Do Animals Deserve Human Rights, Too? AS RESEARCH SHOWS ELEPHANTS SHARE SOME HUMAN TRAITS .

Daily Mail (London), November 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Do Animals Deserve Human Rights, Too? AS RESEARCH SHOWS ELEPHANTS SHARE SOME HUMAN TRAITS .


Byline: MICHAEL HANLON

ARE WE alone? Is human intelligence all that there is?

No, this is not a question about space aliens but about the creatures with which we share the planet: our fellow animals.

The question of animal intelligence - and animal sentience, the possession of feelings and perception, which is a related but separate issue - has vexed mankind for millennia. Because of our unique relationship with the animal world, it is something we have tended to sweep under the carpet.

These are, after all, the beings we keep in farms and kill for food, prod and poke in the name of medical progress, hunt, skin, stuff and hang upon our walls.

So experiments such as the remarkable one reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences raise a lot of uncomfortable questions.

Three Asian elephants, Happy, Maxine and Patty, who live at the Bronx Zoo in New York, 'passed' a classic test which is designed to see if a creature possesses self-awareness.

The test is quite simple and has been used on a number of species with varied - and interesting - results.

Basically, you use a mirror to find out if the animal recognises its own reflection. By painting a spot or cross on the animal's forehead, as was done with the elephants, you can see how the creature reacts when it stares into the looking-glass.

All three elephants behaved in ways suggesting they realised the 'animal in the glass' was themselves.

They poked their trunks into their mouths and watched the reflection in fascination.

One - Happy - passed the spot test: she tried to wipe the mark off her face with her trunk after seeing it in the mirror.

This suggests, say the scientists, that the elephant can join a small elite of species that have true self-awareness. 'The social complexity of the elephant,' said Joshua Plotnik, one of the scientists behind the study, 'its well-known altruistic behaviour and, of course, its huge brain made the elephant a logical candidate species for testing in front of a mirror.' The 'mirror test' was invented by a scientist called Gordon Gallup in 1970. It is considered to be the best-available marker of whether a species shows true 'selfawareness', the key property of sentience which can be defined, loosely, as a conscious feelreligiousing of self as separate from the world around.

So far, apart from humans, the great apes - chimps, bonobos, orang-utans and at least one gorilla - have passed the test, as have dolphins and, possibly, pigeons.

Dogs fail every time, as do cats and most monkeys, although one species, the capuchin, reacts in an intermediate way, suggesting some awareness that the monkey in the mirror might possibly be itself.

Of course, plenty of animals, such as budgerigars, are fascinated by mirrors, but the key difference here is that they do not seem to realise that the reflection is of themselves.

So what does this prove? Is it really meaningful to talk about, say, a chimp being 'self-aware' and a dog not so? Does this mean that we should consider the 'lower animals' as only semi- conscious at best, zombies at worst?

Until quite recently, the answer given by most scientists would have been a definite 'yes'. It has been something of a taboo among scientists to suggest animals have mental lives at all.

This thinking stretches back a long way. Aristotle denied the power of thought to animals, asserting that they are capable only of appetite and sensation, and furthermore that all nonhuman creatures are there for the service of mankind.

This became a prevailing view in Western thought until surprisingly recently (although in other cultures the idea that animals were sentient and had 'souls' was commonplace).

The 17th- century French philosopher Rene Descartes considered animals to be mere automata, organic machines which could have no more mental life than a clock.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Do Animals Deserve Human Rights, Too? AS RESEARCH SHOWS ELEPHANTS SHARE SOME HUMAN TRAITS .
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.