What do studies of animal cognition mean for ethics?

One of the most-viewed posts that I’ve written was about animal intelligence. I still maintain that the current mainstream view of animals is outdated and needs to recognise that non-human animals are, while not as intelligent as us, more intelligent than usually given credit for and, as fellow sentient creatures, deserving of moral protection. Currently, there is more and more scientific evidence being produced that supports intelligence in a wide range of species. I imagine resistance to these findings comes from a few sources such as many religions making an explicit separation between humans and animals (one which is not supported by biology), a lack of knowledge of studies of animal intelligence and a reluctance to acknowledge these findings as that would necessitate a complete overhaul of how we live our lives. Continue reading

Must we choose animals or science?

Lab rat (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

You might have heard about it already but, in April, animal rights activists broke into an Italian lab and released a number of lab animals. All it really accomplished was to slow down research and the animals will almost certainly die in the wild. This is an example of the wrong way to protest animal experiments. That’s not to say I don’t sympathise but I don’t think their methods are particularly constructive. Continue reading

Debating plant ethics

A pansy, the symbol of the free though movement. (source: Wikimedia Commons)

Some people might know that I became a vegetarian a few months ago for ethical reasons. In summary: many animals are sentient and capable of suffering and experiencing harm which means they are objects of ethical concern. It is unethical to cause harm to sentient creatures if it can be avoided. Eating meat is harmful to them, unnecessary for our survival and so ethically unacceptable. There are also health and environmental benefits to a vegetarian diet which are nice but were not the basis for my decision. That is all based on animal ethics. At least one person has now tried to start a debate on plant ethics. Continue reading