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Turns out animal intelligence is not so different from our own

Sierra Club – Does a Bear Think in the Woods?: “…Seen through this lens, a bear’s landscape is a place inscribed with the etchings of society. That would make the woods something we might call a neighborhood rather than mere habitat; it might prompt us to consider the residents as thinking, feeling individuals as opposed to mere creatures. Chris Darimont, a conservation scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, has suggested that people should view wildlife habitat issues in a new light: Environmental degradation isn’t just about animal population trends; it’s also about animals’ lived experience of hardship. When a bulldozer clears a wood to make way for human residences, it destroys many homes first. Darimont also emphasizes that, when considering animals and our ethical relations to them, it’s enough to know that they suffer. Compassion isn’t contingent on intelligence. Fair enough—yet it does seem that intelligence, however measured, adds to the moral calculus. Few of us would equate the plight of a stranded jellyfish with that of a beached whale. What sort of ethical regard, then, is owed to a bear? For starters, we should strive to replace our culture’s fear of bears with a spirit of understanding and respect. Such respect is incompatible with killing bears for sport or profit—and while outlawing bear hunting is an unlikely event in many places, nonhunters should be represented on the state committees that regulate hunting. They can give voice to those who don’t speak in human tongues. And hunting isn’t the only threat to bears: Equally important is how to live with them. No bear should die because someone didn’t secure their trash. Maybe we should spend a small fraction of the nation’s many billions of public infrastructure dollars on bear-proof canisters, as a gesture of neighborly generosity. And what happens when our efforts at coexistence prove insufficient and we accidentally harm or kill bears? We then have an obligation to care for the casualties, to show them compassion, just as the Kilhams have done for decades…”

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