Every once in a while an article featuring an overview of nonhumans’ amazing abilities is published in the public media. These articles are about animals’ complex emotional world, their high social skills, their ability to empathize, their grief, their curiosity and need for play, and generally about how smart they actually are. This week another such report, headlined Animals are Smart. Are Humans Holding Them Back? was published in the Huffington post, reminding how little humans actually know about nonhumans.
This publish was in close proximity to two items the Animal Liberation community shared online – that goats skillfully read human facial expressions, and that possibly a species of fishes “passed” the mirror test.
Activists’ inclination to promote information about the depth of nonhuman cognition in hope it would generate a shift in human’s views and behaviors is extremely naïve, and morally problematic.
The question how smart animals are has no ethical relevancy. Sentience is the only relevant criterion determining who belongs to the moral community. You and we acknowledge that, but most humans believe otherwise and so nevertheless relate “smartness” with moral treatment. It is not accidental that humans consider the trait which they see as their relative advantage over other animals as the most important one, and use it when it comes to moral treatment. Continue reading