, May 28, 2022

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Are Animals Conscious Beings Like Humans?


  •   5 min reads
Are Animals Conscious Beings Like Humans?

Part 2 of 2

With scientists, they base on the physiology of the brain (in relation to its whole body) to say whether or not an organism has consciousness. Of course, their conclusions throughout the years were always based on the level of technology that man was able to develop to aid their researches and experiments for this. Their conclusions, in short, are always objective because they are based on facts—on what is actually, physically present or manifested with side notes of “what ifs” for the purpose of continued research and experiments because technology continues to develop.

Kabang with the Bunggal family and her puppy RJ on Aug. 12, 2012. (Photo by UC Davis/Anton Lim and published in the article “Hero dog Kabang gets new nose” in cbsnews.com)

Having said so, in 2012, at the University of Cambridge, a prominent group of cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists, and computational neuroscientists gathered to declare the conclusion of their research and experiments on what really determines consciousness on living organisms. They declare that, “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors.

Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.” (The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, 2012)

Animals as conscious living beings

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness has now proven that humans are not the only conscious living beings on this planet. Factual as the declaration maybe, recognition and adaptation of all peoples of all nations will definitely take a long time, just as what happened with the emergence of the concept of animal welfare—it took more than a century. But even before this statement was released, there had already been many documentations of animals undeniably showing signs of consciousness.

The likes of Togo, the real hero dog of the famous Nome serum run in Alaska (Togo was the True Hero Dog of the Serum Run; It’s About Time He Got His Due, David Reamer, 3 March 2020); Hachiko, the adopted loyal inu dog of a professor at the University of Tokyo in Japan; and, Kabang, our very own famous aspin hero dog, are just a few of some very well documented cases that display animals acting out a conscious state of being.

There are, actually, thousands of documented cases all over the world of animals of different species, not just pet dogs or cats, that has shown proof of acting out consciously but now, with the internet and all the social media sites, access to all this has become a lot more easier. It even offers more than we can imagine. And if you do take some time to read about these cases, I guarantee that you would be shocked at how animals could be more humane than humans could ever be. More often than not, non-human animals are more self-sacrificing than most humans. They never think twice in sacrificing their very lives to save their human companions in the face of real danger.

Come to think of it, I think, looking deeper into that point, of why some animals are more humane than humans, could be more of great interest in learning about consciousness per se. This is my suggestion for our scientists. Who knows? This maybe the study that could point us to finding the missing link of truly knowing what consciousness really is to a living organism.

Personally, I believe that all living organisms, relatively speaking, have a sense of consciousness. Plants and trees (vegetation), cannot talk and do not have the same level of mobility as animals do but they do communicate with each other, and they do try to communicate with animals based upon their capacity as such beings. And there are documentations already to prove this. Our technology today has even created a device to help us hear them now. This device is called ‘Plantwave’. It can detect electrical variations in plants through electrodes placed on the leaves.

(https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/its-2021-and-you-can-now-listen-to-music-made-by-plants-4265087.html).

Kabang was brought to the U.S. for facial surgery to help her eat better. But she had to be treated for heartworm and TVT cancer (venereal disease in dogs) first. After almost a year, the surgery was done and was a success. In photo are clinicians, staff and caregivers who formed part of Kabang’s medical team. This was taken May 20, 2013. Kabang was cleared by the medical team to go home to the Philippines on June 3, 2013. (Photo taken by Don Preisler/UC Davis and published in the article “Hero dog Kabang gets new nose” in cbsnews.com) Kabang died in her sleep on May 17, 2021, or eight (8) years after the surgery. She was 13 years old or approximately 91 years old (human age).

Non-human animals, whatever species they may be, based on their beings capacity, do have conscious efforts in living their lives. I believe that with life, there is also consciousness. But it may vary in levels based on the type of being of an organism. That is why, I think, we have the saying, “all is connected or related”. It is because of consciousness in all living things. This is what connects us, humans, to everything. Based on this belief, therefore, I cannot, for myself, say that I have the right to place myself above any other living being. But I can say that humans can help in organizing other living beings as long as it is for the benefit of all living creatures and not just our own kind. This is also why in the Holy Bible, it is written that God made man as ‘stewards’ of all creation. Meaning, He entrusted man to care for other forms of His creation. He did not say that we may look down on all other life forms as of less value compared to ours. He made us stewards or caretakers…. not gods.

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She is a solo parent for 14 years now because she is wife to a desaparacido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.

This article also appears in the Manila Standard



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