Showing posts with label sentient animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sentient animals. Show all posts

Saturday 20 April 2024

Scientists propose that we should regard animals in general as conscious beings

Scientists have suggested that animals in general should be considered as conscious beings (reported in The Times today). The scientists have issued a declaration to that effect. What do they mean? The Times doesn't explain what "conscious being" means. I will presume that one aspect of this description means that the animal has the ability to be self-conscious which means that they have the ability to be aware of the fact that they are a being. The classic test is to look into a mirror and recognise the fact that you are looking at yourself.

Consciousness, according to Jonathan Birch from the London School of Economics, "gives us the ability to locate ourselves in time, to plan for the future, to remember specific events from our past, to make flexible decisions and learn from very sophisticated ways about the world around us."

On the mirror test, Tom Whipple, the science editor of The Times states that, "If you show some fish species a mirror, they will first attack it but then, when that fails, do odd things like swim upside down to see if their reflection follows."

This indicates that these fish species referred to are initially confused by the mirror image and then become aware of it indicating that they are self-conscious. They are conscious beings. It's remarkable if it's true that fish are self-conscious because we kill them in the billions in the cruellest of ways in the oceans annually. People treat fish as objects; inanimate objects actually. It's been found that this can feel pain. Another indication that they are conscious beings.

At the moment there are only a handful of animals that the scientists agree are self-conscious, which would fly in the face of this declaration, if my interpretation of what "conscious beings" means.

In another test, scientists made crayfish anxious. Then they alleviated that anxiety with a tranquilizing drug. They found it worked. So their brain responded to a mind altering drug. This proves that they have a mind.

A lot of scientists and philosophers believe that it is time to create the default position that animals are conscious.

Jonathan Birch from the London School of Economics said: "You've got all these behaviours where in the human case we would very naturally think that this was the sort of behaviour that consciousness enables". He's saying the behaviours of many animals indicate consciousness because they are similar to the behaviours of people.

Jonathan Birch is one of the organisers of "The New York Declaration". Animal sentience is bound up with animal consciousness an animal self-awareness. There's been a lot of research and subsequent information on the Internet about animal sentience. It's a great development because it drives people to an awareness that animals feel pain which in turn promotes animal welfare, the objective of hundreds of millions of animal advocates.

It said that 10 years ago the concept of animal sentience was hardly discussed and not even been founded. Things have changed.

Intelligence and sentience should not be confused as per Jeremy Bentham's argument. All we need to know is that an animal can feel pain and can suffer. If an animal can suffer it is a sentient being.
"The question is not, 'Can they reason? Nor can they talk? [But] can they suffer?
At the moment we believe that it is not possible to know for certain that an animal is conscious or self-aware. Although for mammals and birds it's almost certain that they have a "conscious experience". 

But crows, known for their intelligence, "can adaptively problem-solving, recognise people and even report their own experiences". It is possible, though, to argue that the ability to problem solve does not mean for a certainty that crows are conscious beings.

The above-mentioned declaration has been signed by 38 global experts.

"In the case of octopuses and cuttlefish and things like that, it is primarily behavioural evidence. But it's behavioural evidence pointing to remarkable abilities that no one really thought were there, to do with simulating the future, remembering specific events from the past", said Jonathan Birch.

The declaration, for me, is an indication that humans are moving in the right direction in their relationship with animals; a direction towards better animal welfare and a recognition that animals are sentient and possibly many more are self-aware than previously we thought was the case.

Even bees can be regarded as sentient and conscious beings. A recent test showed they enjoyed playing with a little ball.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Friday 15 March 2024

Spanish court orders dog support payments by husband to wife on divorce

European country's laws (except UK) regard animals as sentient beings. In those countries where animals are treated as sentient beings under the law you have to make provision for the caretaking of a companion in a court order when you divorce if you can't agree. 

Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal among other European countries recognise animals under their laws as sentient beings. In the UK, companion animals such as dogs and cats are regarded as inanimate objects under the law which is a throwback to many years ago when they were regarded as "chattels" to use an old-fashioned word. It means objects, dead objects, owned by the divorcing couple.

Yes, in the UK dogs and cats are divided up like the television and furniture and if they can't agree then the court makes an order.

