Animal Rights Articles

A Declaration Worth Celebrating

By James McWilliams
August 2012

From The First Annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference came this declaration from a group of the world’s leading neuroscientists.

Jane, Goodall, primate, neocortex Perhaps you’ve heard the story about how Jane Goodall sent her advisor Louis Leakey a telegram describing how she had witnessed two chimps use a tool. Leakey famously replied, “Now we must redefine tool, redefine Man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.”

"The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in Non-Human Animals" was publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the conclusion of The First Annual Francis Crick Memorial Conference at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, by Philip Low, David Edelman and Christof Koch. It was written by Philip Low and edited by Jaak Panksepp, Diana Reiss, David Edelman, Bruno Van Swinderen, Philip Low, and Christof Koch. The Declaration was signed by the conference participants that very evening, in the presence of Stephen Hawking, in the Balfour Room at the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, UK. The signing ceremony was memorialized by CBS 60 Minutes. 

Seems as if the following declaration honors those remarkable words.

We declare the following: The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.

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