Wednesday, May 25


Here's a fun article that scratches at the surface of a fascinating conundrum in the "animal intelligence" field - it's easy for our culture to accept smart apes, cats and dogs, but we don't want to think of the animals we're eating as having any smarts whatsoever. Unfortunately, coming from ABC News, it skims and then darts away rather than probing this sore spot, but at least the issue is raised. "Was Your Meat Smarter Than Your Pet?" begins, "Testing the IQ of a sheep may seem laughable. But at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, England, they know better. One sheep who got a reward every time she recognized a human face correctly on a video screen scored a perfect 50 out of 50. 'If it was a monkey, no one would have any problems, possibly even if it was a dog,' said Keith Kendrick, a neurologist at Babraham. 'They would say, 'Yeah, yeah, that's expected.' But a sheep, no one really believes.'"

Intentionally or not, the article manages to show the paucity of argument on the "dumb animal" side of the equation: "John Redmore, who runs an organic farm in England, disagrees. 'We've been eating meat since we've managed to stand on hind legs,' he said. 'A natural part of being human is to eat meat.' It's natural to eat animals even if they're smart, he added. 'Yeah, they'd eat us,' Redmore said." Well, sure, the smartness has nothing to do with the "naturalness," but as usual that last term is being used speciously. Are you really saying sheep and cows would eat people, farmer John? Uh huh... now who, exactly, is smarter here?

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