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Donald McCaig

Don't send a dog when a pigeon will do

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Intelligence is a tricky thing. Yes, we all know what it means, but when we try to define it, it turns out to be a slippery thing,indeed. We can measure IQ, but it is merely a a proxy to the thing we mean by intelligence. When it comes to our companions, dogs, I'm not even sure we have a "doggy" IQ defined. Certainly, they are sentient; smart; "intelligent:, even, but how do we measure it? Some recent work (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160289616301076) suggests that there is a "general" intelligence for dogs (working border collies were the subjects, as a  matter of fact). We are far from understanding what that means. Frankly we don't even understand exactly what intelligence means in humans; IQ tests measure pattern matching, for the most part. How are the measured values skewed by culture? Motivation? Who knows?

Yes, we are dumb about figuring out smartness. Not just about the creatures we share our lives with. 

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John, so very true.

 I do not call any species "dumb" the way people often do. Every creature has intelligence that is precisely geared for that species, and for its environment and what it needs to know to survive and to reproduce. It is ridiculous to measure the intelligence of an octopus or a sheep on human-scale standards. We think that we can measure human intelligence, and to some degree we can, but only in a very narrow range that doesn't take culture and other factors into consideration. 

I also feel it is a shame on the human race that the prevailing attitude has been to rank species according to perceived intelligence and, as the article says, offer respect accordingly. As if all creatures do not deserve respect, no matter where they fall on human beings' arbitrary scales of importance or smarts.

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21 hours ago, D'Elle said:

I do not call any species "dumb" the way people often do. 

I like that. I admit with some guilt that I have shouted in frustration, "oh, STUPID chickens!" when the younger ones cannot figure out how to get back into the coop at dusk, and all get stuck BEHIND the big, open door, pacing desperately back and forth and not realizing they can go around it. But I know that it has much more to do with eyesight than intelligence.

Remember the age old internet debate about which is better, dogs or cats? (Still going for all I know.) My question was always, better for what? Good luck getting a cat to pull a sled, and good luck finding a dog with the patience to sit outside a mouse hole and wait quietly for hours on end for the creature to come out, as I have seen cats do. Never seen a dog climb effortlessly up a tree, never seen a cat herding sheep. Every animal has their strengths and weaknesses. As do we. 

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My favorite species to apply this to is crows.  Crows have been "scientifically proven" to have better memory, problem-solving, and social skills than most animals - including primates like gorillas and chimpanzees.  They are one of the smartest animals on earth.

The Migratory bird treaty act protects crows as well as many other species.  It is against Federal Law to pick up a crow feather and take it home when you find it on the ground.  You can be fined or even do jail time for doing so.  Yet, if crows are annoying you by stealing from your vegetable garden, crapping on your roof, or making too much noise to suit you, you can get - usually for the asking - a permit to poison or shoot and kill them.  

Some folks are highly indignant that crows should be killed this way - because they are so intelligent. Not because they are a very social species that is known to mourn, and even hold funerals for dead flockmates, not because they suffer pain and fright when being killed.

But those same people think nothing of the barbaric slaughter methods used to kill poultry, like dragging them - sometimes conscious - through scalding water to loosen their feathers.  Or the inhumane breeding practices and husbandry practices which make their short lives a living hell.  Well, who cares?  They're just stupid chickens, right?

It is not a coincidence that animals that are raised for eating - cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry, etc. are considered by the average person to be stupid.  Perhaps it eases the conscience of the eaters of said animals. 

It is more expensive to raise and slaughter animals  humanely.  So enacting changes in the way animals are raised is a slow process, and people are reluctant to pay the grower of those animals a price consonant with his greater expense and time.   

I bought a chicken to eat last week.  It was pasture raised, and bred to be able to run around and take advantage of its longer and better life.  It cost me $35.00.  And I was was fine with that.  It will be the 2nd time I've eaten chicken in 2 years.  My income is well below the poverty level.  But I feel that if average income people gave up certain "essentials" like cable TV, they would be able to regularly eat chicken and other animals that had decent lives.  I guess it's all in what's important - and moral - to them.

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4 hours ago, geonni banner said:

My favorite species to apply this to is crows.  Crows have been "scientifically proven" to have better memory, problem-solving, and social skills than most animals - including primates like gorillas and chimpanzees.  They are one of the smartest animals on earth

I have had a lifelong fascination for animal behaviour and intelligence generally with dogs, horses, whales and dolphins - orca in particular take up a huge amount of my book shelves but crows are another I am drawn towards and love to watch.  There are two magpies that have a bit of a turf war going on with the dogs and they'll deliberately throw things off the sheds and walls to hit the dogs they know can't reach them.  When they clock something different in my daughter's bedroom window they bounce past every morning, they'll come up to investigate, tap on the window with beaks and if you leave them a little surprise in the form of a tub with holes poked in the lid and a whiff of something inside that might interest them, cheeky sods hop up on the open window ledge and have twice actually been in her room standing on the hamster cage looking really intrigued by that too.

The same two hooligan magpies can often be seen perched on the head of sheep too which kills me.  Sheep stands there not moving an inch seemingly oblivious about how to get that annoying thing off its bonce and the magpies add insult to injury pecking it or bouncing from head to back to bum and back up to the head again.  They're brilliant I love to watch crows and magpies.    :)

Hamsters are also gonna have their day soon I'm sure.  Convinced they are incredibly smart little critters actually but I'll come back and elaborate on all things hamster, orca and horse related.

For now just sharing this clip of casual Colin.

 

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@geonni banner I always find it so ironic that people who buy factory farmed meat from the grocery store gasp in horror at the fact that I raise rabbits and chickens to eat. Why is it more horrifying to swiftly and with minimal (if any) stress kill an animal that's had a good life eating grass and running around and engaging in their natural behavior, but not horrifying to support the hugely cruel industry of factory farming? It's the same as calling the animals we eat "stupid;" it's easier for people to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that if they didn't see it, it didn't happen. I say that if you could not (humanely) kill an animal yourself or at least watch an animal be (humanely) killed and butchered without being horrified, then maybe you just shouldn't eat meat rather than deluding yourself that an animal didn't die to feed you. 

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