The Ethics of Captivity: A New Book Covers All the Issues

A new book called "The Ethics of Captivity" edited by Professor Lori Gruen is a must read for anyone who has contact with captive animals. As she notes, "there are common ethical themes that imprisonment raises, including the value of liberty, the nature of autonomy, the meaning of dignity, and the impact of routine confinement on physical and psychological well-being."

Men's Odor Stresses Mice and Rats Used in Pain Research

The discovery that the scent of a man influences the reliability and replicability of data collected in pain research on mice and rats raises serious questions about the use of animals to generate models of human disease. Who knows what other undiscovered factors play a role in biomedical research on animals that render the research of very limited use for humans?

Chickens and Badgers: Smart Beyond Our Wildest Imagination

Just when we thought we knew all there was to know about the cognitive and emotional lives of various animals, startling facts emerge that show just how smart they are. A recent video showing a crafty honey badger making and using tools and an essay summarizing the amazing cognitive abilities of chickens are must viewing and reading.

Can Evolutionary Biology Tell Us What’s Kinky?

Can evolutionary biology tell us what’s kinky? Yes, but we also need to expand our notion of what's kinky and what's not.

A Cat and Owl: Must See Video of Wild Justice and Fair Play

Watch Fum the cat and Gebra the owl have fun on the run and play fairly, doing what they need to do to maintain the rules of the game, namely, this is play, not a fight. They engage in self handicapping, role reversing, and use subtle signals to say, "Let's play" or "Let's continue to play". There are many lessons here that should stimulate further research.

Rethinking the Ethics of Research Involving Nonhuman Animals

A new collection of essays titled “Rethinking the ethics of research involving nonhuman animals” is a refreshing evaluation of the ways we currently treat animals and how we could improve our treatment of them in ways that are ethically coherent and compassionate. As long as animals are used in research we are obligated to make their lives the very best they can be.

Swiss Zoo Kills Healthy Young Bear to Protect Him

A Russian brown bear cub was zoothanized at a zoo in Bern, Switzerland, so that his father wouldn't kill him as he had another cub. It's simply too easy for zoos to kill animals who they view as disposable objects or "surplus" animals in the name of conserving, breeding, or protecting them. Why not find other cages so they can live out their lives in peace and safety?

Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs

In his new book called "Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs" award-winning science writer David Grimm explores the rich and surprising history and rapidly changing status of our favorite companions. Replete with wonderful stories and scientific facts, this book is a must read for all who want to know more about these fascinating beings.

The Messes Dogs Make: Science Shows "The Dog" Doesn't Exist

A new book about dogs is a must read because we also learn how science is done. A reasonable conclusion is that "the dog" doesn't really exist and this characterization is an oversimplification because of incredible variation in behavior. And, dogs are not always our best friends nor we theirs. Dogs do make messes, not only pee and poop, and these provide valuable lessons.

Dolphin Speak: Did a Dolphin Really Say "Seaweed"?

Dolphins are in the news because of their communicative abilities and culturally transmitted tool use. It turns out that a dolphin actually whistled "seaweed" and the use of sponges by dolphins to protect their beaks when foraging can shape the genetic structure of a population of these amazing beings (called cultural hitchhiking).

The Ghosts in Our Machine: Award-Winning Film a Life Changer

"The Ghosts in Our Machine" is an award-winning documentary directed by Liz Marshall. Voted one of the Top Transformational Films of 2013, this incredible and forward looking film follows internationally renowned photographer Jo-Anne McArthur over the course of a year as she documents the stories of individual animals caught in the web of so-called "civilized society."

Antarctic Whaling to End Because It Really Isn't Science

The United Nations court, the International Court of Justice, ruled against Japan in a case brought by Australia—that Japan has been using science to mask its commercial whaling operation in Antarctic waters. Japan's whaling is not justified on the basis that it is scientific research, and it will end. This is a huge victory.

My Bionic Pet: A PBS Show on Disabled Animals and Saviors

In this inspiring and eye-opening documentary, you'll meet a wide variety of animals in need and amazing humans who give them a new lease on life. It will force you to "rethink euthanasia" and you'll come to see that disabled animals ranging from dogs to a pig, a horse, an alligator, and a swan can go on to lead wonderful lives full of joy with help from dedicated humans.

Four Lions Including Two Cubs Killed at the Copenhagen Zoo

Yesterday the Copenhagen zoo killed four lions, two old males and their two cubs, because they want to introduce a new male to the remaining females to make more lions, some of whom will likely be killed in the future. This is the same zoo where Marius, a young healthy giraffe, was murdered because he couldn't be used as a breeding machine in the zoo's breeding program.

Do Dogs Really Feel Guilt or Shame? We Really Don't Know

While humans aren't very good at reading guilt or shame it doesn't mean dogs don't feel them. The continued misinterpretation of the seminal research of Dr. Alexandra Horowitz and her co-workers is bothersome because we really do not know if dogs feel guilt or shame and her study was not directly concerned with this question. It's essential to get things right.

