Reading time: 3 min.

Though it can be hard to precisely define labor or work, it is important to not to link it necessarily with the fact of earning money. First because one can work without earning money (volunteering or producing one’s own food for example) and one can earn money without working (financial revenues or gambling for example); second because money is quite new in the history of humanity, while work existed obviously before even the word “work” itself. We can for sure think about barter, but we can also easily think about farming, rearing, hunting, building houses and manufacturing tools. So if we agree that all those activities carried out for necessities of shelter and survival are considered as work, then we can easily agree on the fact that other animals also work; many of them hunt, the birds make nests, the spiders make cobwebs and the cows walk to look for food. If we continue to observe what many animals do during their day (for example ants, snakes, butterflies, cows, chicken, rats, etc.), we find out that they are most of the time working: looking for food, hunting, guarding their eggs and their families, looking for safe shelters.

The common point between all those activities is that they are carried out in order to preserve their lives. If work is an activity that is carried in order to preserve life, then looking for a partner, having sex and rising children is one of the highest levels of work. In that case, the question is not to wonder whether animals, including humans, work or not, the question is rather to know when they do not work. We can think here for example about the image of a dog lying on the ground half asleep; is he working? We could maybe say that he has a break. It is the same for us and other animals sleeping. We could say that sleeping is not work, even if it is a necessary activity to preserve life. But since this activity seems as a passive one (we actually do it by doing nothing), we could consider it as non-work. But because it is as necessary to preserve life as building a shelter and looking for food, we could also consider it as work.