Tag Archive | "great apes"

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It is Time for Animals to Have Rights

Posted on 03 September 2015 by Jerry

Charles Darwin said, “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties…The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.” (see Beyond Animal, Ego and Time page 63) With those words Darwin foreshadowed the knowledge we would gain from the many experiments with animals we’ve conducted over the years. Calls for further experiments to end are justified by what we now know. In fact, it is time we granted additional rights to proven sentient animals.

“As of 14 September, no U.S. labs will be conducting invasive studies on chimps”, so reads the subtitle of an article appearing in the August 21, 2015 issue of Science magazine. This article announced there have been no permits filed anywhere in the U.S. to conduct invasive research on chimpanzees. This represents a new rule from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).

Animals who have passed the mirror and mark tests and consequently have self-recognition, have been gaining rights in various countries over the years.   Great Britain was the first government to ban experimentation on chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas. In 1999, New Zealand’s parliament gave apes legal protection from animal experimentation.

But the first country to bestow full freedom for these animals was the Spanish parliament that passed a resolution in 2008 that gave great apes the right to life and freedom. This was a result of work by the Great Apes Project that was founded by Peter Singer and Paola Cavalieri.

In 2013 India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests forbade the keeping of captive dolphins for public entertainment anywhere in the country. The Ministry is quoted as stating, “Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and its morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose.”

In late 2014 an orangutan in an Argentine zoo was transferred to a sanctuary after an Argentine court gave the ape a “non-human person” status. This was in response to a habeas corpus petition that was filed by the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) that took the position the ape had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object. The orangutan that had been in captivity since it was born in a German zoo was sent to live out its days in a wildlife sanctuary in Brazil.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Great Apes Project, Peter Singer, Paola Cavalieri, and the Nonhuman Rights Project founded by Steven Wise, who recently brought a habeas corpus writ for two chimpanzees that was denied in the U.S., have long been battling for the rights of these animals. Films such as the award winning “The Cove” have documented outright animal cruelty perpetrated on these sentient animals.

It is time that U.S. granted “non-human personhood” rights to these animals that have innate self-recognition. This includes all great apes (chimpanzees, orangutans and bonobos), all elephants, and all breeds of cetaceans (porpoises and dolphins). I would add a family of birds, the Corvids (crows, ravens, and jays) as self-aware and deserving of rights.

The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forest has provided us a good starting point. Their Declaration on cetaceans (porpoises and dolphins) should be applied to all sentient animals worldwide. They offer declarations that in an article in the July 30, 2013 issue of the Daily Kos are referred to as follows. They state, “Unlike…positive rights, such as the ‘right’ to education or health care, the animal right is, at bottom, a right to be left alone. It does not call for government to tax us in order to provide animals with food, shelter, and veterinary care. It only requires us to stop killing them and making them suffer.”

Their Declarations are as follows and should be recognized by local and international laws:

  1. Every individual animal granted rights should have the right to life.
  2. No sentient animal should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
  3. All of these animals have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
  4. None of these animals is the property of any state, corporation, human group or individual.
  5. All of these animals have the right to the protection of a natural environment.
  6. All of these animals have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
  7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.

Of course there should be a reasonable amount of time for zoos, entertainment parks, and researchers to find substitutes in their operations for these animals. In many respects these animals have been prized for their very intellect and self-awareness. After all it is their trainability that has made them so highly valued.

We need to once and for all recognize their legal right to exist and be left alone.   Indeed we should protect them from the human beings that are barely their betters. If this happens within the big established countries, all others will follow. Write your congresspersons, senators and tell all others it is time we made these rights official.

Use the following articles to gain additional information or access the source documents used in this writing.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6250/777.summary?sid=19a8e1ee-158f-45e8-af28-17f52bc6fa59

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/jun/26/humanrights.animalwelfare

http://www.wired.com/2014/12/orangutan-personhood/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/21/us-argentina-orangutan-iduskbn0jz0q620141221

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/07/30/1226634/-india-declares-dolphins-non-human-persons-dolphin-shows-banned#

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-ropeik/humans-or-non-human-anima_b_8052124.html

http://ca.news.yahoo.com/non-human-persons-animal-rights-090000255.html

http://science.time.com/2013/12/02/chimps-human-rights-lawsuit/

http://condofire.com/2015/05/22/ted-x-steven-wise-on-why-chimps-should-have-legal-person-status-non-human-rights-project/

http://www.lifenews.com/2013/02/04/transhumanism-pushing-rights-for-non-human-persons/

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Ongoing Battle For Sentient Animals

Posted on 12 February 2014 by Jerry

Researchers have identified a group of animals that have greater intellectual and emotional faculties, for example human beings, elephants, porpoises, great apes, and a family of birds known as Corvids.  (See Beyond Animal, Ego and Time Chapter 6, Human Uniqueness).  Society tries to protect human beings while some animal activists try to protect these other species, more lately the great apes.

