Animals are conscious and deserve treatment
Are animals endowed with consciousness? This issue has long been the subject of heated debate. It seems that now the bullet point is in the dispute.
Animal Consciousness: The Verdict of Scientists
In July 2012, a conference was held at the University of Cambridge on the issue of the presence of consciousness in animals. As a result, it was adopted Cambridge Declaration on Animal Consciousnesswhich states that “non-human animals possess the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological components of consciousness associated with the ability to exhibit conscious behavior. Therefore, a huge amount of evidence allows us to conclude that man is not the only creature with a developed consciousness. "Non-human animals, including all mammals, birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, are also endowed with these characteristics."
This can be bewildering. Did we really need this declaration to acknowledge this fact? Indeed, many, including a number of scientists, have long come to a similar conclusion.
However, the declaration, in the opinion of Mark Beckoff, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, has a number of shortcomings. All the scientists who signed it, with the exception of one, are laboratory researchers, and the declaration should include data from long-term studies on wild animals, including inhuman apes, social predators, cetaceans, rodents and birds. In addition, Professor Beckoff expressed disappointment that fish were not included in the declaration, since the evidence for consciousness in this group of living beings is also very convincing.
What changes the fact that scientists recognize the presence of consciousness in animals?
Be that as it may, the declaration is a huge breakthrough. If only because it is addressed not to scientists (or, at least, not only to them). One of the authors preceded the declaration with the following words: “We agreed that the time has come to make a statement to the public. It may be obvious to those present that animals are endowed with consciousness, but this is far from obvious to everyone else. ”
An important question that automatically arises: will there be any sense in this declaration? What are scientists going to do now, agreeing that possession of consciousness is widespread in the animal kingdom?
It is hoped that this declaration will be used to protect animals from cruel and inhumane treatment. So far, unfortunately, the opinion of scientists about the consciousness, emotions and intelligence of animals is not taken into account by lawmakers who produce decisions on animal welfare. For example, it is already known that mice, rats, and chickens are empathic, but this knowledge was not reflected in the way they handle these animals during cruel experiments, even in developed countries. What can we say about the post-Soviet space, where the situation with the treatment of animals is simply monstrous and there is no question of any of their rights. And those who make decisions about their attitude to animals completely ignore the opinion of scientists.
However, there are still skeptics among scientists who believe that "the idea of the presence of consciousness in animals is a sentimental attempt to idealize them." Despite a lot of evidence, they are belligerent. And, unfortunately, a significant part of the population is in solidarity with them, justifying cruelty to animals by the fact that they "do not have reason." But anyone who is endowed with even a drop of observation and empathy will say that this statement is complete nonsense.
The creators of the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness have done a great job to protect animals. And I hope that this will not remain just a beautiful gesture that someday, albeit in the future (I hope not too distant), will lead to concrete actions on a global scale. It is high time to protect sentient beings who are undeservedly suffering - sometimes just for our entertainment. In the end, it’s time for us to prove that not only animals, but also people are endowed with consciousness, as well as empathy and compassion.