But in this story, from Spain, a court in Pontevedra ruled that the father i.e. the husband or former husband must pay €75 a month per child and €40 for the dog per month which represented "half of the extraordinary expenses [and] veterinary bills."

So you can see that in Spain, on divorce, if there is a dog or cat - a member of the family - and if the parties can't agree, a court will make an order for the dog or cat's caregiving in exactly the same way that the court would make an order for the children. It's great and it's a very good example of the power of regarding animals as sentient beings. It dramatically improves animal rights.

In this instance, the dog went to live with the wife which is why the husband has to make this payment to the wife to look after the family dog. It appears that they couldn't decide who the dog should live with so the court also made an order that the dog lives with the wife.

The order was made under the reform of the Animal Welfare Act in 2021. This law facilitates shared custody which hopefully can be arrived at by agreement but if not, as mentioned, the court steps in, makes an order and the order is enforced through subsequent court proceedings if required.


P.S. please forgive the occasional typo. These articles are written at breakneck speed using Dragon Dictate. I have to prepare them in around 20 mins.

Wednesday 4 August 2021

Unconditional love the primary benefit of the human-cat relationship (and verbal communication is the primary benefit in the human-human relationship)

The long title sums up the summary of a study published on the website Psychological Reports and which is entitled Attachment to Feline Companions. The study coordinators used a mail survey of 100 adult cat owners to investigate the attachment of cat guardians with their companion animals. 54 of the participants were members of a nationwide computer cat club while 46 were attending a cat show in Anaheim, California. The participants were therefore committed cat people.

Jay Leno and his cat.  Screenshot.
Jay Leno and his cat.  Screenshot. Leno loves his cat and vice versa I'd say.

More than 90% of the participants said that they preferred cats to other companion animals because of the following:

  • Ease of care;
  • Affection and companionship;
  • Personality.

The positive characteristics of the cat companion were linked with attachment and people tended to put aside feline behaviours which they might find difficult.


A comparison between the benefits of the cat-human relationship compared to the human-human relationship indicates that the participants appreciated the affection and unconditional love of the former and verbal communication as the primary benefit in respect of the latter

As we all know, the study organisers concluded that cat companions can be a very important source of pleasure and emotional comfort.

This study was published on June 1, 1994. A subsequent study published in September 2, 2015 concluded that domestic cats do not show signs of secure attachment to their owners. They decided that cats were "typically quite autonomous even in their social relationships and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of security and safety."

The conclusions of the second study point to a one-sided relationship. The first study is about people appreciating the benefits of living with a companion and in the second study they seem to be saying that domestic cats do not appreciate the relationship quite as much as their owners.

The conclusion that I have is that studies about cats should not be entirely relied upon partly because they are conducted by people who often don't know cats that well or at all. Also, they frequently use questionnaires, and sending out questionnaires to people is fairly inaccurate at best.

Good cat guardians would say that they fully appreciate and rely on their cat companion's presence in their lives as a companion and as an excellent substitute for a human companion, very often. They will also state that they firmly believe that their cat loves them or at least demonstrates affection towards them. 

And that cats do appreciate the security and the general ambience and environment plus the food that there cat owner provides. The human-cat relationship is an interspecies relationship of which there are many. It is not just cats and people who become friends although that is the most common interspecies relationship together with the dog-human relationship.

You will see many dogs being friends with cats and cats being friends with squirrels and many other animals including deer et cetera. I believe that these are all genuine friendships. It looks that way to me. And if it looks like that it probably is that. We know that cats are sentient beings with feelings. It is a very short step from recognising that aspect of their being and behaviour to also accepting that they can make genuine friends, bonded through affection.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Gentle horse befriends tiny kitten

Kitten and horse relationship is gorgeous
Kitten and horse relationship is gorgeous. Screenshot.

There is a size barrier here! But there is love all around. The kitten brushes against the horse's nose while the horse smells the kitten's scent. It is gorgeous and super-tender. Horses and cats go together like apple pie and custard. There are so many examples of cats befriending horses at stables that we have to conclude that it is commonplace. Interspecies relationships are good for animal welfare. It makes humans sit up and pay attention to the sentience of animals and when we remind ourselves of it, we treat them with more respect.

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