Published on Monday, September 1, 2003 by the Los Angeles Times
A Change of Heart About Animals
They are more like us than we imagined, scientists are finding
by Jeremy Rifkin
Though much of big science has centered on breakthroughs in biotechnology, nanotechnology and more esoteric questions like the age of our universe, a quieter story has been unfolding behind the scenes in laboratories around the world — one whose effect on human perception and our understanding of life is likely to be profound.
What these researchers are finding is that many of our fellow creatures are more like us than we had ever imagined. They feel pain, suffer and experience stress, affection, excitement and even love — and these findings are changing how we view animals.
Strangely enough, some of the research sponsors are fast food purveyors, such as McDonald's, Burger King and KFC. Pressured by animal rights activists and by growing public support for the humane treatment of animals, these companies have financed research into, among other things, the emotional, mental and behavioral states of our fellow creatures.
Studies on pigs' social behavior funded by McDonald's at Purdue University, for example, have found that they crave affection and are easily depressed if isolated or denied playtime with each other. The lack of mental and physical stimuli can result in deterioration of health.
The European Union has taken such studies to heart and outlawed the use of isolating pig stalls by 2012. In Germany, the government is encouraging pig farmers to give each pig 20 seconds of human contact each day and to provide them with toys to prevent them from fighting.
Other funding sources have fueled the growing field of study into animal emotions and cognitive abilities.
Researchers were stunned recently by findings (published in the journal Science) on the conceptual abilities of New Caledonian crows. In controlled experiments, scientists at Oxford University reported that...