After considerable progress, activists are pleased they’ve all but stopped experimentation on great apes in the U.S.   Recall the National Institute of Health (NIH) ended the use of chimpanzees in NIH funded research laboratories.  It has retired the majority of its 360 chimps used in medical research.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed making all wild and domesticated chimpanzees subject to the terms of the Endangered Species Act.  Although skirmishes continue in the U.S. the public pressure remains.

The situation in the European Union (EU) is marked by continuing controversy.  The EU issued a directive regarding medical research using non-human primates like chimpanzees.  While the 2010 EU directive was thought to give balance to the issues of minimum animal welfare, intensity of pain to be inflicted and ended most research involving great apes, it contained a provision that explicitly allowed ongoing research with great apes.  It said that research could continue if researchers could not use any other species of animal.

Activists perceived this was somewhat of a loss with EU governance groups and have now redirected their efforts to the local political level.  The EU directive required member states to enact these rules by the start of 2013.  It also said these states could not ‘gold-plate’ the regulations by making the state’s law stricter than the EU directive.  Activists have delayed adoption of the directive in several states and are getting cities and municipalities to pass new restrictive laws and regulations to defeat the spirit of the directive at the local level.

In addition there is a petition that began to be circulated in the EU in November of 2012 that already has over a million signatures.  These signatures are being validated.  If they prove genuine, the European Commission and Parliament must hold hearings.   This would lead to another round of open and public debate on the issues.

Now another frontier has been opened up in the saga to protect chimps and great apes in the U.S.   A group called the Non Human Rights Project has filed court suits looking to free four chimps from their captivity.  The intent is to acquire “legal personhood” for these animals.  While New York lower courts denied the suits, they are collectively on appeal.

An article entitled Lawsuits Seek ‘Personhood’ for Chimpanzees in the December 2013 issue of Science magazine identifies Boston attorney, Steven Wise, as one of the people leading the charge.   “In 1993, Wise attempted to sue on behalf of a dolphin that had been transferred to a Navy facility, but the judge ruled that, as nonpersons, animals don’t have the legal “standing” to sue.  (More recently, a federal judge dismissed a 2011 lawsuit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals when it tried to argue that Sea World had violated the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by keeping orcas as “slaves.”).”

It is doubtful American courts will grant ‘personhood’ to nonhuman primates anytime soon.  These efforts however, maintain the pressure on society to recognize there are species of animals that are much closer and have similar cognitive and emotional capabilities to humans.  This should lead to greater adoption of laws and regulations that at least create new categories of rules to take their awareness into account.

Use the following links to obtain more information or access the source documents used to prepare this posting.

http://www.nature.com/news/biomedicine-the-changing-face-of-primate-research-1.14645

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6163/1154.summary?sid=3efaff36-1beb-48fc-b483-465cc7f49507

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/12/chimpanzee-personhood-nonhuman-right/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/where-do-nonhuman-mammals-fit-in-our-moral-hierarchy/

http://science.time.com/2013/12/10/courts-say-chimps-arent-people/

 

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They Are Real Human-Like Attributes

Posted on 06 April 2013 by admin

A perennial question within animal research is are we projecting human attributes onto chimps and apes or is their human-like behavior natural?  The results of a review of multiple studies appeared in the journal “Animal Behavior” and declared the behavior observed was not a projection, was real, and there was no evidence of researcher bias.  These results prompted Mark Adams, PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh U.K., to state, “(Chimpanzees) have the same social problems that we do, they want to make friends and find mates and sort of gain position within their society.”

Charles Darwin famously observed, “There is no fundamental difference between man and the higher mammals in their mental faculties….The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, certainly is one of degree and not of kind.”  While our first study shows that primate researchers have not biased their results, the behavior of a chimp in Sweden shows an all too human-like deviousness.

