Animal Rights and Wrongs

Animal Rights and Wrongs

Many mainstream scientists still bristle at the thought, yet the
evidence is mounting that animal intelligence is more than just
anthropomorphic fantasy. ‘Koko the gorilla has a sign vocabulary of
500 words and does Internet chats. Alex the parrot knows the names
of more than 100 different objects, seven colors, and five shapes;
he can count objects up to six and speaks in meaningful sentences,’
writes Steven Best in Britannica.com.

Best reviews the spate of recent books on the new discipline of
‘cognitive ethology’– the study of animal intelligence and
consciousness — and the ethical implications of the emerging new
paradigm.

‘Only in the 1960s . . . when Jane Goodall went to Gombe National
Park in Tanzania, did human beings learn that chimpanzees make and
use tools,’ Best writes. ‘Not until 1983 did researchers discover
that elephants communicate with ultrasound. New studies suggest
that rats dream when they sleep and that the ‘great apes’
(chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas) have
‘self-awareness neurons’ responsible for self-consciousness.’

Best traces the roots of the discipline to Charles Darwin, whose
theory of natural selection showed ‘that the difference between
nonhuman and human animals was one of degree, not form.’ For
instance, George Page, author of Inside the Animal Mind’ ‘cites
experiments where adult chimps use analogical reasoning better than
children and some adults,’ while another researcher ‘found cases
where pigeons performed better on categorization tests than his own
undergraduates.’ — Leif Utne
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