This essay was first published on Psychology Today.
People care about who they eat
An essay by David Crary on YAHOO News with the catchy title “Pigs smart as dogs? Activists pose the question” caught my eye as it has numerous others, judging by the 1,514 and continually increasing number of comments as of this writing. As a scientist who has studied the cognitive and emotional capacities of a variety of nonhuman animals (animals) and as an advisor to The Someone Project on which this article focuses, I found a number of points on which to comment using solid scientific research as a foundation.
First, as I’ve noted in a number of different places (for example, in an essay called “Are Dogs Smarter Than Cats?” and in another titled “Do ‘Smarter’ Dogs Really Suffer More than ‘Dumber’ Mice?“), as a biologist I don’t consider questions comparing the intelligence of different species to be useful because individuals do what they do to be card-carrying members of their species. Comparing members of the same species might be useful in terms of the ways in which individuals learn social skills or the speed of learning different task, but comparing dogs to cats or dogs to pigs says little of importance.