From The Telegraph comes this
With all due respect for the phenomenal work on great ape behaviour that’s been accomplished over the past 50 or so years, this story underscores a point that Iain Davidson once shared with me. His rhetorical question was, ‘If they’re so much like us why do we need to incarcerate them?’
People love anthropomorphizing canids. But dogs kill and maim people who mean them no harm. Elephants are presumed to be the most intelligent land animal. But they can kill people out of fear, or because they get in the way. Little cats and big cats have the affection of bazillions of people. But, as someone who’s been savaged by a house cat for no other reason than that I woke it up, I’m not so sure they’re all that human. I could go on. I hope you take my point.
No matter how tender the care, or how well-meaning the care-giver, or how thorough the obedience training, none of these animals can be trusted to walk among us. I’m compelled to point out that the same is true of Guinea pigs, rabbits, wolves, porcupines, and the other great apes and monkeys, and prosimians.
My old friend pointed out that people are capable of savagery, too. But as Freud pointed out, we’re all neurotic because we’re taught (most of us, anyway) to suppress a violent or murderous thought. We are capable of learning a morality, because that is something that requires the assignment of meaning to abstract ideas. Humans are the only animals with this capacity. Period.
Dog lovers complain because Pit Bulls have a bad rap. No, pit bulls have a savage history of selective breeding for the traits that all too often emerge, even in the most docile, well-trained individuals. Unlike humans, such animals act in their instinctive ways without compunction. They don’t ‘think’ about it. Those chimps at Chimp Eden didn’t think about what they were doing. They just did it.
Even O.J. Simpson has more humanity than those chimps. And that’s not a rap on the chimps; it’s a rap on the people who make them out to be something they’re not.
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