NEWS CONCERNING ANIMAL ETHICS
----- Original Message -----
From: "DawnWatch" firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: Wednesday, July 06, 2005
Subject: DawnWatch: Time Magazine article on animal ethics -- 7/11/05 edition
The July 11 edition of Time Magazine (on stands now) has a positive article headed "Honor Among Beasts. Think altruism, empathy and a sense of fair play are traits only humans possess? Think again." (Pages 54-56.)
It opens with a description of the "play bow" dogs do before engaging in mock fights. The magazine spread includes lots of fun photos of dogs in various play-fight postures. Marc Bekoff, an ethologist at the University of Colorado, tells us that dogs playing are also "exchanging an incredible amount of information."
The article lets us know how much things have changed for the better:
"Only a decade or so ago, scientists were arguing vigorously over whether animals had emotions: just because a dog looks sad or a chimp appears to be embarrassed doesn't mean it really is, the skeptics said. That argument is pretty much over. The idea of animal emotion is now accepted as part of mainstream biology."
Given the place rats generally have in society, largely considered vermin worthy of only of extermination and not even included in laws that protect laboratory animals, the following line was welcome:
"And thanks to Bekoff and other researchers, ethologists are also starting to accept the once radical idea that some animals-primarily the social ones such as dogs, chimps, hyenas, monkeys, dolphins, birds and even rats-possess not just raw emotions but also subtler and more sophisticated mental states, including envy, empathy, altruism and a sense
Later in the article a researcher notes that social animals such as "dogs and rats" clearly have a sense of justice.
The article discusses various studies showing that animals who share work will also share the food reward, even when not forced to.
One researcher suggests that animals may have rules of conduct but that "doesn't mean they're ethical creatures."
Following that line, the article ends with:
"But while animals may not possess true ethics or morality, Bekoff, De Waal and a growing number of their colleagues think fairness and cooperation may be the forerunners of those qualities, just as the apelike brain of our distant ancestor Lucy was the forerunner of our own, much more sophisticated minds. After all, Lucy was no Einstein-but without her, the leap from the tiny brains of primitive mammals to the subtle intelligence of an Einstein could never have occurred."
I wonder about the assumption that all humans are "ethical creatures."
The article is lengthy and a fun read. You will find it on line at:
It gives us a great opportunity for letters about the way human society treats members of other species.
Time Magazine takes letters at:
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Shorter letters are more likely to be published.
Yours and the animals',
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at
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"starting to accept the once radical idea that some animals-primarily the social ones such as dogs, chimps, hyenas, monkeys, dolphins, birds and even rats-possess not just raw emotions but also subtler and more sophisticated mental states, including envy, empathy, altruism and a sense of fairness.">>
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