Beyond Conspecifics: Is Brer Rabbit Our Brother?

Gordon Burghardt, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Harold Herzog, Mars Hill College

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Today, on many fronts, there is renewed interest in our relationship with nonhuman animals. Many factors have contributed to this concern. Environmental and ecological awareness has drawn public attention to the near extermination of many species and the detrimental effects of pollution, pesticides, and habitat destruction. The inefficiency of transmuting vegetable protein to meat has added to the traditional moral arguments of vegetarians. The widespread questioning of government support for basic research has been intertwined with suspicions about the use and worth of any studies on animals, even those purporting to help understand human medical and behavioral problems. New evidence of higher cognitive faculties in some animals including reason, language, and emotional sensitivity have resonated throughout the scientific and lay press (e.g., Gallup 1977, Lawick Goodall 1971, Griffin 1976, Lilly 1975). Ethological work on animal and human behavior has thus eroded the key foundation for the age-old rigid distinctions between human and nonhuman (see Regan and Singer 1976 for an excellent anthology). The "study of the animal mind'' is again fashionable (Burghardt 1978), as evidenced by the highly technical contributions constituting an entire 1978 issue of The Behavioral and Brain Sciences (Vol. 1, no. 4). Philosophers, theologians, scientists, and many organizations are now grappling with the issues involved in our treatment of animals (e.g., Allen and Westbrook 1979, Curtis 1978, Henig 1979).