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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Animals 'are moral beings'

By Alex Kirby

BBC News Online environment correspondent

Some animals can feel and think in ways not too dissimilar from us, welfare campaigners say.

The weight of scientific opinion is that it's certainly right to give the benefit of the doubt to all vertebrates

Dr James Kirkwood, Ufaw

They say there is evidence of altruism, with some animals acting disinterestedly for the good of others.

Animals which live in communities, they say, often exhibit signs of morality which resembles human behaviour.

They say there is scientific backing for their claims, with huge implications for human use of animals.

The campaigners are from Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), a UK group which accepts that farm animals will be killed for their meat but argues they should be treated humanely.

CIWF is holding a conference in London on 10 May entitled Understanding Animals. Its theme is animal awareness, emotions and intentions.

The concept that animals are sentient - possessing a level of conscious awareness, and able to have feelings - was recognised by the European Union in 1997.

Shifting debate

In a briefing paper, CIWF says: "There is evidence that some animals do have some level of morality and some concern over other animals.

Pigs are very sensitive to fear

"Living within a group requires a moral code of behaviour... Most animals that live in communities exhibit similar moral codes to humans.

"Zoologists who have spent their professional lives studying animal behaviour, either by observation or by experiments to test their mental capacities, believe that many animals feel and think."

Joyce D'Silva, chief executive of CIWF, told BBC News Online: "The whole climate over whether to accept sentience has changed hugely in the last 15 years.

"It has huge implications for all the ways we use animals. It implies all farm animals are entitled to humane lives and deaths - and millions are denied them."

Robust rejection

Dr Jackie Turner, research director of the CIWF Trust, told BBC News Online: "There's far more rationality and mental complexity in farm animals than we acknowledge.

"But our attitudes to them are tremendously culturally determined - look at the different ways we feel about dogs and pigs."

Sheep can remember 50 other sheep faces for several years

The claim of scientific backing for the concept of animal sentience has its critics, who say it is simple anthropomorphism, the projection of human traits onto animals.

A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance told BBC News Online: "There seems to be a trend towards anthropomorphism throughout society.

"It's leading people to suggest animals can feel sensation and emotion in the same way as humans, and this is obviously nonsense."

Proof impossible

But Dr James Kirkwood, chief executive and scientific director of the Universities' Federation for Animal Welfare (Ufaw), gives qualified approval to CIWF's approach.

He told BBC News Online: "Animal sentience has been a matter of debate down the centuries.

"We can't prove absolutely even that another human being is sentient, though it would obviously be unreasonable to assume they are not.

"But the weight of scientific opinion is that it's certainly right to give the benefit of the doubt to all vertebrates."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3014747.stm
 

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"We can't prove absolutely even that another human being is sentient, though it would obviously be unreasonable to assume they are not.

"But the weight of scientific opinion is that it's certainly right to give the benefit of the doubt to all vertebrates."

I was just thinking about this yesterday. When it comes to humans, we err on the side of assuming emotion and intelligence, when it comes to animals, we do the opposite.
 

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I was suprised to learn that badgers take a killed family member back to where they live to burry him/her.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Thalia

"We can't prove absolutely even that another human being is sentient, though it would obviously be unreasonable to assume they are not.

"But the weight of scientific opinion is that it's certainly right to give the benefit of the doubt to all vertebrates."

I was just thinking about this yesterday. When it comes to humans, we err on the side of assuming emotion and intelligence, when it comes to animals, we do the opposite.
I've thought about that often. How could I know that when another human feels "pain" they are feeling it as I do? I couldn't.... and so I assume that it's in some way comparable to what I feel. And I that's part of what I do in regards to being vegan.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by 1vegan

I was suprised to learn that badgers take a killed family member back to where they live to burry him/her.
I think Elephants do this sort of thing. At least they show something towards the dead of their own species. That's where my main experience in AR activism lies; Elephants (in Circuses).... and I've seen amazing things.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I believe the book When Elephants Weep, touches upon that, Kurmudgeon. I remember checking it out at the library, but I actually never around to reading it. It probably be an interesting read.
 

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Did anyone see that PBS show on elephants where two elephants that worked at a circus together for years were reunited after having been separated for over ten years (I forget the exact number of years, but it was alot). The elephants nearly broke through the iron bars to get to one another and then spent the next several hours (days?) embracing one another with trunks intertwined. Truly amazing and as moving as any reunion of humans that I've ever seen.
 

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I saw a documentary on just that. Elephants visit old graves years after the death of a family member. Their behavior is one which we relate to as mourning. It is the most awe-striking things I have ever seen. I am truly in awe of elephants.

I have often wondered about what animals think of me (us); and I can't help feeling ashamed at times.
 

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I recently edited some footage for the Human Society that was shot at the Los Angeles zoo in order to help prevent one of the elephants from being shipped away, severing a bond between it and one of the elephants that would be left behind. These relationships are subtle--I had to watch 9 hours of footage to get about 10 minutes of behavior--but their interpersonal behavior is very, very clear and distinctive, and it simply touches your heart to watch, if your heart is open.
 

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Some Elephants recently set free some other animals that were caged..... the Elephants stood around as one Elephant worked the latch, swung the gate open, and stood aside as the animals left.

They're amazing creatures and it's disgusting what we do for them just to make money and hoard useless ornaments. I'm thankful there are rangers who shoot Elephant hunters on site.
 

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Was it here that I read the story about elephants freeing captured antelopes or gazelles?

It is weird that I recently came to the same conclusion on my own about societal animals having morality... and then to read a news article on it! Bizarre...
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Strix

I

I have often wondered about what animals think of me (us);
Well, if it's a carnivore, it probably thinks "smells like food". If it isn't, it probably thinks "doesn't smell like food".
 

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My cat is a carnivore. I wonder if she's ever thought "smells like food' when she sniffs me, then licks my fingers before rubbing her head against my hand to be stroked.
 
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