What if "They" Became Us? Animals, Music, and Childrearing

Three recent books of very different styles are well worth the read. They are "The Awareness", "The Evolution of Emotional Communication: From Sounds in Nonhuman Mammals to Speech and Music in Man", and "Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution". "The Awareness" considers the daunting scenario what if "they" (other animals) became us? Each is extremely thought-provoking.

Can Animals Be Too Happy or Have Too Much Fun?

Can animals be too happy or have too much fun? The field of "diagonal psychology" offers insights to these questions, as does the application of a type of natural selection called "stabilizing selection". Can being too happy or having too much fun on the run or being too full of oneself actually incur significant costs? It seems they can but we need more detailed studies.

What Do Dogs Know, Think, and Feel? A New Book Tells It All

Research-based "Domestic Dogs Cognition and Behavior" edited by Barnard College psychologist Alexandra Horowitz is a must read for anyone interested in what dogs know, think, and feel.

What Do Zoos Teach about Biodiversity and Does it Matter?

This week I was alerted to a new international study called "A Global Evaluation of Biodiversity Literacy in Zoo and Aquarium Visitors". The data, which were published in-house by the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, showed an increase "in respondents demonstrating some positive evidence of biodiversity understanding". What this means for the animals is unknown.

What the Dog's Nose Tells the Dog's Brain: Humans Come First

fMRI studies show dogs discriminate familiar from unfamiliar odors and that the response of the caudate nucleus in their brain is strongest to the odor of a familiar human scent rather than to the odor of another dog. Neuroimaging studies are important in demonstrating not only the power of the dog's nose but also provide confirmation of the strong dog-human relationship.

Zoos "Zoothanize" Many Healthy Animals According to BBC

European zoos "management euthanize" 3,000-5,000 animals a year. In a BBC Magazine essay we read, "'The numbers game can be made to sound awful,'" says Simon Tonge..."The headline 'Zoos euthanize thousands of animals per year' would be misleading," he says. "Well OK, but you know most of those animals were rats or mice or something like that." Animals are not things.

Killing Squid, a Giraffe, and the Common Sense of Science

Scientific inquiry is not and cannot be objective because scientists are humans. Here I revisit Professor Bernard Rollin's important idea called "the common sense of science" and agree with him that science is neither value-free nor ethics-free. Being on the side of animals isn't being more of an advocate than being on the other side. Both are forms of advocacy.

Marius the Giraffe: Zoo Should Have Covered up Killing Him

In a blog about Marius, a young giraffe who was killed at the Copenhagen Zoo as if he were a worthless object because he wasn't a breeding machine and didn't fit into their breeding program, Peter Dickinson writes, "I still support Copenhagen's decision. Perhaps though they should have just gone ahead and did the deed one early morning before the zoo opened to visitors."

The Marius Effect: A Giraffe, Food, and Invasive Research

The killing of a young healthy zoo giraffe is an anthrozoological gem. It clearly shows we have very confused, troubling, and paradoxical relationships with other animals. Why get upset with killing a giraffe and allow animals to be harmed and killed on factory farms and in research labs? Why the disconnect?

Healthy Giraffe is Killed at Zoo Despite Offer to Save Him

Yesterday I wrote about the plight of Marius, a young giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo who was to be killed because he didn't fit into the zoo's breeding program. Today I learned he was killed despite another zoo offering to save him. To quote from a BBC article: The director of a wildlife park in the Netherlands said, "Zoos need to change the way they do business."

Grief of an Emperor Penguin Mother Will Rock Your Soul

This video is the most moving I've seen in a long time. You can hear and feel the pain of the mother who lost her chick and also rejoice when another penguin consoles her. Words can't adequately describe this short film and it leaves no doubt that the mother is deeply grieving her loss. Displays of grief are being observed in more and more animals, not only mammals.

Healthy Young Zoo Giraffe to be Killed: "Zoothanasia" Redux

A healthy young male giraffe will be killed because he doesn't fit into the Copenhagen Zoo's breeding program. This is another reprehensible example of "zoothanasia" in which an individual is killed, not euthanized, because they are considered to be disposable. When is this reprehensible killing going to stop? None too soon. Compassionate conservation offers sage guidance.

Sport Killing Dogs Sochi Style: A New Olympic Event

Clearly, human-animal relationships are all over the place. How can people who say they love dogs support the Olympics and handle these inconsistencies? Numerous dogs are paying a dear price.

Happy Cows: A Heart-Warming Video Offers an Important Lesson

Watch rescued cows free to run gallop around with unmistakable joy and glee. These are truly happy cows, not "happy" cows. View this video for an up and share it widely. It is worth countless words and offers a valuable lesson.

Animal Smarts and Emotions: A Scholars' Circle Discussion

A Scholars' Circle discussion about animal intelligence, animal emotions, and animal protection in which the similarities and differences between human and nonhuman animals are considered by myself, Barbara Natterson-Horowitz (co-author of Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health), and Stan Kuczaj, who studies dolphin cognition and behavior.