Suzanna. In love with a schnauzer named Mimzy. Instagram
sagansense:

After 2,500 Studies, It’s Time to Declare Animal Sentience Proven 
Marc Bekoff, emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is one of the pioneering cognitive ethologists in the United States, a Guggenheim Fellow, and co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This essay is adapted from one that appeared in Bekoff’s column Animal Emotions in Psychology Today. He contributed this article to LiveScience’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
In June, during a series of lectures I presented in Germany, a number of people asked questions of the sort, “Isn’t it about time we accept that animals are sentient and that we know what they want and need? Shouldn’t we stop bickering about whether they are conscious, feel pain and experience emotions?”
Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard those questions, and my answer is always a resounding, Yes. Scientists do have ample, detailed, empirical facts to declare that nonhuman animals are sentient beings, and with each study, there are fewer and fewer skeptics.
Many people, like those at the lectures in Germany, are incredibly frustrated that skeptics still deny what researchers know. Advocates for animal welfare want to know what society is going to do with the knowledge we have to help other animals live in a human-dominated world.
Declaring consciousness As I was flying home, I thought of a previous essay I wrote called "Scientists Finally Conclude Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious Beings" in which I discussed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness that was publicly proclaimed on July 7, 2012, at that university. The scientists behind the declaration wrote, “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
They could also have included fish, for whom the evidence supporting sentience and consciousness is also compelling (see also). And, I’m sure as time goes on, researchers will add many other animals to the consciousness club.
A universal declaration on animal sentience Based on the overwhelming and universal acceptance of the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness I offer here what I call a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience. For the purpose of this essay I am defining “sentience” as "the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to experience subjectivity" (for wide-ranging discussion please click here.)
I don’t offer any specific, geographic location for this declaration because, with very few exceptions, people worldwide — including researchers and non-researchers alike — accept that other animals are sentient beings.
One notable exception is Oxford University’s Marian Dawkins who continues to claim we still don’t know if other animals are conscious — using the same data as those who wrote the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. I call this Dawkins’s Dangerous Idea.
But, the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare is instead based on what I believe is the indisputable fact that animals are sentient and that they can suffer and feel pain, as recognized by the Treaty of Lisbon and the rapidly growing field of compassionate conservation. Evidence of animal sentience is everywhere — the remaining questions are a matter of why sentience evolved, not if it evolved.
Research supporting animal sentience The database of research on animal sentience is strong and rapidly growing. Scientists know that individuals from a wide variety of species experience emotions ranging from joy and happiness to deep sadness, grief, and post-traumatic stress disorder, along with empathy, jealousy and resentment. There is no reason to embellish those experiences, because science is showing how fascinating they are (for example, mice, rats, and chickens display empathy) and countless other “surprises” are rapidly emerging.
A large amount of data are available on an interactive website called the “Sentience Mosaic" launched by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA; for more details please see also), which is dedicated to animal sentience.
An essay written by Helen Proctor and her colleagues at WSPA provides a systematic review of the scientific literature on sentience. The effort used a list of 174 keywords and the team reviewed more than 2,500 articles on animal sentience. They concluded: “Evidence of animal sentience is everywhere.”
Of particular interest is that Proctor and her colleagues also discovered “a greater tendency for studies to assume the existence of negative states and emotions in animals, such as pain and suffering, than positive ones like joy and pleasure.” This is consistent with the historical trend of people who readily denied emotions such as joy, pleasure and happiness to animals accepting that animals could be mad or angry (see also Helen Proctor’s “Animal Sentience: Where Are We and Where Are We Heading?”). There is also an upward trend in the number of articles published on animal sentience (identified using sentience-related keywords) from 1990 to 2011.
Solid evolutionary theory — namely, Charles Darwin’s ideas about evolutionary continuity in which he recognized that the differences among species in anatomical, physiological and psychological traits are differences in degree rather than kind — also supports the wide-ranging acceptance of animal sentience. There are shades of gray, not black and white differences, so if people have a trait, “they” (other animals) have it too. This is called evolutionary continuity and shows that it is bad biology to rob animals of the traits they clearly possess. One telling example: humans share with other mammals and vertebrates the same areas of the brain that are important for consciousness and processing emotions.
Humans are not uniquely sentient People surely are not exceptional or alone in the arena of sentience. We need to abandon the anthropocentric view that only big-brained animals such as ourselves, nonhuman great apes, elephants and cetaceans (dolphins and whales) have sufficient mental capacities for complex forms of sentience and consciousness.
So, the interesting and challenging question is why has sentience evolved in diverse species, not if it has evolved. It’s time to stop pretending that people don’t know if other animals are sentient: We do indeed know what other animals want and need, and we must accept that fact.
Nonhuman-animal minds aren’t as private as some people claim them to be. Surely, we might miss out on some of the nitty-gritty details, but it is safe to say that other animals want to live in peace and safety and absent from fear, pain and suffering, just as we do.
(Nonhuman animals even worry — despite the erroneous claim that they don’t, ample evidence shows they do worry about their well-being (“Do Animals Worry and Lose Sleep When They’re Troubled?”) and that excessive worrying and a lack of rest and sleep can be costly.)
While some people still claim that we do not know that other animals are sentient beings, countless animals continue to suffer in the most egregious ways as they are used and abused for research, education, food, clothing and entertainment. And indeed, animal sentience is assumed in many comparative studies and recent legislation — such as policies protecting chimpanzees from invasive research, based on what is known about these amazing sentient beings. [America’s Fleeting Chance to Correct Chimps’ Endangered Status]
Society really doesn’t need any additional invasive research to move on and strongly declare that other animals are sentient, though studies continue. For example, Farm Sanctuary has put out a call for proposals for observational research on the cognitive and emotional lives of farm animals. Some researchers are indeed looking into using brain imaging to access the minds of other animals (see for example Emory University’s Gregory Berns’s work with dogs; Dr. Berns told me that he now has 11 dogs who are “MRI-certified”).
Moving forward as a society The time is now to shelve outdated and unsupported ideas about animal sentience and to factor sentience into all of the innumerable ways in which we encounter other animals. When the Cambridge Declaration was made public, there was a lot of pomp, champagne and media coverage. There is no need to have this fanfare for a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience. It can be a deep, personal, and inspirational journey that comes from each of our hearts — and such a realization has a strong, and rapidly growing, evidence-based foundation.
The animals will be grateful and warmly thank us for paying attention to the science of animal sentience. When we listen to our hearts, we are recognizing how much we know about what other animals are feeling and that we owe it to them to protect them however we can. Please, let’s do it now. It is easy to do and we can do no less.
This article was adapted from “A Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience: No Pretending" in Psychology Today. More of the author’s essays are available in “Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed" (New World Library, 2013). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.This version of the article was originally published on LiveScience.
Source: LiveScience
Photo Credit: sagansense, Smithsonian Zoo, 2011

