Those are not valid defences

I’m rather fond of Japan. It’s a beautiful country with so many unique features, including its cuisine, architecture, writing, language and culture. Next month, I will even be heading to Japan to interview for a PhD position. However, that doesn’t mean I agree with all aspects of Japanese culture, nor does it excuse them from poorly-argued defences such as have recently been offered to the world in regards to the annual Taiji dolphin hunt.

The controversy was reignited this year by a tweet sent by the US ambassador to Japan. CNN covers the story here and includes some defences offered by the Japanese. There is also an interview with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe where he responds to the outcry. The interview seems to cover other topics as well and a relevant excerpt can be seen here, although I am not sure where the full interview is. The points I address come from both CNN articles and a short News24 piece. Continue reading

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Don’t limit inadvertent learning

Last month, UCT made an announcement about Emeritus Professor Richard Whitaker’s new version of the Illiad which made use of many South African terms. I am not in a position to judge whether this is a good idea or not, although the announcement includes the endorsement, “As for the South African vocabulary and idiom, words like inkosi, indaba, induna and impi actually take us much closer to what Homer was singing about than their English equivalents,” but I want to address this issue of reworking literature or other creative outputs to suit a specific culture. Continue reading

Do non-human animals have culture and morality?

Dolphins (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Obviously if you’ve read some of earlier posts you’ll now I think some of them do. Not all animals of course but some of them. I tried to convince you with my post on animal intelligence, specifically focussed on intelligence in animals other than primates, but I’ve since heard some more stories which I think are useful for expanding on some of the points I made there. This time I will be using some primate examples, since hopefully you’re convinced there is intelligence in other animals, as well as expanding on dolphins. Continue reading

Faculty bioethics day 1/2

Early this week (correction: last week. I started writing this last week but forgot to update the wording) I attended the Faculty of Health Sciences’ Bioethics Day. I found the talks very interesting and, at times, confusing. I won’t deny that there were some points that I just did not understand but I at least take comfort in that many other people, I think all my academic seniors, seemed just as confused. There were four talks in three sections, namely research ethics, professionalism and circumcision. I want to share, very briefly, what was said.

I was going to share everything in a single post but it’s actually quite a bit of effort writing everything up and I’ve been tired recently so I’ve broken it down a bit. I’ll post two talks now and the next two later. Continue reading

Animal Intelligence

In my recent post on plant ethics I said that animals were of ethical concern because we have good reasons to believe that, like us, they are capable of thinking and feeling and so are able to suffer. In this post I want to share some of those reasons and hopefully convince you, if you aren’t already convinced, that animals are far more than just unthinking, unfeeling machines. Since we are so closely related to other primates I’m going to ignore those examples and rather focus on two other animal groups, dolphins and corvids (ravens and crows). Continue reading