A recent article indicates scientists are learning just how capable some animals are of thinking. While this is great information, learning more about specific species may lead to ethical dilemmas. If a chimpanzee can plan for the future, engage in war but also make peace, show empathy, etc., what right do we have to confine that animal in a circus cage, zoo, or amusement park? What is our responsibility to our fellow travelers on this planet?
To do no harm would be one responsibility; but unfortunately we do grievous harm to billions of animals when we confine, maim, and slaughter them in the name of food. In the name of science, we plant electrodes in their heads, perform multiple surgeries, inject them with viruses, and force them to inhale cigarette smoke. We beat them into submission, shackle them in railway cars, and imprison them in concrete bowls for our entertainment.
Would we perpetrate these and similar atrocities on humans? Now that we know these animals are more like us than we ever imagined, maybe, just maybe, it’s time we let them live in the world free of our intrusion.
We have come to a place in our culture where exploiting them for our own gain is no longer an acceptable option, no more acceptable than it was to use other humans for our own gain. When you think about, we are them and they are us.