Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights [Paperback]
The first scientific exploration of those animals, from honeybees to
gorillas, whose abilities should entitle them to legal rights as persons .
Are we ready for parrots and dolphins to be treated as persons before the
law? In this unprecedented exploration of animal cognition along the
evolutionary spectrum-from infants and children to other intelligent
primates, from dolphins, parrots, elephants, and dogs to colonies of
honeybees-Steve Wise finds answers to the big question in animal rights
today: Where do we draw the line? Readers will be enthralled as they follow
Wise's firsthand account of the world's most famous animal experts at work:
Cynthia Moss and the touchingly affectionate families of Amboseli; Irene
Pepperberg and her amazing and witty African Grey parrot, Alex; and Penny
Paterson with the formidable gorilla Koko. In many cases, Wise was able to
sustain an extended conversation with these extraordinary creatures. No one
with even a shred of curiosity about animal intelligence or justice will
want to miss this book.
Ending the slavery: it has
Like the critics of slavery abolitionists who
asserted that efforts were better spent helping poor young chimney sweeps
than African slaves, there will be those who argue that instead of
concerning ourselves with the plight of nonhuman animals, we should
concentrate on making the world a better place for starving people in
Africa, diseased humans, etc. (There is nothing wrong with advancing worthy
human causes, but some folks don't seem to realized they can be pursued
simultaneously with nonhuman animal causes.) Steven Wise launches a
convincing argument that nonhuman animals are remarkably similar to humans
on many quantifiable levels, and that some nonhumans may therefore be
justified in sharing basic rights with humans.
Among all the cited
cases documenting the complex web of human-like (as well as unique) traits
among dolphins, honeybees, orangutans, dogs, gorillas, African grey parrots,
elephants (and from his previous book, chimpanzees and bonobos), I found one
case most interesting. As an economist, I was particularly bemused to
discover that orangutans have displayed an understanding of economic value!
The author describes the orangutans Azy and Indah who were given bamboo
tools to use in public demonstrations. After a demonstration, a human could
only retrieve the bamboo tools from the orangutans in exchange for proper
compensation. Offering the orangutans a sunflower seed was sufficient
payment for a small piece of bamboo. Obtaining a large piece cost much more:
an entire walnut. Shrewd bargainers, those orangutans were, and capable of
very abstract thinking!
The book is filled with evidence of nonhuman
intelligence, emotion, and language (making it an excellent companion to
Joan Dunayer's book Animal Equality: Language and Liberation). The evidence
ranges from anecdotal to experimental. The author quotes biologist Bernd
Heinrich who says "We can't credibly claim that one species is more
intelligent than another unless we quantify intelligent with respect to
what, since each animal lives in a different world of its own sensory inputs
and decoding mechanisms of those inputs." Having demonstrated that nonhuman
animals can score highly on tests designed to measure human intelligence,
surely we have only scratched the surface.
The stated goal of this
book (and Wise's previous book) is to rattle the legal profession into
extending basic rights to beings other than humans. Thanks to Steven Wise, I
am confident that will happen, now sooner rather than later. As he says,
"human slavery was once as firmly entrenched as nonhuman animal slavery is
today." There is hope.