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Animal Intelligence

“It is just like man's vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.”  •  Mark Twain

Human babies are, without a doubt, some of the stupidest and most helpless of all beings. Yet no one other than a complete psychopath would agree that babies should be enslaved, murdered, or set on fire as routinely happens to dogs and pigs in modern-day-medieval burn experiments. When pain, suffering, and emotions are taken into consideration, all animals—humans, four-leggeds, birds, snakes, fish and other aquatic creatures, amphibians and insects alike—are equal. Therefore, it should be our goal as a society to reduce and eliminate the intentional pain and suffering we inflict upon innocent beings.

It's just dumbfounding that many of those who would grant rights to human babies in an instant won't even begin to concede the rights of other beings that are, by most accounts, far more intelligent than a human infant. Fortunately, Rene Descartes' idiocy about animals operating like unthinking machines has been exposed a long time ago (his idea holds true for plants, not animals). All animals, from insects to whales, are rational, aware, self-aware, intelligent beings. They experience an array of emotions, especially pain and happiness. In fact, in 2015, Japan’s Kwansei Gakuin University released a study showing rats displaying pure altruism (more proof of animal altruism can be seen in the 4th to last paragraph below) by saving their friends from drowning. Too bad these irrational, unaware, vile researchers didn’t have the intelligence to realize that they shouldn’t be drowning rats in the first place.

If you're a social justice historian, you might recall all the idiotic discussions about the rationality and intelligence of certain humans, too. Almost invariably, these discussions arise whenever certain groups of oppressed humans (e.g., African slaves in the antebellum American Deep South, or natives of India who were subjected to British colonial rule in the 19th and early 20th centuries) claim freedom from their oppressors, as well as equality to their oppressors. The reaction of victimizers and oppressors is always to deny that their victims suffer, feel pain or are intelligent. This allows enslavement and murder to happen nonchalantly and guilt-free. The victimizers' mind-set goes like this: "You don't count because you're stupid. You don't matter because you're dumb. I laugh at your suffering. I'll kill you when I want to. I'll sell you and your family. You're worthless. You don't think the way I do. Prove to me why I should be kind to you. Prove to me that you deserve to be free." So even though victims always look and act differently from one another (bees, lobsters, cows, pigs, blacks, women, Christians, Muslims, Jews, witches, Gypsies, Rwandans, etc.), they've suffered equally because of the victimizers' mind-set. It may be objected that while nonhuman animals clearly want to be free from enslavement and torment by their human oppressors, these animals cannot lay claim to their rights and freedoms as humans can. But this does not mean that those claims are never legitimate. Remember, even the rights of human infants (e.g., the right not to be subjected to burn experiments in a laboratory) can be represented by a proxy (such as an attorney) in a court of law.

Here are five examples that demonstrate the intelligence of animals. I could offer more but I don't believe in writing tomes about the obvious.

1) I once saw a Discovery channel show about ants. There was a flood. A few hundred ants carefully, methodically and rationally LOCKED LEGS to form a raft. Then, a few others escorted the queen ant to the top of the raft. The ant raft eventually floated to safety, killing all the raft ants, but SAVING the queen thus preserving the survival of the colony. Not only is this rational thought, it is ALTRUISM at its finest, something few humans are capable of.

Ants, bees and the rest of the insect world are some of the most intelligent beings on the planet. Step on an ant near the colony, and watch the whole ant community go ballistic. They know when they're under attack. They easily TRY to avoid pain and death.

2) When I was volunteering at SASHA Farm sanctuary in 2004, four of us went into the woods to throw out some old rotten hay. I accidentally stepped on a hornets' nest as they often construct their hives on the ground. The hornets carefully, methodically and rationally attacked me and NOT the three folks who were with me. I had 12 bites methodically on my body; two on my head (one on each side); six across my chest and abdomen (three on each side); two on my thighs (one on each leg); two on my shins (one on each leg). They were clearly trying to immobilize me. While my three companions frantically smashed the hornets off of me (self-defense is always a valid excuse to kill anyone), the hornets buzzed off momentarily and then re-attacked me several times. They NEVER once went after the people who were swatting and trying to kill them because they knew I stepped on their home, not my three companions.

3) I am terrified of spiders. There was a huge spider in my apartment last summer. When I turned and saw him on the wall, I screamed in horror. The spider jumped in fear. His feet actually left the wall for a second. He ran around WILDLY in a circle for 30 seconds until he dove off the wall and found a hiding space in the corner. Why do you think he jumped and ran frantically? Spiders know what happens after a human screams. They get smashed to smithereens. This 8-legged critter didn't realize how lucky he was to be in a vegan household. He didn't receive the usual violent ending. I captured him in a glass and released him outside. You should do the same with ALL spiders and insects.

