Editor’s note: This post has originally been posted on 12th September 2018, and has now been updated and republished.
Before we look at possible answers, we should try to establish an ethical baseline we all can agree on and work with. Most but not all people will accept that it is wrong to intentionally inflict harm onto others with the exception of acting in self defence. Intentionally harming other people is morally seen not acceptable. Violence is generally not regarded as normal behaviour, as it obviously can cause harm. It seems natural to most of us to help others, who have been harmed or are about to be harmed. But what drives us to help? And where does empathy and compassion come from?
Editor’s note: This post has originally been posted on 9th April 2018, and has now been updated and republished.
Many people have a naive and rosy view of the kind of lives animals are living in the wild. Some people strongly believe, and this includes sometimes wildlife rescuers and rehabbers, conservationists and people who think of themselves as nature or animal lovers, that non-human animals living in the wild live in some kind of paradise. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Animals living in the wild live lives that are far from idyllic, and most of them have to deal with the reality of constant threat of tremendous suffering. Although many people accept the fact that animals experience suffering, the willingness to help, to minimise or eliminate suffering, remains rather an exceptional act of kindness. Also, for reasons remaining mostly unclear, many people assume that wild animals do cope better with suffering than domestic animals or our beloved pets. However, there is no reason or scientific foundation for this assumption.1
Editor’s note: This post has originally been posted on 1st June 2017, and has now been updated and republished.
Animals, also called Metazoa, are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia, which includes the human species. Based on current scientific evidence one can assume that any animal with a centralised nervous system might be sentient, which means that we as humans can affect them through our actions, and for this reason we should give them moral consideration. Sentience refers to the ability to have positive and negative experiences caused by external affectations to our body or to sensations within our body. When a being has an experience, then this experience exists in that being or subject, as objects cannot have an experience. We do not know for certain what causes consciousness to arise. However, it is known that in the absence of at least a centralised nervous system, consciousness will not arise.
Therefore it makes perfect sense to refer to sentient non-human beings as “he/she” or “them/they”, or by species. The words “it” or “thing” should not be used to refer to a non-human animal, and “who” is used rather than “that”. If you do not know the gender, choose one: “he” or “she”. Even if your gender choice is wrong, it is more respectful than “it.” This is an important way of demonstrating respect towards non-human animals, and will stress the fact that non-human animals are not being regarded or treated as possessions or objects. Please note that this approach is not thought to reflect the complexity of human gender diversity.
We would like to use this opportunity to give our condolences to Sophie’s family. We would also like to thank Sophie’s family and carer for all the hard work they did and for taking good care of Sophie, enabling so many people to become part of Sophie’s life. Last but not least we would like to thank Sophie’s family for nominating us as a worthy cause to support and for all the subsequent kind and generous donations, which are greatly appreciated by us and the birds in our corvid sanctuary.
Sophie has been an ambassador in a world, where animals are mostly regarded as objects or possessions, where magpies and many other animal species did not make it into the worthy group of animals enjoying preferential consideration and treatment. Also, many people often think of a species as a large body of ‘others’. Sophie has helped people to understand, that a species is made up of unique beings, as she gave us the opportunity to get to know her as an individual, a sentient being, not any different to animals humans tend to love and admire more frequently, such as dogs or parrots. Please do not forget, the next magpie you see in the woods or in the garden is an individual like Sophie. She made us realise that every individual of a species matters, and without any doubt, Sophie did.
Due to recent events, we feel that we should clarify a few things. There are a multitude of different kinds of people with varying intentions and opinions or ethical and moral values responding to the broad selection of topics we have tackled on our website and on Twitter, which is usually very refreshing and for which we are very grateful. Whilst we value the freedom of opinion, we have to distance ourselves from some of the comments and commenters, who seem to have at the very least misunderstood or misinterpreted, unintentionally or intentionally, certain topics, most likely to suit their own agenda.