Why are some animals self aware and others not? What is self awareness? Which animals are self aware?
I know, I am deviating off my brief on this one and I hope Sara will forgive me but I was recently involved in a discussion where it became obvious that there is virtually no understanding of this topic and the ramifications are rather important for humans.
Some primates, elephants, some whales and some dolphins are considered to be self aware and you may ask why should we take any notice?
Well being self aware means that you pass the mirror test. This is designed to show whether you recognise yourself instead of believing that the image is in fact another animal. It may sound a crude test but it does show that certain species have a level of intelligence beyond that which we accept.
In 2007 an American lawyer Steven Wise founded the non human rights project.(NhRP) and in 2013 he sought to change the status of animals that were self aware from property to that of persons. This in effect would have meant that none of these animals could be kept in cages, all whales and dolphins in captivity would have to be released along with all elephants and primates. In reality it meant that all animals of these species in captivity must be moved where possible to a sanctuary providing them with a natural lifestyle or released where possible back into the wild and just importantly none of these animals could ever be captured again.
The legal case was turned into a documentary called Unlocking the Cage released in 2016 and whilst the case was lost it has promoted calls for a greater understanding of animal rights. There have even been suggestions that keeping these animals for commercial gain contravenes anti slavery legislation. After all, if an animal is aware that what is happening is unnatural and that animal is caused distress……
Now I have no doubt that this sort of legislation won’t pass in my lifetime but maybe in the lifetime of some of the younger readers it could happen.
Now before anybody says “no way” think about the progress I have seen, the introduction of the assistance dog, behaviourism, canine roles in the military, therapy dogs, opposition to wearing fur, legislation on animal welfare rights, the advent of the microchip, animals are rarely kept in cages even in zoos, safari parks provide a natural habitat but most of all, we as a species have developed a far greater understanding of the intelligence that abounds in the animal kingdom and who knows how many more animals will be found to be self aware.
What’s more, how much can we learn from the animals that we subjugate?
Here gentlemen a dog teaches us a lesson in humanity
He was saved by a Newfoundland dog after falling overboard from a ship.
(Napoleon Bonaparte couldn’t swim!)