Sixty-eight percent of Americans have a pet. While this is not the case for everybody, many would say they consider pets as companions and would even say they are part of their family. They see them as more than just an animal. Others put animals at a lower level than us humans and may feel they are only useful for food and production. The article, A Change Of Hearts About Animals by Jeremy Rifkin reveals studies have shown animals be more similar to us humans than we previously thought.
Although I agree with Rifkin up to a point, I am not sure I agree with what he is reaching for. However, this new information may be a cause for change.
The first finding of recent research described in the article shows that animals are social beings just as humans are. The first piece of research that Rifkin uses is the studies on pig behavior conducted at Purdue University. These studies has found that pigs crave affection just as we do, and “.
.are easily depressed if isolated or denied playtime,” says Rifkin. These effects can lead to a deterioration of health. These findings show the similar feelings between human and animals, and the social aspect they share with us. His second piece of research is the the first country to grant animal rights, Germany. According to the article, “ The German government encourages pig farmers to give each and every pig 20 seconds of human contact and provide toys to prevent fighting.” The European Union has recently outlawed the use of isolated pig stalls.
This shows how animals are similar to us in the fact that we both need social interaction to live a healthy, enjoyable life.
A second finding of recent research also shows that animals are similar to humans on the conceptual level. In a study on the conceptual abilities of New Caledonian crows, two birds named Betty and Abel were given the choice between a hooked wire and a straight wire, used to grab a piece of meat from inside a tube. Both birds chose the hook. The dominant male, Abel then took Betty’s hook from her, leaving her with the straight wire. Betty then used her beak to form it into a hook. She repeated this behavior 9 out of 10 times. These results show animals have similar cognitive abilities to humans and can problem solve like we do. The second piece of research is Koko, a 200 pound gorilla located in North California. Author Jeremy Rifkin states, “ Koko was taught sign language and now understands over 1,000 English words. On human IQ tests, she scores between 75 and 95.” Like humans, Koko and other animals can learn new behavior and actions.
A third finding of recent research on animals is that they, like humans, possess self-awareness. The first study to support this claim is an orangutan named Chanek, who when given a mirror, used it to clean his teeth and fix his sunglasses. This behavior shows Chanek is aware of his appearance and therefore possesses self-awareness. The second piece of research that supports the claim is the act of mourning the dead. Scientists have long believed mourning of the dead is what really distinguishes humans from other species. It is believed animals are unable to understand the concept of their own death and are unable to experience grief. But recent studies have found that animals can experience grief. For example, elephant often stand next to their dead kin for days, this is how they mourn. This new information tests the “real distinguishment” between humans and animals.
A fourth recent finding is that animals, just like humans, play and learn from their parents. The first study to support this claim is studies on the brain chemistry of rats. These studies show that during playtime, their tiny brains release large amounts of “a neurochemical known as dopamine, and is typically associated with pleasure and excitement in humans. This study shows that many animals and humans have similar if not identical feelings, emotions, and a very similar brain anatomy. Jeremy Rifkin states,” We know that geese teach their goslings migration routes.” Studies are showing us that learning is passed on from parent to offspring more often than not. However, scientists formerly believed that “..most creatures behaved by sheer instinct and that what appeared to be learned behavior was merely genetically wired activity.” This discovery proves that like humans, animals teach their offspring new behaviors and actions.
Jeremy Rifkin ends his article with his main points. His first main point is the way these newfound studies will affect the way animals are treated and viewed in today’s world. For example, laboratory experimentation, product testing on animals, animals raised in slaughterhouses for human consumption, the production of fur clothing, fox hunting, bull fighting, and caged animal zoos. His second main point is several law schools including Harvard, now offer courses on animal rights, due to many animal lawsuits being filed. He says,” Germany recently became the first nation to guarantee animal rights in its constitution.” His third main point is “the human is, at its core, about the extension of empathy to broader and more inclusive domains.”
Although I agree with the information Rifkin presents, I do not agree with the change he seems to expect. I do believe animals are quite similar to humans and even thought so before reading this article. Despite these new discoveries, you cannot change everybody’s mind on something. I do think animals should have rights but how far they should go I don’t know. I also don’t know how these rights would be determined and what they would be.
In the article A Change Of Hearts About Animals, Jeremy Rifkin’s main argument is animals are more alike humans than we think. Not only do they experience the feelings and emotions we do, they even have an amazingly similar brain anatomy to us. One of Rifkin’s main questions is, how will this information affect the way animals are treated today. Will we stop using them for production and food? Will we put a stop to caging animals in a zoo? Probably not. But maybe this will inspire the start of a change. After all, a start is better than nothing at all.