Bear in Mind

Exploring the common minds and emotions of people and other animals and their lives together

The Elephants Will Not Be Televised

Science is the revolution.

Elephant herd
Johan Swanepoel
You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.

 –Gil Scott-Heron1

Change is certainly afoot when the work of Gil Scott-Heron and Thomas Kuhn converge, but converged they have as a series of news articles demonstrates.2 Last July, a group of prominent neuroscientists declared that animals are conscious.3 This is not news, it's Science 101. The comparability of human and non-human animal consciousness drives science's long-standing use of rats, mice, pigeons, cats, dogs, rays, and chimpanzees as sacrificial probes to explore human minds.4

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This past week, the media came out with even more news on human-animal comparability. A Guardian article by writer Benjamin Zephaniah describes human and elephant slavery as one and the same:

My Jamaican heritage and African roots make it impossible for me to ignore the historical similarities between cruelty to my own ancestors and cruelty to animals in circuses today. The mindset that has permitted atrocities to be inflicted on humans is the same mindset that allows the abuse of animals to occur. Just as my ancestors were beaten and exploited, so are the zebras, lions, tigers, camels and other animals used in circuses. Just as my ancestors had families, feelings and emotions, so do animals. In fact, when I strip away the material stuff around me, I see that I, too, am an animal. We are family.5

A day or two later, The Seattle Times carried a frontpage exposé on how elephants are dying in zoos:

The Times did a first-of-its-kind analysis of 390 elephant fatalities at accredited U.S. zoos for the past 50 years. . [and]  found that most of the elephants died from injury or disease linked to conditions of their captivity...For every elephant born in a zoo...another two die.6

Group of penguins
Similar to what we know about animal minds, the exploitation of captive wildlife is also well documented. The suffering associated with human and other animal slavery is detailed in the literature with nauseating identity. The nature and lucre of captive industries transcend species lines and children are not exempt.7,8

Another recent Seattle Times article reports that despite the claim that a newborn elephant infant represents "a victory...to preserve and propagate an endangered species," the Oregon Zoo has "cut a deal to give up the second, fourth and sixth offspring between [the elephants] Rose-Tu...and Tusko, a prolific male." Tusko is owned by a "traveling elephant show that rents out pachyderms to the entertainment industry, stages circuslike events and offers elephant rides at $500 an hour."9

So, no, there is nothing new in content. The real news is who’s saying it. Mainstream pundits have become the new voices of conscience. This is news. Humanity has reached a Malcolm Gladwell tipping point. Science’s revolution is in full swing.10,11 If you’re not there yet, better catch up, because it will not be televised.

References

[1] Heron, Gil-Scott. 1970. The revolution will not be televised. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGaRtqrlGy8

[2] Kuhn, T.S. 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago.

[3] Cambridge Declaration. 2012. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. Retrieved November 30, 2012 from http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

[4] Trans-species psychology. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 30, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-species_psychology 

[5] Zephaniah, B. 2012. Animals in circuses: a modern-day slave trade. Retrieved November 30, 2012 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/30/animals-circuses-slave-trade-anne-elephant

[6] Berens, M.J. 2012. Elephants are dying out in America’s zoos. The Seattle Times. Retrieved December 2, 2012 from http://seattletimes.com/html/nationworld/2019809167_elephants02m....

[7] Clubb, R., Rowcliffe, M., Lee, P., Mar, K. U., Moss, C., & Mason, G. 2008. Compromised survivorship in zoo elephants. Science, 322(5908), 1649.

[8] Bradshaw, G.A. 2009. Elephants on the edge: What animals teach us about humanity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

[9] Berens, M.J. 2012. Portland's baby elephant belongs to traveling show. Seattle Times. Retrieved December 4, 2012 from http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2019822187_elephants04m.html.

[10] Gladwell, M. 2002. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Back Bay.

[11] Bradshaw, G.A. 2012. Can science progress to a revitalized past? In D. Narvaez, J. Panksepp, A. Schore, and T. Gleason (Eds.), Human nature, early experience and the environment of evolutionary adaptedness. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.p. 414-420.

G.A. Bradshaw, Ph.D., Ph.D. is the author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity.

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