DEAR READERS: Late last year, the British Veterinary Association council declared that crabs, lobsters, octopuses and squid "should be regarded in legislation as having consciousness and the capacity to experience feelings such as pleasure and pain" (Veterinary Record, Dec. 2020-Jan. 2021 issue). Now this legislation is the law of the land. From a CNN story by Katie Hunt:
"Octopuses, crabs and lobsters are capable of experiencing pain or suffering, according to a review commissioned by the U.K. government, which has added the creatures to a list of sentient beings to be given protection under new animal welfare laws. The report by experts at the London School of Economics looked at 300 scientific studies to evaluate evidence of sentience, and they concluded that cephalopods (such as octopuses, squid and cuttlefish) and decapods (such as crabs, lobsters and crayfish) should be treated as sentient beings." (Full story: CNN.com, Nov. 22)
Scientists have done many studies to determine what animals, vertebrate and invertebrate, can sense and feel and think -- so-called cognitive ethology. And this is as challenging as it is to know what another person is thinking and feeling. There are gradients of sentience -- varying degrees and kinds of sensing, feeling, intelligence and self-awareness -- both within and between species, as we know from our own interactions with people and other animals. If we had no empathy, would we have any real understanding? As naturalist and author Joe Hutto has asserted, "We do not have a privileged access to reality."
As a curious naturalist and elected Fellow of the U.K.'s Royal Entomological Society, I never doubted that insects were sentient and had emotional reactions. Now scientists are confirming this and elevating our understanding and appreciation for this class of animal life. As Zaria Gorvett writes in an excellent BBC article: "For decades, the idea that insects have feelings was considered a heretical joke -- but as the evidence piles up, scientists are rapidly reconsidering." (Full story: BBC.com, Nov. 28)
For more about animal sentience, see my article at drfoxonehealth.com/post/animal-sentience.
HARVARD SETS ENDOWMENT FOR ANIMAL LAW, POLICY PROGRAM
Harvard Law School has established a $10 million endowment for its Animal Law and Policy Program, expanding the seven-year-old program through a gift from the Brooks Institute for Animal Rights Law and Policy.
The inaugural program allowed for an expansion of courses to include wildlife law and farmed animal law, helped in the development of visiting fellows programs and workshops and opened the door for the launch of the HLS Animal Law and Policy Clinic. This in-house public-interest law firm gives Harvard students hands-on experience and mentorship working directly on real-time animal law cases and policy projects, the school noted in a news release.
The program now bears the name of Brooks McCormick Jr., the Brooks Institute's founding benefactor and an animal lover and philanthropist who passed away in 2015. The institute has become a leading foundation supporting academic work in the field of animal law and policy, supporting animal law programs at Yale University, New York University, Lewis & Clark College, the University of Denver and Vermont Law School, among other academic institutions.
Animal rights law-related courses currently are offered at 167 U.S. law schools, 21 years after the first such course launched at Harvard, the release noted. For more details, see today.law.harvard.edu/10-million-endowment-established-for-the-harvard-law-school-animal-law-policy-program.
CDC EASES RULES ON TRAVELERS ENTERING U.S. WITH DOGS
The CDC relaxed rules banning the importation or reentry of dogs from 113 countries with high risk of rabies transmission, and will now allow travelers to bring in healthy, microchipped dogs that have an up-to-date rabies vaccine from a U.S.-licensed veterinarian. Travelers returning to the U.S. with a dog that has been in a high-risk country may reenter the U.S. through one of 18 approved ports. (Full story: New York Times, Nov. 24)
This is good news for the international dog-rescue network, whose efforts I applaud. But in my opinion, the less we humans engage in international travel ourselves, the smaller our carbon footprint and the smaller the spread of communicable diseases. We can't control migratory birds, who can spread diseases from continent to continent, but we can control ourselves -- and get governments to prohibit the import-export market in wildlife.
The wildlife trade business contributes to the extinction crisis, causes much animal suffering and is a factor in the spread of emerging diseases like COVID-19 in the human populace. The more we harm fellow creatures, the more we harm ourselves.
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