It’s pretty easy to see that animals feel pain. Humans are animals too, after all—but if you cut a cow or a pig, you hear it scream just as much as a person does. I’m not speaking from experience here, but I have eaten plenty of both to feel guilty about it. Animals as sentient creatures are not an unknown concept.
The fact that animals have a consciousness, however, has continued to remain a question of debate among many people. If we knew that animals could think and reason as we can, or that they loved as deeply as we do, we might think twice about killing them for food, experimentation, and other reasons, after all. Personally, I think all you have to do is watch elephants mourn a loss of their own or apes share tools and food to know that this is true.
Now scientists are confirming that animals have a consciousness the same as humans—which makes perfect sense, since we’re from the same genetic material. We were once quite hairier versions of ourselves, closer to our primate cousins than we are today, and our random development could have easily been deterred in favor of another species.
Yet instead of being humble and careful about our presence (perhaps) as the most developed species, we spend it sneering at other species, proclaiming our superiority in the name of the Bible or our taste buds (myself guiltily included). Eventually, if we can actually communicate with other species or otherwise prove intelligence, I wonder if we will maintain our excuses. Perhaps this Korean-speaking elephant could shed some light on the subject…