4) In 2008, when I was in El Paso, Texas lecturing at UTEP, I took a wrong turn and missed the I-10 Freeway. Thank goodness for small mistakes. I noticed a pigeon circling at the edge of the road. I blocked the lane for his protection and exited my vehicle. He was mourning his dead partner who had been smashed by a car. Clearly, he was heartbroken. I let him circle his dead friend for a minute to say goodbye then bent over and picked him up. He was so despondent that he didn't even try to fly away. I took him to a bird-rehabber to make sure he was okay, and the rehabber told me that pigeons usually mate for life. When one dies, the other one doesn't fare too well, often dying from a broken heart shortly after. Being able to form a relationship proves that thoughts are being processed, and emotional intellect is at play. Grieving, mourning and despair—which ALL animals are capable of—are not instinctive, thoughtless moments. Intellect includes responding properly to emotional situations. Breathing is instinctive. Grieving is not!

5) In 2011, when I was in Monterey, California lecturing at Cal State University, a friend who works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration took me hiking near the bay. He knew I wanted to see some otters, so within 30 minutes we were at a spot with a built-in telescope viewer so I could see one in action. It was beautiful to see him floating on his back, relaxing in the wavy waters and west-coast sunshine. As I peered through the viewer, I noticed that he wasn't floating away even though there was an endless streak of powerful waves. I asked my friend how the otter was staying in one place. He explained how they take 25- to 50-foot strands of seaweed that stretch up from the ocean's floor, and twist them several times around their bodies to form an anchor. I couldn't believe my eyes when I looked closely at the otter's waist area. Sure enough, these multi-talented marine critters were not only expert divers and swimmers, they were the ocean's best tool-makers! Being able to utilize long strands of seaweed proves—once again—that animals are capable of rational, logical thought. Not only do otters have to find something to help them stay in one place, they have to figure out how to use it and also determine that one twist around their bodies isn't sufficient for the task at hand. It takes at least three or four twists. Animals undoubtedly possess the same problem-solving intellect that many humans believe is exclusive to their species.

For some other amazing acts of altruism, awareness, emotion and intellect, proving that animal behavior is not instinctive, watch the following clips:

Moreover, This March 2008 article in The Independent, a British news site, tells the story of a dolphin helping a beached whale and her calf find their way back to the sea. This January 2011 article in The New York Times tells the story of Chaser, a border collie who possesses a vocabulary of over 1,000 words. This December 2011 article in People Magazine online recounts the story of a dog who rescued some kittens who were stuffed in a cat-food bag and left to die on a roadside. And veterinarian Holly Cheever tells the most amazing story of a mother cow hiding one of her newborn twins from the psychotic owner of a dairy facility!

If you're still wavering about the intelligence of animals, re-examine the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that struck the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia, and devastated Sri Lanka and many other nations. More than 200,000 humans died while animal corpses were nearly impossible to locate. If they weren't caged up, animals took off before the disaster struck. Ravi Corea of the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society told Fox News, "There have been no reports of elephant carcasses, deer, leopards, black bears, sloth bears." Fox also reported that Corea "drove through towns like Galle, which are full of stray animals, and 'didn't see any dead cows or goats.' " There's no doubt that surviving animals were thinking: "With all your mathematical skills, extensive language and technology, you two-legged imbeciles didn't know there was a 100-foot wave coming? Idiots!" And the animals weren't being instinctive when they fled the scene before the tsunami hit. They were simply paying attention. They were aware of their surroundings, unlike the instinctive human robots who stroll this earth. When it comes to technology, humans are brilliant. When it comes to awareness, humans have the mental acuity of a dingleberry (dried piece of shit stuck to the hair surrounding an asshole). And when it comes to decency, humans are on par with viruses.

If animals and insects aren't aware, then what are they? If they are NOT capable of feeling pain, then what do they feel? Eating, sleeping, drinking, surviving, procreating, looking for shelter, building a home, defending themselves and saving each other aren't instinctual behaviors. They are thoughts attached to actions. It's the human animal who operates instinctively. Very few people think for themselves and come to rational conclusions. Pulling into McDonald's for a Big Mac is NOT rational thought. It happens because the media, the government, schools and parents tell people to do it. If humans were rational, we wouldn't be killing the animals, the earth and ourselves!

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