sagansense:

After 2,500 Studies, It’s Time to Declare Animal Sentience Proven

Marc Bekoff, emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is one of the pioneering cognitive ethologists in the United States, a Guggenheim Fellow, and co-founder with Jane Goodall of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. This essay is adapted from one that appeared in Bekoff’s column Animal Emotions in Psychology Today. He contributed this article to LiveScience’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

In June, during a series of lectures I presented in Germany, a number of people asked questions of the sort, “Isn’t it about time we accept that animals are sentient and that we know what they want and need? Shouldn’t we stop bickering about whether they are conscious, feel pain and experience emotions?”

Of course, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard those questions, and my answer is always a resounding, Yes. Scientists do have ample, detailed, empirical facts to declare that nonhuman animals are sentient beings, and with each study, there are fewer and fewer skeptics.

Many people, like those at the lectures in Germany, are incredibly frustrated that skeptics still deny what researchers know. Advocates for animal welfare want to know what society is going to do with the knowledge we have to help other animals live in a human-dominated world.

Declaring consciousness
As I was flying home, I thought of a previous essay I wrote called "Scientists Finally Conclude Nonhuman Animals Are Conscious Beings" in which I discussed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness that was publicly proclaimed on July 7, 2012, at that university. The scientists behind the declaration wrote, “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

They could also have included fish, for whom the evidence supporting sentience and consciousness is also compelling (see also). And, I’m sure as time goes on, researchers will add many other animals to the consciousness club.

