Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Evidence of moral behavior in animals

Many people seem to believe that animals are not capable of complex emotions, and that by interpreting their behaviors as such we are simply grafting human emotion onto what we see.

I personally feel that this belief is nothing more than a justification for viewing animals as somehow lesser than humans. It all goes back to that need that some people have to feel humans are somehow special. You know, the whole "God created animals for humans to use" or "Only humans can go to heaven" thing.

I blogged before about displays of jealousy in horses, and a study that proved dogs get jealous too. Now I'd like to direct your attention to an article that talks about moral behavior among animals. There are several convincing examples given in the article, some of which I have seen in our own pets. For instance, one of our dogs plays gently with smaller dogs, just as described in the article; and my horse has demonstrated clear concern after doing something to cause me to fall.

The article is a prelude to an upcoming book, Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals. A visit to my library's online card catalog revealed that the author has also put out another, similar book: The Emotional Lives of Animals. I intend to read both, and greatly look forward to seeing what this scientist has to say!

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