Meet the apes – and other animals – that can memorise 10,000 pictures, use tools, recognise words, express empathy and put humans to shame at a touch-screen number game.
The more we study animals, the less special we seem.
Baboons can distinguish between written words and gibberish. Monkeys seem to be able to do multiplication. Apes can delay instant gratification longer than a human child can. They plan ahead. They make war and peace. They show empathy. They share.
“It’s not a question of whether they think — it’s how they think,” says Duke University scientist Brian Hare. Now scientists wonder if apes are capable of thinking about what other apes are thinking.
The evidence that animals are more intelligent and more social than we thought seems to grow each year, especially when it comes to primates. It’s an increasingly hot scientific field with the number of ape and monkey cognition studies doubling in recent years, often with better technology and neuroscience paving the way to unusual discoveries.
For many people the bird is a symbol of a higher freedom we long for. We dream of being like a bird, to ‘soar like an eagle’ ‘be free as a bird’ and have ‘wings like a dove’. We have a wishful envy of the bird’s ability to seemingly fly away from everyday troubles.
Our societal acceptance of keeping birds in cages as pets provides another clear example of generational thinking. Rather than acknowledging the obvious cruelty of keeping a living being destined to fly free in the sky confined in a cage, we have been conditioned to think that this practice is acceptable.
We convince ourselves that the bird doesn’t suffer as it knows no other life and was bred in captivity, yet we know that behaviours inherent to each species cannot be ‘bred out’, and that their ability to undertake them provides quality of life. For our own kind, being caged equates to imprisonment—it is no different for any other species that shares this world with us.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are more birds kept as companions in Australia than all dogs and cats put together.
It was in ancient Egypt that bird were first cages and prized for their beauty. The motivation for caging birds has not changed throughout the centuries—it is about what they contribute to our lives—and their innate needs are forgotten and denied them.
Caged birds often exhibit destructive abnormal behaviours directly related to mental suffering such as feather plucking, excessive vocalization, fear and aggression. This is not surprising when natural behaviours such as flying, choosing a mate, belonging to a flock, building nests and dust bathing are denied to them.
The relationships that we are able to have with dogs and cats are ones where there are clear mutual benefits—as the presence of both parties can enrich the lives of each other. The keeping of birds in cages as companions bears no resemblance to these relationships.
If we open our eyes and minds to a caged bird’s existence as it awaits sale in a pet shop—and disregard what we have been conditioned to accept and see—we cannot help but acknowledge the tragedy, that this living being which nature intended to soar free in the sky, will never feel the wind beneath its wings.
Animal rights is not just for big animals
Every year endless goldfish and other ornamental fish are sold and countless die. Many people stick their fish in glass bowls. The bowls are symmetrical and interesting but cause their inhabitants serious problems:
The water becomes deadly because the fish release liquid and solid waste into it.
The bowl has a small surface area, so not enough oxygen dissolves into it from the atmosphere for the fish to breathe.
Left close to sunshine the water gets too warm and what little oxygen it has defuses out.
The water has no vegetation to act as cover; the fish cannot conceal themselves from staring eyes outside the bowl nor shelter from each other within it.
The fish cannot satisfy their natural instinct to search for food or swim into crevices and explore; monotony extends for them 360 degrees all around.
Artificial life-support systems in bowls are weak, difficult to maintain and are no substitute for a better home.
Goldfish cannot shout and wave placards telling their people what they want. So it is up to us to point out to our fish-keeping neighbours the demerits of bowling fish. Point out to them how they can keep their fish happy, that fish do best in a roomy tank or, if they are outdoor fish, in a well positioned garden pond with lots of vegetation for aeration and cover.
(Courtesy of animalethics.org.uk)
Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint
This is not just a good book for animal lovers… it’s a must read for everyone. Marc Bekoff has an inspirational way of encouraging us to care about all the animals we share this planet with, for both their benefit and ours.
“Proof that animals are wistful, altruistic, tender, jealous, and conversational. But are these interesting facts to use to enliven a cocktail party, or do human obligations ensue when we realize that the intelligent life forms we seek in space are all around us here on earth? Marc Bekoff ’s challenge to humanity to relate to those on the plate — and in other places no sentient being deserves to be — is riveting reading that may occupy your thoughts long after the last page is turned and the lights are out.” — Ingrid E. Newkirk, founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
“Marc Bekoff at his best! He enhances our respect and understanding of animals using the science of ethology and philosophical inquiry to explain their behavior, and in the process awakens our compassionate concern for all creatures great and small.” — Dr. Michael W. Fox, veterinarian, syndicated columnist, and author of Dog Body, Dog Mind and Cat Body, Cat Mind