If animals are conscious, then the way we treat them must change.

Have you ever wondered what animals think and feel?

There are capacities of the human mind that we tend to think are capacities only of the human mind. But is that true? What are other beings doing with those brains?

Octopuses use tools, as well as do most apes and they recognize human faces. Sea otters show their babies what to do, which is called teaching.

We have the same imperatives: take care of our babies, find food, try to stay alive. We see helping where help is needed. We see curiosity in the young. We see the bonds of family connections. We recognize affection. And then we ask, “Are they conscious?”

It turns out that if you record the voices of tourists and you play that recording from a speaker hidden in bushes, elephants will ignore it, because tourists never bother elephants. But if you record the voices of herders who carry spears and often hurt elephants, the elephants will bunch up and run away from the hidden speaker. Not only do elephants know that there are humans, they know that there are different kinds of humans, and that some are OK and some are dangerous.

We cause so much pain to them. The mystery is, why don’t they hurt us more than they do? This whale had just finished tearing a seal into three pieces with two companions.The seal weighed about as much as the people in the boat. They had nothing to fear. Killer whales eat seals. Why don’t they eat us? Why is it that killer whales have returned to researchers lost in thick fog and led them miles until the fog parted and the researchers’ home was right there on the shoreline?

The things that make us human are not the things that we think make us human. What makes us human is that,of all these things that our minds and their minds have, we are the most extreme. We are the most compassionate, most violent, most creative and most destructive animal that has ever been on this planet, and we are all of those things all jumbled up together.

But love is not the thing that makes us human. It’s not special to us. We are not the only ones who care about our mates. We are not the only ones who care about our children.Passing life from one generation to the next is the chain of being. If that stops, it all goes away. If anything is sacred, that is.

When we welcome new human life into the world, we welcome our babies into the company of other creatures. We paint animals on the walls. We don’t paint cell phones. We don’t paint work cubicles. We paint animals to show them that we are not alone. We have company. And every one of those animals in every painting of Noah’s ark, deemed worthy of salvation is in mortal danger now, and their flood is us.

Are we capable of using what we have to care enough to simply let them continue?

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