“They are self-aware beings with individual personalities and a rich inner life. They have the ability to think abstractly, feel deeply and choose their actions. Their lives are characterized by close, long-term relationships... In short, whales and dolphins are a who, not a what.”— Thomas I. White, a Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. Read more in this blog post.
Undomesticated Animal Intelligence
LonelyDad38: Ramsey saw a raven making rope last week. The raven tore plant roots out of the ground and ripped off the extra pieces, leaving only the taproot. S/he thrashed the taproot around to break down the fibers and make it more flexible. Then s/he dangled the finished root-ropes over a branch while s/he made more.
People know terribly little about animal intelligence. I think it takes a particularly stupid and conceited human to assume that the animals they abuse and kill for their food/clothes/animal tested products/etc are dumb and therefore not worthy of life.
And before you say “Of course ravens are smart, everyone knows that, but how could you compare them to a chicken?” Know that the original bird that chickens were domesticated from were considered one of the most clever animals in the jungle, masters of deception, and incredibly difficult to hunt.
Yeah, this is true even with feral chickens: in Southeast Asia, I don’t think there are any truly undomesticated chickens, but there are feral chickens, that have reverted to a wild life (in the jungle) after domestication. They seem to be tough, self-reliant, and are evidently pretty smart.
If they have enough space to roam, you can see entirely-domesticated chickens displaying quite a lot of intelligence in doing things like hunting grasshoppers (both in hiding, and in flight), and, of course, fighting with one-another. In Laos, I’ve seen a turkey acting as a referee in the fights between cocks —i.e., allowing them to fight to some extent, but then stepping in to break up the fight if it became too serious. They’re all looking one-another in the eye, alert, with complex social interactions, and so on.
I’ve also seen chickens witness the execution of other chickens (at the hands of humans) and react to it. That’s another story.
A chicken’s brain is small, but an ant’s brain is even smaller. When you look at an MRI scan of an ant’s brain, the level of complexity packed into that small space makes the reality of their intelligence easier to believe in; it doesn’t rely on any kind of supernatural assumption —the substance of animal intelligence is made up of brain cells, not so different from yours or mine.