A universal declaration on animal sentience
Based on the overwhelming and universal acceptance of the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness I offer here what I call a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience. For the purpose of this essay I am defining “sentience” as "the ability to feel, perceive, or be conscious, or to experience subjectivity" (for wide-ranging discussion please click here.)

I don’t offer any specific, geographic location for this declaration because, with very few exceptions, people worldwide — including researchers and non-researchers alike — accept that other animals are sentient beings.

One notable exception is Oxford University’s Marian Dawkins who continues to claim we still don’t know if other animals are conscious — using the same data as those who wrote the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. I call this Dawkins’s Dangerous Idea.

But, the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare is instead based on what I believe is the indisputable fact that animals are sentient and that they can suffer and feel pain, as recognized by the Treaty of Lisbon and the rapidly growing field of compassionate conservation. Evidence of animal sentience is everywhere — the remaining questions are a matter of why sentience evolved, not if it evolved.

Research supporting animal sentience
The database of research on animal sentience is strong and rapidly growing. Scientists know that individuals from a wide variety of species experience emotions ranging from joy and happiness to deep sadness, grief, and post-traumatic stress disorder, along with empathy, jealousy and resentment. There is no reason to embellish those experiences, because science is showing how fascinating they are (for example, mice, rats, and chickens display empathy) and countless other “surprises” are rapidly emerging.

A large amount of data are available on an interactive website called the “Sentience Mosaic" launched by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA; for more details please see also), which is dedicated to animal sentience.

An essay written by Helen Proctor and her colleagues at WSPA provides a systematic review of the scientific literature on sentience. The effort used a list of 174 keywords and the team reviewed more than 2,500 articles on animal sentience. They concluded: “Evidence of animal sentience is everywhere.”

Of particular interest is that Proctor and her colleagues also discovered “a greater tendency for studies to assume the existence of negative states and emotions in animals, such as pain and suffering, than positive ones like joy and pleasure.” This is consistent with the historical trend of people who readily denied emotions such as joy, pleasure and happiness to animals accepting that animals could be mad or angry (see also Helen Proctor’s “Animal Sentience: Where Are We and Where Are We Heading?”). There is also an upward trend in the number of articles published on animal sentience (identified using sentience-related keywords) from 1990 to 2011.

Solid evolutionary theory — namely, Charles Darwin’s ideas about evolutionary continuity in which he recognized that the differences among species in anatomical, physiological and psychological traits are differences in degree rather than kind — also supports the wide-ranging acceptance of animal sentience. There are shades of gray, not black and white differences, so if people have a trait, “they” (other animals) have it too. This is called evolutionary continuity and shows that it is bad biology to rob animals of the traits they clearly possess. One telling example: humans share with other mammals and vertebrates the same areas of the brain that are important for consciousness and processing emotions.

Humans are not uniquely sentient
People surely are not exceptional or alone in the arena of sentience. We need to abandon the anthropocentric view that only big-brained animals such as ourselves, nonhuman great apes, elephants and cetaceans (dolphins and whales) have sufficient mental capacities for complex forms of sentience and consciousness.

So, the interesting and challenging question is why has sentience evolved in diverse species, not if it has evolved. It’s time to stop pretending that people don’t know if other animals are sentient: We do indeed know what other animals want and need, and we must accept that fact.

Nonhuman-animal minds aren’t as private as some people claim them to be. Surely, we might miss out on some of the nitty-gritty details, but it is safe to say that other animals want to live in peace and safety and absent from fear, pain and suffering, just as we do.

(Nonhuman animals even worry — despite the erroneous claim that they don’t, ample evidence shows they do worry about their well-being (“Do Animals Worry and Lose Sleep When They’re Troubled?”) and that excessive worrying and a lack of rest and sleep can be costly.)

While some people still claim that we do not know that other animals are sentient beings, countless animals continue to suffer in the most egregious ways as they are used and abused for research, education, food, clothing and entertainment. And indeed, animal sentience is assumed in many comparative studies and recent legislation — such as policies protecting chimpanzees from invasive research, based on what is known about these amazing sentient beings. [America’s Fleeting Chance to Correct Chimps’ Endangered Status]

Society really doesn’t need any additional invasive research to move on and strongly declare that other animals are sentient, though studies continue. For example, Farm Sanctuary has put out a call for proposals for observational research on the cognitive and emotional lives of farm animals. Some researchers are indeed looking into using brain imaging to access the minds of other animals (see for example Emory University’s Gregory Berns’s work with dogs; Dr. Berns told me that he now has 11 dogs who are “MRI-certified”).

