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Saturday, January 1, 2011

EQ Revisited

“All animals are created equal and some more equal than others.” George Orwell

In my blog post before Christmas, I wrote about EQ’s being a comparative measure of animal itelligences. I said then that I would get back to the subject and, though Christmas season and another post intervened, here are a few thoughts about our relationships with other animals. In man’s long history as hunter-gatherers when we had no dominance over animals, we treated them as equals, not perhaps in intelligence, but as living creatures with the same rights as we did to live their own lives and survive by avoiding those that would prey on us and killing those we could catch for our own nourishment. In the culture of North American natives, this respect is retained and an animal is given thanks for giving up its life to feed the hunter and his family. Domestication of animals began back in around 1400 BC and the first species to willingly accept a close relationship with man were canines – dogs. Then came sheep, probably because if you captured the lead sheep, all the others would follow. Then came goats and cattle and chickens and so on. Once the animals were at our mercy and we made a business of raising and slaughtering them for food, we tended to treat them as a commodity and often disregarded their rights. It is horrifying to learn of the cruelty in the way chickens and pigs in particular are treated in order to make maximum profit from them. In early times there was a period when wild hogs, who can be affectionate, clean and playful, were becoming accepted as wonderful pets but the ease and economy with which pigs can be raised for food has now overcame any tendency to treat them as anything but products for profit. Except in China, dogs and cats have survived as pets. I live with a dog and a cat and while I only seem to enjoy watching the cat and stroking it when it wants petting, with the dog it’s different. I regularly try to communicate with him by talking to him and making eye contact. He loves the attention and somehow we both know we are bonding and I enjoy being rewarded with the unconditional affection he so enthusiastically gives. Actually scientific research shows that owning a pet of any sort is generally so good for you that you will actually tend to live longer. I think that is because tensions are relieved and we get comfort because we know that a pet is guileless, trusting and trustworthy. Dogs desire to please makes them ideal to train to become ‘service dogs’ and they can be an invaluable companion help for a blind or otherwise disabled person. Smart little capuchin monkeys with their human-like fingers make them ideal helpers especially for quadriplegics. As a pet, however, Capuchins present many problems, not the least of which is that they live to be 40 years old. In the end, I doubt that dogs and cats need worry that they will lose their place as all-time most popular pets. Rie


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