Previous research in Sweden showed a chimpanzee at the Furuvik Zoo gathered stones from his enclosure that he threw at zoo visitors.  More recent research showed evidence the chimp is even more devious.  He hides his weapons stockpiles behind rocks and logs for future use and fashions projectiles with a combination of hay, mud and feces.  He keeps these stockpiles near the viewing area so as not to be seen approaching with a projectile but rather throwing one from close up so visitors have no opportunity to retreat.

Researcher Mathias Osvath, a comparative cognitive scientist and scientific director of Lund University’s Primate Research Station, was quoted in a May 18, 2012 posting by LiveScience.com as saying “The results indicate that he (the chimp) can anticipate behaviors of others who are not present in the situation where he makes his preparations.”

Reversing the process described above, researchers often look to animal behavior in an attempt to understand why humans evolved the behaviors they exhibit.  Even though only about 5% of mammals are monogamous, there is evidence of monogamy in mammals, including Humans, where both parents are needed to raise offspring.  Recent research on owl monkeys was reviewed by NationalGeographic.com in February of 2013.  It shows that monogamous pairs produce 25% more babies than monkeys in severed pairs.

Fernandez-Duque, a biological anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, observed “Call it love, call it friendship, call it marriage – there is something in our biology that leads to this enduring, emotional bond between two individuals that is widespread among human societies.” Larry Young, a behavioral neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, credits our brain chemistry in his new book entitled “The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction”.  Young states our organs “have evolved the mechanism to produce an emotional attachment.”  He believes monogamous attachments are reinforced by the production of pleasure producing oxytocin and dopamine which causes feelings of exhilaration and happiness during intimacy between animals.

All of this information once again serves only to reinforce the validity of Darwin’s earlier observation.  Chapter Six – Human Uniqueness in the author’s book Beyond Animal, Ego and Time delves further into these topics.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347212001157

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/18146336

http://news.yahoo.com/deceptive-chimp-hides-ammo-blasts-unsuspecting-zoo-visitors-161640789.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/02/130213-valentines-day-owl-monkeys-animals-love-science/

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Crows/Jays Equal Children in Tests of Aesop Fable

Posted on 06 October 2012 by Jerry

Studies of the Corvid Family of birds (crows, ravens, jays, etc.) further demonstrate their higher intellectual capabilities.  In a study entitled “How Do Children Solve Aesop’s Fable” published in the July 25, 2012 issue of PLoS ONE, crows and jays demonstrated problem solving ability equal to children between four years to seven years of age.  As described in an Aesop Fable, a thirsty crow comes upon a half filled jug of water.  Unable to reach the water to drink, the crow drops pebbles into the jug until it raises the water level high enough to take a drink. Confronting tests which exhibited similar problem solving situations crows and jays performed at a level comparable to children between ages four and seven.

Experimenters demonstrated that corvids are not only capable of mastering this behavior but showed an ability to understand that larger stones raised the water level faster than smaller pebbles. The study showed that developmentally at age eight children improve their intuitive problem solving and surpass what corvids can achieve.  The report states, “Children between 4 and 10 years of age were tested on the same tasks as the birds.  Overall the performance of the children between 5-7 years was similar to that of the birds, where children from 8 years were able to succeed in all tasks from the first trial.”

In a different study published this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers looked at the behavior of wild crows and suggested crows can “reason” about causality.  Researchers stated, “In the first set of events, the crows observed a human enter a hide, a stick move, and the human then leave the hide. In the second, the stick moved without a human entering or exiting the hide. The crows inspected the hide and abandoned probing with a tool for food more often after the second, unexplained series of events. This difference shows that the crows can reason about a hidden causal agent.”

Finally in a third study published this year in the Journal Animal Behavior written by Teresa Iglesias and colleagues at the University of California, Davis, researchers observed scrub jays sounding an alarm when coming upon the body of a dead jay.  More jays would come and screech over the body of the dead jay for up to a half an hour from surrounding trees and fences. What is unusual is that Jays establish breeding pairs that are territorial and not friendly with other jays.  Behavior that involves a large number of jays from multiple pairs is not common.

