Conventional biology, as taught in schools and universities, teaches us to assume that consciousness only exists in the human mind. The idea that animals aren’t intelligent, emotional or self-aware has long been used as an excuse for their exploitation.
These prejudices are rapidly breaking down in the face of a growing body of scientific evidence, and a study by the University of Warwick research team.
“The study answers a very old question: do animals have a sense of self? Our first aim was to understand the recent neural evidence that animals can project themselves into the future. What we wound up understanding is that, in order to do so, they must have a primal sense of self,” said Professor Hills, study co-author from the school’s Department of Psychology.
“Humans have a curious way of feeling empathy for others when they think they can take their perspective. Knowledge that an animal is more than a Cartesian automaton, that it is an individual with a point of view, possibly with a sense of self-identity, brings it dangerously close to how we view ourselves.”
This research may be very helpful to the vegan movement, in that it might help meat-eaters see animals differently, as beings that deserve compassion, respect and love.