear of dying or being killed, then you must assume that animals have a cognitive understanding of their own mortality. Else why would prey fear the predator? What about a predator the animal has never encountered before, and yet will run to avoid it, how does the prey understand to fear it, or if caught by it it will die?
We've all seen zebra sharing waterholes with natural predators such as lions, and being quite relaxed around these predators. Or antelope grazing calmly whilst lions relax on the grass not too far from the grazing herd. Obviously prey are not scared of their natural predators.
When a predator is hunting, then obviously there is an energy shift that prey pick up on. You can have a herd of antelope grazing quite peacefully with lions resting close by. Yet when lions are ready to hunt, instantly there is an energy shift within the herd, and they become hyper-alert, and triggered to run when stimulated to do so by the charging lion. But are they running due to a fear of dying, or because the energy in that moment triggers running, with no actual cognitive understanding as to why?
I personally do not believe that animals fear dying, as I do not believe animals (other than humans) are evolved enough to understand their own physical mortality. The concept of mortality is a human concept. In my opinion, mortality (an end and beginning to life) is a false belief we've been conditioned to believe.
Most humans tend to have a fear of death, as they believe it is absolutely the end of their existence. Life is finite, and therefore death is something we should fear, and therefore so must all animals. Whereas, there are those that come from a more spiritual perspective, that do not fear death, as for them, death is nothing more than a transition from one state of being to another. I have a fairly spiritual outlook on life (not organised religion), and therefore tend not to fear death, as I certainly feel when that time comes its not the end of my conscious existence, I just move on to another state of being. I have had personal experiences that have confirmed this for me. Sure, my body ceases to be a vehicle for me to operate in this physical reality, however my conscious self lives on, but in a different state and reality. This does not mean that I would just end my life if things or circumstances become too difficult. I of course fight on to work through adversity.
I tend to also believe that those that have more of a natural spiritual outlook on life, tend to feel closer and more aligned with nature. I do not mean, have more of a love or appreciation for nature, but more an intuitive appreciation of how nature operates at a much deeper level. I also feel animals have an instinctive understanding of how nature actually operates at a deeper spiritual level.
When we allow emotion to control our view of reality, we may see lions as being cruel when they chase down an antelope, and cause it a slow painful death. Or see an antelope running scarred and in fear of its life from the lion. For me, it causes little emotional response other than, the beauty of nature at work. Does this make me a heartless person? No, I don't believe so. It's accepting and understanding how life and mother nature operates. Does this give me the right to be cruel to other animals? Of course not, just as I do not believe the lion is being cruel to the antelope when it takes life away from its body, it's just surviving in its natural environment. I believe, at a much deeper level, predator and prey have an instinctive understanding of their role within nature.
When many view an animal running from a predator, they tend to see this playing out much like a person running in fear from a person that is going to endanger or end that persons life. The person is running away in fear for their life. Yet we cannot know what the mouse is thinking when its running from a cat. Is it really thinking of anything at all, or just following an instinctive need to run, and that is all? Is fear of death really present in the prey running from a predator? I very much doubt it, as from my perspective, death is not an actual end of life, its a transition of consciousness into another state of being. Also, mortality is a belief that life has a beginning and an end, which animals actually have no concept of. So if life (consciousness) is really everlasting, why would an animal fear dying? Sure, fear is a real response in all animals, however, I feel its more a state of avoiding discomfort or pain from a known threat, than a fear for its actual life. When a dog for example runs in fear from a person, its because that person has given the dog reason to avoid that person, due to a current or past painful or extremely uncomfortable situation or action carried out by that person, or due to predicting from past experiences that a particular situation will cause the dog pain or discomfort.
If an animal (prey), has never experienced any pain or extreme discomfort from a particular predator before, then why would it run in fear from it? What conscious reason does it have to think to itself, "I am scared this animal is going to hunt me down and kill me"? When a mouse sees a snake laying in ambush, it doesn't start running from it until the snake strikes and misses. This action by the snake startles the mouse and therefore triggers the instinct to run, not a fear of the actual snake or indeed of dying. If the snake doesn't strike, mice will even walk all over it.
So no, I do not believe prey run from a predator in a state of fear, its just an instinctive action from being startled or being chased, and not a conscious emotional state of fear for its life. Fear in the animal kingdom is a response to avoid predictable pain or discomfort, not a response to a fear of dying. So no, I must come to the conclusion that animals do not fear death. You may not agree...