Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
10 December 2000 Issue

Letters to the Editor About Hope
by Marc Bekoff

The following are letters to the editor of US News and World Report and show, in my opinion, that there IS hope.

Animal instincts
THANK YOU FOR YOUR COVER STORY on the feelings and intelligence of animals ["Animal Emotions," October 30]. The hard-logic arguments made by Marc Bekoff and Jane Goodall are compelling. The contortions some scientists go through to avoid attributing "higher" thoughts and emotions to animals resemble the ways pre-Copernican astronomers tried to defend a geocentric universe. In their exertions to remain "rigorous" and "objective," they have forgotten two other fundamentals of hard science: that the simplest explanations are preferred (Occam's razor) and that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Clearly, we are they, but they are not us. Humans are animals, vertebrates, mammals, primates. Biochemically and behaviorally, everything we do has been done by other animals for a lot longer. Logically, everyone accepts that. But the implication is that we are not really different and not really special. And a lot of people have trouble accepting that. In truth, however, we are different: We alone have the capacity to exterminate them and I hope the intelligence and self-control not to do it.
New York

I SUSPECT THAT THE SCIENTISTS WHO refuse to believe that animals other than humans experience emotions are less concerned about maintaining the "purity" of the scientific method than they are about what they might otherwise have to think about as they eat meat, perform experiments upon animals, or consider how similar human behavior is to that of the "lesser" animals.
Zelienople, Pa.

WHILE WE IN THE ANIMAL ADVOCACY movement have long known that animals have feelings, the scientific community and other groups have been reluctant to face this important issue. Could it be that if we admit that animals feel emotions such as fear, loneliness, desperation, and depression, we might be forced also to admit that we do not have the right to subject them to the terror of factory farm, slaughterhouse, laboratory, fur farm, and the other environments where animals are manipulated, tortured, and killed?
New York

WHEN WE SEE WHAT HUMANS continue to do to our animal brethren endless cruelties in the way of abandonment, indifference, experimentation, vivisection, etc., some of us ask, do we humans have feelings?
Tehachapi, Calif.

THEY CERTAINLY DO HAVE FEELINGS and, what's more, they do not pretend or lie about them. When my dog was happy, she let me know. When she was sad, I knew that, too. No lying about feelings. They feel more purely than humans.
Sacramento, Calif.

IT SADDENS ME THAT THIS IS NEWS IN the United States and around the world. We are such an egocentric species.
Burtville, Mo.

THE BOTTOM LINE IS NOT WHETHER animals can think, feel, buy a house, drive an SUV, or play electronic video games. The bottom line is: Do they suffer? The answer is yes. That alone should entitle them to the same compassion and respect we give, or should give, to our fellow humans.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.

I WAS PLEASED WITH YOUR STORIES, but I also would have liked reports on other domestic and wild animals in addition to dogs and cats. I had the privilege of observing the relationship of a wild piglet and a company of soldiers during World War II. Cooks in our company traded some canned meat to Pacific natives for a piglet. Soon the little pig, with the unimaginative name of "Porky," became our company mascot, going on marches on the road bordering the ocean. She always marched at the head of the column next to our company commander. At dusk, Porky would go from tent to tent, pausing and grunting at each tent, seemingly saying goodnight before she returned to her spot at the mess tent. When our unit, Company M, 161st Infantry Regiment, 25th Division, left Guadalcanal to fight on and reclaim New Georgia, one man remained behind with our equipment and company mascot. When we returned about three months later, members of our unit asked, "Where's Porky?" The soldier who remained behind explained, "After you guys left, she ran around as if looking for you, squealing all of the time. Then one day she disappeared into the jungle. I never saw her again."
Everett, Wash.

Go on to I Could Never Work Here!
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