Moving forward as a society
The time is now to shelve outdated and unsupported ideas about animal sentience and to factor sentience into all of the innumerable ways in which we encounter other animals. When the Cambridge Declaration was made public, there was a lot of pomp, champagne and media coverage. There is no need to have this fanfare for a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience. It can be a deep, personal, and inspirational journey that comes from each of our hearts — and such a realization has a strong, and rapidly growing, evidence-based foundation.

The animals will be grateful and warmly thank us for paying attention to the science of animal sentience. When we listen to our hearts, we are recognizing how much we know about what other animals are feeling and that we owe it to them to protect them however we can. Please, let’s do it now. It is easy to do and we can do no less.

This article was adapted from “A Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience: No Pretending" in Psychology Today. More of the author’s essays are available in “Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed" (New World Library, 2013). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.This version of the article was originally published on LiveScience.

Source: LiveScience

Photo Credit: sagansense, Smithsonian Zoo, 2011

njwight:

(click to enlarge)
THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE   Please see this film! 
“Sentience is the capacity to feel.”
“The science is there and it is growing stronger by the minute and we are deliberately ignoring it because it is inconvenient to recognize it.”

njwight:

(click to enlarge)

THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE   Please see this film! 

“Sentience is the capacity to feel.”

“The science is there and it is growing stronger by the minute and we are deliberately ignoring it because it is inconvenient to recognize it.”

theanimalblog:

Beautiful Turlock lady. One of more than 4,400 hens rescued from a California egg farm by Animal Place, Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, and Farm Sanctuary after the owner left them without food for over two weeks. At Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California. 
By compassionatecamera. 

theanimalblog:

Beautiful Turlock lady. One of more than 4,400 hens rescued from a California egg farm by Animal Place, Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary, and Farm Sanctuary after the owner left them without food for over two weeks. At Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California. 

By compassionatecamera

#animals   #chicken   #sanctuary   #farm sanctuary   #animal rights   #animal welfare   #birds   #rescue   #queue   #submission  
shortformblog:

Best Greenpeace protest photo you’ll see today: ”A Greenpeace activist, dressed as a polar bear, sits inside a police car after being detained outside Gazprom’s headquarters in Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 5, 2012. Russian and international environmentalists are protesting against Gazprom’s plans to pioneer oil drilling in the Arctic.” (photo by Misha Japaridze/AP; ht @breaking)

shortformblog:

Best Greenpeace protest photo you’ll see today: ”A Greenpeace activist, dressed as a polar bear, sits inside a police car after being detained outside Gazprom’s headquarters in Moscow, Russia, on Sept. 5, 2012. Russian and international environmentalists are protesting against Gazprom’s plans to pioneer oil drilling in the Arctic.” (photo by Misha Japaridze/AP; ht @breaking)

(via fuckyeah-animalrights)


Potac, a three-year old bear, bites the bars of his four square metres cage in Luhansk. Potac was kept by his owner, the head of a Luhansk regional children’s public organisation to train hunting dogs. The Vier Pfoten (Four Paws) animal welfare organisation, together with authorities, confiscated the bear so it can be transferred to the Synevyr National Nature Park. In 2011, the Ukrainian minister of ecology and natural resources, Zlochevsky Mykola, announced a ban on the poor private captivity of brown bears
Photograph: Mihai Vasile/Vier Pfoten/REUTERS

Potac, a three-year old bear, bites the bars of his four square metres cage in Luhansk. Potac was kept by his owner, the head of a Luhansk regional children’s public organisation to train hunting dogs. The Vier Pfoten (Four Paws) animal welfare organisation, together with authorities, confiscated the bear so it can be transferred to the Synevyr National Nature Park. In 2011, the Ukrainian minister of ecology and natural resources, Zlochevsky Mykola, announced a ban on the poor private captivity of brown bears

Photograph: Mihai Vasile/Vier Pfoten/REUTERS

(Source: Guardian, via )

#luhansk   #four paws   #brown bear   #bears   #animals   #fauna   #wildlife   #nature   #animal welfare   #animal cruelty   #queue  

powerecoads:

Help end cruel foie gras production

The production of pâté de foie gras involves force-feeding ducks and geese by thrusting a long pipe down the birds’ throats and pumping an unnatural quantity of food directly into their stomachs. 

