Friday, November 29, 2013

Animals and Human Animals

Dear All,

In recent years, humans have become increasingly aware of the similarities that exist between the consciousness and behaviour of non-human animals and their own.
Consequences of this awareness are:

  • a growing realization that the way humans have been exploiting and torturing animals for economic gain (e.g. food, clothing, research, entertainment, etc) is inhumane and criminal
  • a stronger demand for basic animal rights
  • an increasing interest in researching animal consciousness and behaviour.

Please have a look at the following websites:

Article about Animal Consciousness:

Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness:

Conference about Animal Consciousness:

3 TED Talks about Animal Consciousness:

bonobos (apes) not only understand spoken English but are able to learn  to communicate in writing:
Susan Savage-Rumbaugh: The Gentle Genius of Bonobos (TED)

dolphins who think, talk, are creative, conscious, and aware:
Diana Reiss: Thinking Dolphins (TED)

whales and dolphins who communicate by sound:
Peter Tyack: the Intriguing Sounds of Marine Mammals (TED)

… and:
Einstein, the Talking Parrot:

Also really interesting: the Animal Communicator:

Please share your thoughts about this topic with the rest of us!

Thank you,



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  2. After reading these articles and seeing the videos, it feels like as humans we're overestimating our intelligence and ability to survive on earth. Many of these animals have continuously evolved over thousands and millions of years, developing survival adaptations to the ever changing environment. To me, this shows a great deal of intelligence and consciousness. Their adaptation may not be a direct result of their consciousness like "oh I'm going to change this so I can survive" sort of idea, but I do think their behaviours play a big part in contributing to their overall consciousness. The feedback the receive through interacting with each other and the rest of their ecosystem

    There's a phenomena in biology termed the Mullerian mimicry where an animal (usually insects) take on characters of resembling similar species that have show to be beneficial (ex. avoiding predators, better camouflage). And somehow I thought of this during my reading/viewing of the material on animal consciousness. I think it's because there is a lot of intelligence in the animal kingdom that don't know about and as a young species out of billions, we should take time to appreciate the survival-ship of our relatives and not underestimate their ability to be conscious of their environment.

    1. Excellent points, Jenny! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I agree with Jenny that humans have overestimated their intelligence and ability to survive. I don't know why anyone ever decided that humans are somehow more valuable or important than other animals, or why it is such widespread belief. Animals have evolved for thousands of years, including humans. I believe that animals other that humans have just as much right to the planet as humans do. Humans have created a self entitled ownership over the planet, exploiting it and all its resources. Animals are not disposable and should not be exploited for human gain.
    I think the exploitation of animals mimics other negative behaviours that humans have on the earth. We are using up natural resources, depleting rain forests, leaking toxic chemicals into the environment, all without thinking of the repercussions of our actions. The resources we take for granted will run out, including animals if we treat them awfully and abuse them. I believe there needs to be greater awareness of this issue raised in our society, many people may not aware of the problems. Websites and Ted Talks like the ones above are important to share with people to spread this message.

  4. Hi,
    I also believe that animals have emotions and feelings just like we do to. We may feel we are superior to them based on what we think intelligence is, but animals have often a much better senses and awareness for what is going on around them. For example animals often know before us when natural disasters like earthquakes, volcano eruptions or tsunamis will happen. Some of them can see, hear and smell better than we can. Humans are not the fastest or strongest species either. Our intelligence has just allowed us to expand our population and live anywhere in this world. I also believe that we are taking much more than we need and harming other beings as a result.
    I think we should look at other species to understand how to live in harmony with nature and find a balance in our lives. Instead of exploiting animal for their meat and fur we should have a mutualistic relationship with them so that both sides benefit. In my opinion when we harm animals we also harm ourselves. We depend on animals much more than we are aware of but they will become extinct if we do not treat them right.

  5. I watched the thinking dolphin TED video and it was very insightful, especially the part where they explain the 3 stages of self recognition when looking into a mirror. Dolphins seem to be very intelligent creatures and I found it quite amusing when these mammals would act silly to test if the being in the mirror was really a reflection of themselves. This shows that their consciousness is not too different from that of humans, and I believe that not only dolphins, but also other animals are capable of intense emotions under certain circumstances.

  6. After watching the TED talk on our similar characteristics with dolphins, these similarities really struck me that animals can hold the so many of the capabilities as us, as the speaker talks about its ability to analyze its own movements it begs the question, what makes us as humans so much more important? If other animals such as chimpanzees or dolphins have the capabilities of being just as intelligent as any human…somehow we have the power to act as though we are better than them. And some people may have the argument that they are animals, and animals they will always be. But maybe that is something that has to be changed. As the speaker says …"Think Dolphin". That could really mean many different things to the audience, but how I perceived this message was, that we do not necessarily have to put ourselves on the equal scale as animals, such as dolphins or chimps…but we do not have to treat them as if they have no intelligence and view them as just "animals". Respect them how you would respect another person. I found that was the important lesson I had received from this TED talk.

  7. I am just posting an alternative view. In the biological ecosystem, animals will eat others regardless of the prey's population numbers. 99.9% of species that ever existed on Earth is now extinct. I don't think at any time in history a species tried to rescue another species they preyed upon. The extinction of species led to new speciation events, and that how nature always worked. I agree with the fact that animals have consciousness, but do they exhibit the same complexity and us? Which species of animals has the ability to use something they have created to treat diseases? Which species of animals has come to realize they can harm the environment and then try to reverse what they have done. I mean, sure humans have done some unspeakable things, but I think we deserve the credit and appreciation of what we have achieved. Our achievement may not have been possible without exploitations of the environment and other organisms. Some people should really stop being hypocrites and pretend to care about every living thing like they are human beings. Just by being alive, we have killing micro-organisms every second. I just want to say that we should appreciate what we are, but for us to become better, some necessary sacrifices have to be made.