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Thread: If animals are sentient, what to do?

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    If animals are sentient, what to do?

    There are actually two questions in this.

    1) are at least some animals sentient (i.e.: are they aware of themselves as individuals, and of others as individuals, and do they respond to others as individuals via "feelings")?

    2) if the answer to #1 is yes, what does that mean for us humans and our dealings with animals?

    Here's an article worth reading:

    The science of animal consciousness

    ...All those cute cat videos, reliably mocked as a symptom of our unintellectual internet habits, bespeak our era’s willingness to acknowledge the inner lives of companion animals. Not that they’re tiny humans in kitten suits, of course — indeed, part of the fun in knowing a cat (not to mention watching those videos) is the obvious disparity between their view of the world and our own. But neither are they entirely incomprehensible...
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

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    Bronze Member Munin-Hugin's Avatar
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    Re: If animals are sentient, what to do?

    I know we've touched upon this in other threads, but I'm glad that you created one just for this specific topic. There's a lot of arguments out there for both sides, each siting scientific studies, observations, and the like, sometimes even using the same source for both sides of the argument. I'm not going to go delving too deeply into what others have written so much as using my own observations, and will try to remain objective though it may be difficult.

    I think it's pretty clear that, at the very least, mammals and avians show definite signs of sentience. I've always been a pet "owner" (which I put in quotes since with the sentience question the ownership of such could be considered slavery), mainly having cats but there have been some dogs along the way as well. One of the proofs of sentience is the ability to recognize others as individuals. This is a pretty obvious one, as I've seen animals respond differently to different people even upon first being exposed to them. Even if you take the visual differences away, I smell, walk, sound, move, and even my body temperature is different then those of my wife. My cats approach us both in different manners, their vocalizations are different depending upon who they are "talking" to, and they know they can get away with different things depending upon which one of us is present.

    Language is another sign of sentience. Corvids have been known to point, gesture with wings, use slight of hand, and have a greatly varied vocabulary and dialect from one place to another. I remember reading something that said in one forested area, they discovered over 70 different dialects, each one being specific to the various family groups. Future generations of crows are taught by the older ones to avoid certain things, so far as to stay away from particularly dressed humans, even though the young had never seen that type of dress before.

    A third is self awareness. They've tried to test this using mirrors, but those tests were sort of silly. Back to cats, if they were not self aware (using the mirror idea), they would not so casually walk by a mirror and ignore the sudden appearance of another animal. One of my wife's cats used to sit in front of her vanity mirror and groom himself then pause, looking at his reflection for a moment, and then start again targeting different areas to groom each time as though he was taking stock of what he looked like and deciding to fix those specific areas. Folks will say their animals all have different personalities so far as possessing senses of humor, and I'd agree with this 100%. They find different things amusing, and play in different ways. That surely is a demonstration of their individuality.

    They're also very aware of feelings, both emotional and physical. Granted, they must think we're a bunch of wimps when it comes to playtime because when they scratch at us it hurts but when they scratch at each other it's no big deal. They learn to play with a softer touch with us, appear to come to comfort us when we are feeling down, and will avoid stepping on or brushing against injuries we might have.

    So yeah, they're sentient. I think as far as our dealings with them goes, as a whole perhaps a universal understanding of their sentience may bring about a much more humane treatment of the ones we use for food and the like. It wouldn't make the continued eating of them wrong, as they eat each other on a regular basis as that is just nature, but perhaps we, as a whole, may come to show them a bit more respect in the roles they play in nature and the roles they play in our lives.

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    Member SonoftheWaters's Avatar
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    Re: If animals are sentient, what to do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Munin-Hugin View Post
    I know we've touched upon this in other threads, but I'm glad that you created one just for this specific topic. There's a lot of arguments out there for both sides, each siting scientific studies, observations, and the like, sometimes even using the same source for both sides of the argument. I'm not going to go delving too deeply into what others have written so much as using my own observations, and will try to remain objective though it may be difficult.

    I think it's pretty clear that, at the very least, mammals and avians show definite signs of sentience. I've always been a pet "owner" (which I put in quotes since with the sentience question the ownership of such could be considered slavery), mainly having cats but there have been some dogs along the way as well. One of the proofs of sentience is the ability to recognize others as individuals. This is a pretty obvious one, as I've seen animals respond differently to different people even upon first being exposed to them. Even if you take the visual differences away, I smell, walk, sound, move, and even my body temperature is different then those of my wife. My cats approach us both in different manners, their vocalizations are different depending upon who they are "talking" to, and they know they can get away with different things depending upon which one of us is present.