Plans have been revealed for an industrial-sized foie gras production facility, to house millions of geese, in China.

Rightly, this terrible practice of force feeding is widely condemned around the world and is prohibited it in much of Europe including the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Poland, as well as Argentina, Israel and in the U.S. state of California.

Please, act now: 
Sign our petition to the Chinese Premier: Ask him to stop plans for this cruel foie gras production facility

http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=105&ea.campaign.id=14396

(via beautefantasy)

#foie gras   #petition   #animal cruetly   #ducks   #animal welfare   #china   #geese  
mothernaturenetwork:

Happy National Farm Animals DayOn a holiday dedicated to the plight of less fortunate livestock, here are six videos that show how much farm animals appreciate even just a little freedom.

mothernaturenetwork:

Happy National Farm Animals Day
On a holiday dedicated to the plight of less fortunate livestock, here are six videos that show how much farm animals appreciate even just a little freedom.

pandacake:

The 5 solutions from Earthlings

pandacake:

The 5 solutions from Earthlings

Dolphins deserve rights, scientists told

Dolphins and whales should be considered non-human “persons” with basic rights such as life, liberty and well-being, the world’s largest science conference heard in Vancouver.

“Science has shown us that cetaceans have most, if not all, the characteristics that humans have, including intelligence, self-awareness, autonomy and social complexity,” said Lori Marino, one of four scientists who presented the Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting on the weekend. “Their basic needs are very much like humans — to be able to stay alive, to not be confined, to make choices and travel, and perhaps foremost to engage in social interaction.” (Photos: AFP/Getty Images)nationalpost

(via firepaw-deactivated20120511)

vegan-rage:

Marked for slaughter and desperate to get back to their mothers -Its a sad society that accepts this with indifference.

vegan-rage:

Marked for slaughter and desperate to get back to their mothers -Its a sad society that accepts this with indifference.

(Source: , via veganatalie)

#animal cruelty   #animal welfare   #lambs   #sheep   #animals  
firepaw:

(Photo) Female breeding pigs in so-called gestation crates. Bon Appetit, which  manages cafes, says it will ask suppliers to stop using the cages.                                                 (Humane Society of the United States)
.

Bon Appetit cafes to forgo pigs housed in cramped cages

Animal rights activists are winning ever more concessions from major  companies on the issue of cramped cages for pigs — this time from cafe  company Bon Appetit Management.
Bon Appetit, which operates more than 400 cafes in 31 states — including on EBay’s campus, at the University of Pennsylvania and at the Getty Center — said Tuesday that it would ban pork from providers who continue to use so-called gestation crates to house hogs.
The  company also said it would take its 11 million whole eggs each year  from hens living in open farms instead of those kept in battery cages.  Bon Appetit cafes also will stop serving foie gras and veal from  crate-confined calves.
And at least one-quarter of  its meat, poultry and egg purchases will come from producers with at  least one animal welfare certification, it said.
The changes —  which are to be phased in by the end of 2015 — met with the expected  approval from the Humane Society of the United States, with which Bon  Appetit made its statement.
Earlier this month, Spam maker Hormel Foods Corp. said it would stop using gestation crates by 2017. McDonald’s Corp.  said that by May, its suppliers must offer plans to phase out the  crates.
…
Los Angeles Times, Tiffany Hsu

firepaw:

(Photo) Female breeding pigs in so-called gestation crates. Bon Appetit, which manages cafes, says it will ask suppliers to stop using the cages. (Humane Society of the United States)

.

Bon Appetit cafes to forgo pigs housed in cramped cages

Animal rights activists are winning ever more concessions from major companies on the issue of cramped cages for pigs — this time from cafe company Bon Appetit Management.

Bon Appetit, which operates more than 400 cafes in 31 states — including on EBay’s campus, at the University of Pennsylvania and at the Getty Center — said Tuesday that it would ban pork from providers who continue to use so-called gestation crates to house hogs.

The company also said it would take its 11 million whole eggs each year from hens living in open farms instead of those kept in battery cages. Bon Appetit cafes also will stop serving foie gras and veal from crate-confined calves.

