I don’t care if science says my dog is dumb, because I already know that she is. She’s afraid of paper bags, for Pete's sake. She’s snapped her nose in a mouse trap more than once. She runs from her leash no matter how badly she wants to go outside.
Fans of man’s best friend, though, erupted in fury over a study published recently in the journal "Learning & Behavior" that said that dogs aren’t “exceptional” when it comes to intelligence and cognition. The study’s authors looked at existing research in order to compare dogs' smarts with those of other animals in three categories: Being mostly carnivorous, hunting socially and being domesticable. In those contexts, there’s not enough scientific evidence to suggest that a champion herding dog’s spacial awareness is more extraordinary than a homing pigeon’s ability to navigate long distances.
As Dr. Stephen Lea, one of the study’s authors, told the New York Times, “almost everything a dog claimed to do, other animals could do too.” After reading paper after paper that claimed that dogs had extraordinary abilities, “It made me quite wary that dogs were special.”
But anyone who has ever spent time with a dog — or a cat or a bird or a miniature pig — knows that intelligence isn’t why animals inspire compassion and love in humans. It’s their big, limpid eyes, their derpy tongues, and the obvious joy they take in chasing a toy around for hours at a time. And, as anyone who has ever gone on a date with a person claiming to be a “sapiosexual” or tried to get kisses from a cat can attest, selecting companions based exclusively on how smart they seemingly are is a surefire way to get clawed in the face.
Furthermore, while it’s interesting that the authors of the paper were able to show clearly that dogs don’t necessarily possess skills that similar animals lack, that should inspire more love for creatures of all kinds, regardless of their intelligence.
And yet, corporate farming operations torture thousands of animals on a daily basis, pumping chickens, turkeys, pigs and cows full of antibiotics and hormones while starving them of space and light. And the vast majority of Americans don't have a problem eating any of the above even as they attribute more complex intelligence and emotions to their pets.
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