Researchers stated “The anecdotal report states that other animals, including elephants, chimpanzees and birds in the crow family, react to dead of their species….While reactions of animals to their dead are sometimes called “funerals,” that does not imply that there is an emotional or ritual element to the behavior.  We simply don’t know enough about the emotional life of animals to understand that.  I think there’s a huge possibility that there is much more to learn about the social and emotional lives of birds.”

Background: In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, Chapter 6 – Human Uniqueness, there is considerable discussion about animals that have passed the mirror and mark tests exhibiting self awareness.  Self aware animals include human beings, great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, but not gorillas), bottlenose dolphins, Asian elephants, and the corvid bird family that includes crows, ravens, magpies, jays, etc.  It is only through further research that we are discovering the heightened intellect represented by these animals in comparison to the human species.

Use the following links for more information:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0040574

http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/16389.full?sid=2863ef68-cb62-4629-ab02-8c6a623c258b

http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/3859/20120912/western-scrub-jays-hold-funerals-dead.htm

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What Makes a Brilliant Mammal?

Posted on 21 July 2012 by Jerry

Before the decoding of the genetic content of animal chromosomes, if we wanted to investigate why some animals are more intelligent than others, there were only a few things we could do.  We could observe and test animal behavior under a variety of circumstances.  This might identify which animals are smarter than others.  Then to determine why they are smarter we might surgically dissect them to see if there are physical differences that might explain their enhanced intelligence.

This is exactly what was done in the past.  Through the use of the mirror and mark tests, we identified four mammals (human beings, great apes not including gorillas, bottle nose dolphins, and Asian elephants) that were thought to have greater intelligence and had achieved self recognition.  Upon dissecting and analyzing their brains it was found they each had a highly developed right prefrontal cortex when compared to other animals.  This was assumed to be the origin of their self recognition and enhanced intelligence.  It was also thought to be the reason for their heightened self evaluation, episodic (autobiographical) memory, introspection, humor and empathy.

Today’s geneticists are pioneering the newest methodology.  They compare the decoded genomes of a variety of large brained animals with highly developed cognitive abilities to see if they can determine the genetic roots of the size of their brains and their superior intelligence.  The results of a recent study comparing the genomes of cetaceans (dolphins and whales) with nine other mammals, has shown remarkable genetic similarity among “intelligent” species including primates and elephants.

Although the research, reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society in the U.K. on June 26, 2012, is still a work-in-progress, it has helped the researchers identify 228 genes that are potentially under positive selection within the dolphin lineage.  This means these genes are becoming more common in the population of cetaceans (dolphins and whales) due to natural selection.  It can also be demonstrated that the overall substitution rate of one base for another inside these genes, in other words the rate of genetic change, has slowed compared to other mammals in the study.  This substitution has slowed to be within the range shown in primates and elephants.  At this point the hypothesis of the study is that the identified 228 genes demonstrate the parallel molecular direction of cetaceans with other mammals possessing large brains.

The study entitled “Dolphin genome provides evidence for adaptive evolution of nervous system genes and a molecular rate slowdown” by Messrs. Michael R. McGowen, Lawrence I. Grossman, and Derek E. Wildman observes that “One aspect of cetacean biology that is striking is the relative size and complexity of the brain, especially in toothed whales (odontocetes).  Similar to anthropoid primates, odontocetes have evolved brains that are larger than expected for their body size….relative brain size….such as in the bottlenose dolphin is greater than in all non-human primates, and sperm whales possess the largest brains in absolute terms.”

This type of research shows great promise for our eventual understanding of the evolution of intelligence.  It also will identify the genetic basis of human evolution that allowed us to become the dominant species on our planet.  It may also one day help us to understand how to insure normal human development or reverse the negative genetic anomalies that cause much hardship for some human beings.

Use the following links to obtain more information on these topics.  I have included an article on the bird species, corvids, because even though we do not understand the avian brain they have shown development of self recognition, hence the use of the picture of a crow in the blog to introduce evolutionary subjects.

http://www.pnas.org/content/98/10/5937.full?sid=ec83b504-9962-4b0d-83f5-e737adf45b7f

http://www.pnas.org/content/103/45/17053.full?sid=466e60df-243c-4d45-a802-ca1905d4ab20

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3adoi%2f10.1371%2fjournal.pbio.0060201

http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info%3adoi%2f10.1371%2fjournal.pbio.0060202

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/07/18/rspb.2012.0869.abstract

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