And at least one-quarter of its meat, poultry and egg purchases will come from producers with at least one animal welfare certification, it said.

The changes — which are to be phased in by the end of 2015 — met with the expected approval from the Humane Society of the United States, with which Bon Appetit made its statement.

Earlier this month, Spam maker Hormel Foods Corp. said it would stop using gestation crates by 2017. McDonald’s Corp. said that by May, its suppliers must offer plans to phase out the crates.

Los Angeles Times,

(via firepaw-deactivated20120511)

#animals   #pigs   #animal cruelty   #animal welfare   #pork  
mohandasgandhi:

Whales Are People Too

ONE OF THE MOST important features of science is that  scientific progress regularly leads to important ethical questions. This  is particularly true with research about cetaceans — whales, dolphins  and the like — because it has become increasingly apparent that the  inner life of these nonhumans is more complex than most humans realise.  We have learned that their capacity for suffering is significantly  greater than has been imagined—which makes much human behavior towards  these nonhumans ethically problematic.
There is now ample scientific evidence that capacities once thought  to be unique to humans are shared by these beings. Like humans, whales  and dolphins are ‘persons’. That is, they are self-aware beings with  individual personalities and a rich inner life. They have the ability to  think abstractly, feel deeply and choose their actions. Their lives are  characterized by close, long-term relationships with conspecifics in  communities characterized by culture. In short, whales and dolphins are a  who, not a what.
However, as the saying goes, there is good news and there is bad news.
The good news is that the scientific community is gradually  recognising the importance of these ethical issues. For example, more  marine mammal scientists are steering away from doing research on  captive dolphins. More significantly, a small group of experts who met  at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in the spring of 2010 to  evaluate the ethical implications of the scientific research on  cetaceans concluded that the evidence merited issuing a Declaration of  Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins. This group included such  prominent scientists as Lori Marino and Hal Whitehead. Particularly  important in this declaration was the recognition that whales and  dolphins are persons who are “beyond use”. Treating them as ‘property’  is indefensible.
Unfortunately, while there has been consistent progress in  scientists’ sensitivity to the ethical issues, the same cannot be said  for those who use cetaceans to generate revenue.
In contrast to the considerable detail devoted to virtually every  aspect of dolphin anatomy, physiology and behavior on the US  SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Animals website,  the discussion of intelligence is so brief and ignores so much  scientific evidence that it comes off as a self-serving dodge: “Rating  the intelligence of different animals is misleading and extremely  subjective”.
Even if this statement is true, it does not explain why no mention is  made of research that shows dolphins’ impressive cognitive abilities:  to pass mirror self-recognition tests (Lori Marino and Diana Reiss); to  comprehend artificial human language (Lou Herman); and to solve problems  by advanced planning (John Gory and Stan Kuczaj). The bibliography  offered contains nothing more recent than 2003 and, not surprisingly,  omits any research that indicates the intellectual and emotional  sophistication of these cetaceans.
To its credit, the website of the Vancouver Aquarium notes,  “Studies of numerous species of dolphins have shown evidence of high  levels of intelligence, including complex social behaviour, detailed  memory, self-recognition, and the ability to learn rudimentary  symbol-based artificial codes.” However, notably absent from this or any  other site connected with a captive facility is any full discussion of  the ethical implications of these facts.
Especially troubling is the failure of the industry to respond to the  scientific discoveries at issue with any serious re-evaluation of their  practices. One of the most important ethical implications of the  scientific research on cetaceans is that these individuals are  ‘persons’, not ‘property’. Yet captive facilities continue to offer  scientifically flawed and ethically unsophisticated defenses for their  current practices. Virtually no consideration is given to the ethical  status of their captive breeding programs. Treating self-aware beings as  a commodity whose reproduction is managed for economic advantage is, no  matter what benefit it produces, fundamentally offensive from an  ethical standpoint.
It is, of course, no surprise that the managers, employees and  researchers affiliated with enterprises that make money using captive  whales and dolphins do a poor job of being sensitive to the ethical  implications of the progress of marine mammal science. These people are  caught in a classic conflict of interest. On the one hand, they have a  duty to protect the welfare of the cetaceans in their care. On the other  hand, their jobs and careers depend on keeping the current business  model intact for as long as they can.
Predictably, when there’s money on the line, people will not only  rationalise all sorts of actions, they’ll even believe their own  rationalisations. As we saw with the 2008 economic meltdown, individuals  running banks and financial institutions on Wall Street were so blinded  by a desire to maximise profits that they not only ran their own  companies into the ground, they put the economy of the entire planet at  risk. When we humans are so ready to turn a blind eye to actions that  risk hurting ourselves for the sake of profit, it comes as no surprise  that we’ll readily ignore the possibility of hurting other intelligent  species.
All of the organisations that use captive cetaceans say they are  strongly committed to the welfare of the whales and dolphins under their  care. Given the ethical challenges that have come from the progress of  scientific research over the last 30 years, the question is whether  these organisations will respond appropriately on their own or whether  they will increasingly become the targets of controversy and consumer  boycotts.
The ultimate irony in this situation is that—as was the case with the  Wall Street banks that were sunk by greed and poor business  judgment—the business model in place at the companies that make money  from captivity is not even the best one to maximise profits. The  progress of marine mammal science combined with the activities of  cetacean advocacy groups will increasingly cast these operations in an  ethically questionable light with consumers. At the very least, these  facilities will have to expend money just to keep their customer base.  More importantly, the primacy of technology in the lives of young people  provides these operations with a perfect opportunity to move away from  the enormous ongoing costs connected with maintaining live whales and  dolphins. Sophisticated multi-media (HD, 3D, IMAX) presentations would  not only be more scientifically accurate, more interesting and more  acceptable from an ethical perspective than live display, they would  also be vastly more profitable over the long term.
We are left, then, with an interesting—but troubling—conundrum. If  moving away from using captive whales and dolphins is both the right  thing to do and more profitable than current practices, why isn’t it  happening?

