An octopus using a coconut as a tool, monkeys recognizing their friends in photographs, a shark performing an impromptu caesarean at a New Zealand aquarium and chimps displaying ‘human-like’ altruism. It has been a busy year for animal behavior ‘discoveries’.

In fact, it seems that at least once a week there are new reports in the media, and published articles in prestigious scientific journals, that scientists have ‘discovered’ a new form of animal behavior. Each latest news story generates enormous buzz that said animal is able to do whatever the latest discoverer denotes as intelligent behavior.

But I can’t help but wonder if we are going about this the wrong way. Maybe, rather than viewing animals as limited creatures who don’t feel pain, don’t experience emotions, or have the ability to reason or communicate with each other, we should start looking at animals’ possibilities rather than always starting from an absolute belief in their limitations.

This poses a moral conundrum for many people – scientists, lab technicians, marine park attendants, factory farm workers and even some veterinarians and doctors - because when their work is so entrenched in treating animals inhumanely during experiments, tests and studies, there is a powerful vested interest in continuing to believe animals are exempt from human compassion.

Whether it is in a lab testing cosmetics on animals, or at a pharmaceutical company growing pig livers for transplants, or at a bustling slaughterhouse, or even in a veterinarian college learning to de-beak chickens or castrate pigs without anaesthetic - people in industries that use animals for profit must believe animals are unfeeling and unthinking to successfully do their job.

Add in the billions of people that consume factory farmed animal products several times a day, wear leather and fur, use the myriad of products and medicines either derived from animals or tested on animals, and enjoy animals for entertainment in zoos and marine parks, and you have a society, a world in fact, that has a vested interest in continuing to believe animals are lesser beings.

I can’t help but ask myself, what would we see if we were able to take off our blinders when dealing with animals? Would we see that animals – all living creatures – from the rat to the horse – have sentience?

The simple fact of the matter is that until we stop profiting from, or contributing to, animal servitude and suffering, whether it is for fur, food, organs or entertainment, we will never be able to see animals clearly.

Here’s hoping for a more compassionate 2010.

Valerie Williams is a writer living on Salt Spring Island, Canada. She is the editor of GreenMuze. com.

Via:www.greenmuze. соm

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