Quicklinks: Dogs and fish

This first story concerns the intelligence of dogs and the perception of dog owners’ about the intelligence of dogs. As per the io9 article title, people think their dogs are a lot smarter than they actually are. The closer people are to their dogs, the more they overestimate their dog’s intelligence.

This second story is a bit concerning. It started as a great story about a 12-year-old girl’s science fair project which made ecologists stop and think about an invasive fish. Now it’s taken a darker turn and appears that the project was not as original as the media attention made it out to be and the credit should actually be going to a young scientist. It turns out that the girl’s project is based on work that this guy had already done and published and that the girl’s father is friends with the young scientist’s former supervisor. While it’s still great for the girl, it’s not fair that the scientist is now being ignored and losing the credit.

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 I still maintain that the current mainstream view of animals is outdated and needs to recognise that non-human animals are, while not as intelligent as us, more intelligent than usually given credit for and, as fellow sentient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

Quick links: Animal thought

There’s a BBC article on whether animals are capable of imagination. It looks like they have limited powers of imagination, similar to small children. Most of the examples seem to be from other apes.

Also from the BBC is a piece on how dogs can understand situations from a human’s point of view.

Still on dogs, here’s an interview with a scientist who studies dog cognition. It covers the launch of his company to help people evaluate the intelligence of their dogs and, at the same time, benefit science. It’s also got a few questions on how smart dogs are, what people wrongly assume about dogs and a bit about the history of their domestication.

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

Islamic jihad against dogs

It appears, in Europe, that Islamic groups are attempting to ban dogs from appearing in public. In Islam dogs are “unclean” and, as usual, this religious viewpoint must apparently be respected and adhered to even by those of no or other faiths. Not only has this led to several poisonings of dogs but even attempting to respect their views is unacceptable. One woman said that Muslims shouldn’t apply to work with her because she has a dog. Instead of being grateful for her sensitivity to Islamic culture she had a complaint lodged against her by an anti-discrimination organisation!

Religious rules apply only to members of a religion. One cannot expect someone else to follow the tenets of their religion, especially not when they are based on superstitious nonsense.

EDIT: The Islam Democrats deny calling for a ban on dogs in The Hague and say their words were taken out of context. Though that doesn’t address all the other incidents brought up in the originally-linked post.

More on pets: part 1

Previously I posted my letter about cat sterilisation, specifically saying that it wasn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Of course that sounds radical as nearly everyone would say you should have your cat sterilised, indeed that was the very message of the piece to which I was replying and a message endorsed by the respected SPCA. So I’m taking this opportunity, with considerably more space, to further expand on the reasons for writing what I did.

I’ll admit there was a slight problem in my reply, that being that I was not familiar with the literature on cat sterilisation. However cats are not the only animals that are sterilised and I was basing my letter on Laura J. Sanborn’s article, The Long Term Health Effects of Spay/Neuter in Dogs, which I had previously encountered. The article which I read came up with these, shocking to me at the time conclusions. Continue reading