[Image via]

mohandasgandhi:

Whales Are People Too

ONE OF THE MOST important features of science is that scientific progress regularly leads to important ethical questions. This is particularly true with research about cetaceans — whales, dolphins and the like — because it has become increasingly apparent that the inner life of these nonhumans is more complex than most humans realise. We have learned that their capacity for suffering is significantly greater than has been imagined—which makes much human behavior towards these nonhumans ethically problematic.

There is now ample scientific evidence that capacities once thought to be unique to humans are shared by these beings. Like humans, whales and dolphins are ‘persons’. That is, they are self-aware beings with individual personalities and a rich inner life. They have the ability to think abstractly, feel deeply and choose their actions. Their lives are characterized by close, long-term relationships with conspecifics in communities characterized by culture. In short, whales and dolphins are a who, not a what.

However, as the saying goes, there is good news and there is bad news.

The good news is that the scientific community is gradually recognising the importance of these ethical issues. For example, more marine mammal scientists are steering away from doing research on captive dolphins. More significantly, a small group of experts who met at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in the spring of 2010 to evaluate the ethical implications of the scientific research on cetaceans concluded that the evidence merited issuing a Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans: Whales and Dolphins. This group included such prominent scientists as Lori Marino and Hal Whitehead. Particularly important in this declaration was the recognition that whales and dolphins are persons who are “beyond use”. Treating them as ‘property’ is indefensible.

Unfortunately, while there has been consistent progress in scientists’ sensitivity to the ethical issues, the same cannot be said for those who use cetaceans to generate revenue.

In contrast to the considerable detail devoted to virtually every aspect of dolphin anatomy, physiology and behavior on the US SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Animals website, the discussion of intelligence is so brief and ignores so much scientific evidence that it comes off as a self-serving dodge: “Rating the intelligence of different animals is misleading and extremely subjective”.

Even if this statement is true, it does not explain why no mention is made of research that shows dolphins’ impressive cognitive abilities: to pass mirror self-recognition tests (Lori Marino and Diana Reiss); to comprehend artificial human language (Lou Herman); and to solve problems by advanced planning (John Gory and Stan Kuczaj). The bibliography offered contains nothing more recent than 2003 and, not surprisingly, omits any research that indicates the intellectual and emotional sophistication of these cetaceans.

To its credit, the website of the Vancouver Aquarium notes, “Studies of numerous species of dolphins have shown evidence of high levels of intelligence, including complex social behaviour, detailed memory, self-recognition, and the ability to learn rudimentary symbol-based artificial codes.” However, notably absent from this or any other site connected with a captive facility is any full discussion of the ethical implications of these facts.

