Douglas Quenqua has written an article for the New York Times about Barack Obama’s new (non-shelter) dog Bo, and animal consciousness. One of the most important reasons that we fight for animal rights is because of animals’ ability to suffer like humans. However, many omnivores defend their diets because they say that animals don’t have the ability to think or comprehend what is happening to them. That they cannot anticipate or fear the future.

Although this article does not go very deep (it’s mainly just the question of whether Bo knows how famous he is), there is a couple things I want to bring up. One of the points in the article is that some people believe that when animals behave in such a way as to make us believe they know what is happening around them, that this is more because of personality than because of cognitive ability. However, the article also mentions the work of Professor Stanley Coren, who has studied animal psychology.

[Coren’s] own claim to fame is a series of tests conducted in the early 1990s that measured how many sounds, signals and gestures dogs could comprehend. He concluded that the average dog had roughly the same cognitive abilities as a 2-year-old human.

I am sure that any of you who have companion animals have seen examples of your animals showing some human-like habits, such as dogs anticipating your arrival (or departure), showing attitude (like when my cat Flava turns his back on me when I’ve been gone from home too long, or when the cat we had when I was growing up would crawl into bed with me if I was crying or sick), or understanding voices and recognizing people. Sure, animals don’t have the same exact consciousness as humans, but it’s obviously not true that they have nothing but instinct.

I remember reading an article once (and I wish I could find it again) that discussed how sometimes animals in slaughterhouses who were getting closer and closer to their deaths would begin to act out, as though they could sense their impending doom. Animals also show fear. I’ve seen dogs rescued from shelters who had been abused with their previous families, and sometimes a certain tone will cause these animals to become frightened.

Animals do have the ability (at least to some degree) of knowing what is happening around them. That is why we need to help make sure that animal cruelty of all forms is stopped.

btw: that cute dog in the pic is my little cousin’s Roxy. Isn’t she just adorable? Also, I have finally given in and accepted that Twitter isn’t completely ridiculous. So follow me! @karmalily