We see in the emergence of the animal creation, the increasing operation of awareness, which occurs through the increased operation of Rajas within the basic framework of Tamas that governs the material creation and nature. We also see a somewhat increasing effect of the quality Sattva beginning to emerge, although clearly not in control.
Despite this increased consciousness, the animal creation remains clearly subject to the determinism of nature and does not exhibit “free will” in any sense that we would like to understand it.
Sri Aurobindo describes the limitations and conditions of the animal consciousness: “…no responsibility can be attributed to the animal for its actions. The tiger can no more be blamed for killing and devouring than the atom for its blind movements, the fire for burning and consuming or the storm for its destructions. If it could answer the question, the tiger would indeed say, like man, that it had free will, it would have the egoism of the doer, it would say, ‘I kill, I devour’; but we can see clearly enough that it is not really the tiger, but Nature in the tiger that kills, it is Nature in the tiger that devours; and if it refrains from killing or devouring, it is from satiety, from fear or from indolence, from another principle of Nature in it, from the action of the Guna called Tamas. As it was Nature in the animal that killed, so it is Nature in the animal that refrained from killing.”
“The animal like the atom acts according to the mechanism of its Nature, and not otherwise…., as if mounted on a machine….”
Sri Aurobindo, Essays on the Gita, First Series, Chapter 21, The Determinism of Nature, pp. 209-210