Especially troubling is the failure of the industry to respond to the scientific discoveries at issue with any serious re-evaluation of their practices. One of the most important ethical implications of the scientific research on cetaceans is that these individuals are ‘persons’, not ‘property’. Yet captive facilities continue to offer scientifically flawed and ethically unsophisticated defenses for their current practices. Virtually no consideration is given to the ethical status of their captive breeding programs. Treating self-aware beings as a commodity whose reproduction is managed for economic advantage is, no matter what benefit it produces, fundamentally offensive from an ethical standpoint.

It is, of course, no surprise that the managers, employees and researchers affiliated with enterprises that make money using captive whales and dolphins do a poor job of being sensitive to the ethical implications of the progress of marine mammal science. These people are caught in a classic conflict of interest. On the one hand, they have a duty to protect the welfare of the cetaceans in their care. On the other hand, their jobs and careers depend on keeping the current business model intact for as long as they can.

Predictably, when there’s money on the line, people will not only rationalise all sorts of actions, they’ll even believe their own rationalisations. As we saw with the 2008 economic meltdown, individuals running banks and financial institutions on Wall Street were so blinded by a desire to maximise profits that they not only ran their own companies into the ground, they put the economy of the entire planet at risk. When we humans are so ready to turn a blind eye to actions that risk hurting ourselves for the sake of profit, it comes as no surprise that we’ll readily ignore the possibility of hurting other intelligent species.

All of the organisations that use captive cetaceans say they are strongly committed to the welfare of the whales and dolphins under their care. Given the ethical challenges that have come from the progress of scientific research over the last 30 years, the question is whether these organisations will respond appropriately on their own or whether they will increasingly become the targets of controversy and consumer boycotts.

The ultimate irony in this situation is that—as was the case with the Wall Street banks that were sunk by greed and poor business judgment—the business model in place at the companies that make money from captivity is not even the best one to maximise profits. The progress of marine mammal science combined with the activities of cetacean advocacy groups will increasingly cast these operations in an ethically questionable light with consumers. At the very least, these facilities will have to expend money just to keep their customer base. More importantly, the primacy of technology in the lives of young people provides these operations with a perfect opportunity to move away from the enormous ongoing costs connected with maintaining live whales and dolphins. Sophisticated multi-media (HD, 3D, IMAX) presentations would not only be more scientifically accurate, more interesting and more acceptable from an ethical perspective than live display, they would also be vastly more profitable over the long term.

We are left, then, with an interesting—but troubling—conundrum. If moving away from using captive whales and dolphins is both the right thing to do and more profitable than current practices, why isn’t it happening?

[Image via]

therecipe:

The U.S and Gabon are the only countries to officially support invasive research on chimpanzees.“Approximately 730 chimpanzees are currently maintained at least in part by the U.S. government, and about 300 more are held in captivity privately.” Here’s an article about how an influential panel evaluating research on chimpanzees may be stacked in favor of the controversial practice.Supporters say that it’s necessary to save human lives. Opponents say that the end doesn’t justify the means: chimps are so much like humans that they shouldn’t be subjected to research methods. If we could ask the chimpanzees if they would like oppressive confinement, crushing boredom, psychological trauma, surgery without pain relief afterward, etc., etc. I’m sure they would rather, you know, live in the wild with their families and be able to have their biological and physiological needs met.Read here about the horrible reality of research labs.

therecipe:

The U.S and Gabon are the only countries to officially support invasive research on chimpanzees.

“Approximately 730 chimpanzees are currently maintained at least in part by the U.S. government, and about 300 more are held in captivity privately.”

Here’s an article about how an influential panel evaluating research on chimpanzees may be stacked in favor of the controversial practice.

Supporters say that it’s necessary to save human lives. Opponents say that the end doesn’t justify the means: chimps are so much like humans that they shouldn’t be subjected to research methods. If we could ask the chimpanzees if they would like oppressive confinement, crushing boredom, psychological trauma, surgery without pain relief afterward, etc., etc. I’m sure they would rather, you know, live in the wild with their families and be able to have their biological and physiological needs met.

Read here about the horrible reality of research labs.