    Language is another sign of sentience. Corvids have been known to point, gesture with wings, use slight of hand, and have a greatly varied vocabulary and dialect from one place to another. I remember reading something that said in one forested area, they discovered over 70 different dialects, each one being specific to the various family groups. Future generations of crows are taught by the older ones to avoid certain things, so far as to stay away from particularly dressed humans, even though the young had never seen that type of dress before.

    A third is self awareness. They've tried to test this using mirrors, but those tests were sort of silly. Back to cats, if they were not self aware (using the mirror idea), they would not so casually walk by a mirror and ignore the sudden appearance of another animal. One of my wife's cats used to sit in front of her vanity mirror and groom himself then pause, looking at his reflection for a moment, and then start again targeting different areas to groom each time as though he was taking stock of what he looked like and deciding to fix those specific areas. Folks will say their animals all have different personalities so far as possessing senses of humor, and I'd agree with this 100%. They find different things amusing, and play in different ways. That surely is a demonstration of their individuality.

    They're also very aware of feelings, both emotional and physical. Granted, they must think we're a bunch of wimps when it comes to playtime because when they scratch at us it hurts but when they scratch at each other it's no big deal. They learn to play with a softer touch with us, appear to come to comfort us when we are feeling down, and will avoid stepping on or brushing against injuries we might have.

    So yeah, they're sentient. I think as far as our dealings with them goes, as a whole perhaps a universal understanding of their sentience may bring about a much more humane treatment of the ones we use for food and the like. It wouldn't make the continued eating of them wrong, as they eat each other on a regular basis as that is just nature, but perhaps we, as a whole, may come to show them a bit more respect in the roles they play in nature and the roles they play in our lives.
    Well said, I can agree with all your points. Consider my original none Abrahamic training was in Shamanism, not only do I agree that they are sentient but even have their own spirit and metaphysical abilities. I also agree that this doesn't mean should stop eating meat for it is part of the balance of life

  4. #4
    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: If animals are sentient, what to do?

    I suspect many animals are a damned sight more sentient than a lot of people...
    www.thewolfenhowlepress.com


    Phantom Turnips never die.... they just get stewed occasionally....

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    Supporter Hawkfeathers's Avatar
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    Re: If animals are sentient, what to do?

    African Grey parrots are sentient. Zero doubt.

    Can you hear me, Major Tom? I think I love you.

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    Live and learn anunitu's Avatar
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    Re: If animals are sentient, what to do?

    I am thinking every insect on the planet is a secret agent from the secret organization..Buzz Gordon and the flash in the pans.
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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: If animals are sentient, what to do?

    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkfeathers View Post
    African Grey parrots are sentient. Zero doubt.
    Parrots are one of the animals that are up-top of the list
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

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    Live and learn anunitu's Avatar
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    Re: If animals are sentient, what to do?

    There is the crow...I watched a nature thing on PBS Those birds are crazy smart...

    http://earthfireinstitute.org/2015/0...s-and-magpies/
    MAGIC is MAGIC,black OR white or even blood RED

    all i ever wanted was a normal life and love.
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    Bronze Member Munin-Hugin's Avatar
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    Re: If animals are sentient, what to do?

    My wife and I were chatting about Corvids being too damn smart for OUR own good, and she mentioned a story about a parrot. I guess the bird was able to hold very very basic conversations, instead of simple mimicking. And out of the blue, it asked "Am I pretty? What color am I?"

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    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: If animals are sentient, what to do?

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    There are actually two questions in this.

    1) are at least some animals sentient (i.e.: are they aware of themselves as individuals, and of others as individuals, and do they respond to others as individuals via "feelings")?

    2) if the answer to #1 is yes, what does that mean for us humans and our dealings with animals?

    Here's an article worth reading:

    The science of animal consciousness
    1) In my opinion, yes. I'm not going to bother with why I think that, because it's fairly evident to anyone who knows me. Plus Munin-Hugin put up some pretty valid points that don't really need repeating.

    2) We should treat them like individuals who have feelings (because they are and they do). We should avoid anthropomorphizing them and accept that they are a different species and think and act differently than we do. We should be aware that they feel pain (yes, all of them). We should be aware that they experience anxiety, fear and stress. We should be aware that they experience pleasure, joy and contentment. We should attempt to be sensitive to their needs in all interactions with them (not the needs we think they have, but the ones they actually have). We should kill them as quickly and painlessly as possible. We should accept that they actually don't necessarily see death and being eaten in the same way that we do. We should pull our heads in and stop deluding ourselves that humans are the only intelligent species on the planet, or that humans are the supreme species, or that humans know what is best for everyone else. We aren't and we don't.

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