Contributed by Jennifer Best
The study of non-human animals can be a tool to learn more about their capabilities and how to respectfully co-exist. This thought-provoking article reflects how ethical studies have advanced the way many people think about non-human animals as complex, social beings. However, as humans study other species, it is important to proceed with caution so as not to contribute to the aggrandizement of anthropomorphism. We should not use ourselves as a measuring stick to compare animals and assess their worthiness of protection based on that presumption. As the article describes “Lori Marino, formerly a neurobiologist at Emory University who in 2001 was part of the research team that demonstrated dolphin self-awareness through testing, thinks the emphasis placed on the test has made it a tool of exclusion: Animals who don’t demonstrate our own particular form of self-awareness are denied the capacity altogether.” Not only are human-designed studies often inadequate to measure species that interact and experience their environment in different ways, but they can also be used to undermine the inherent value of all living beings. This is not to say we should stop studying animal behavior. Instead, we must be mindful that studies do not interfere with the animal’s natural behaviors and capabilities, and that studies are not designed as a tool to exclude other beings as unworthy of ethical consideration.