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Animals, Trade and Ethics - Bekoff

Animals, Trade and Ethics - Bekoff - 3 Animal Emotions and...

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3 Animal Emotions and Animal Sentience and Why They Matter: Blending ‘Science Sense’ with Common Sense, Compassion and Heart Marc Bekoff University of Colorado, US There is more to life than basic scientific knowledge. (D. Papineau, 2005) There’s a certain tragic isolation in believing that humans stand apart in every way from the creatures that surround them, that the rest of creation was shaped exclusively for our use. (New York Times, 2005) Let’s try to work together Discussions of animal emotions and animal sentience are wonderful for raising difficult and frustrating questions. This chapter is intended to be a non- traditional essay and I hope it generates kind discussion and that what I talk about is not dismissed on the grounds that I’m simply losing my mind. I assure you I’m not. Well, at least I think I’m not. I simply want to put forth some ideas that some might find controversial. Throwing caution to the wind is a good thing to do from time to time. It makes us dig deeply into our minds and hearts to see who we are and what we think about matters at hand. And sometimes we don’t like where we end up, which can be outside of our com- fort zones. Let’s for the moment put differences aside and see what we can do. Let’s engage people who use and abuse animals and try to convince them to change
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their ways. Let’s be proactive and let’s educate them. Conflict is inevitable but, as Martin Luther King stressed, reconciliation is the necessary complement of conflict. A summary of ‘big’ issues and difficult and frustrating questions In this chapter I raise a number of issues that are important to consider in discussions of animal emotions and animal sentience. I argue for a paradigm shift in how we study animal emotions and animal sentience and what we do with the information we already have, ‘scientific’ and otherwise. It’s about time that the sceptics and naysayers had to ‘prove’ their claims that animals don’t experience emotions or don’t really feel pain, but just act ‘as if’ they do. And until such claims are proven, let’s assume that numerous animals do experience rich emotions and do suffer all sorts of pain. Just because something supposedly worked in the past doesn’t mean that it works now or that it ever did. Animal emotions and animal sentience matter very much, not only because what animals feel must be used first and foremost for influencing how we interact with and use such animals, but also because broad studies of animal emotions and animal sentience raise numerous ‘big’ questions about the nature of science itself. We can also learn much about ourselves when we ponder the nature of animal passions and beastly virtues. Some of the issues that I consider here include: 1 Are we really the only animals who experience a wide variety of feelings?
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