|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
35th World Vegetarian Congress
'Food for all our futures'
Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland
July 8-14, 2002
The Vegetarian Society
of the United Kingdom
Animal emotions and intelligence
There was a time when non-human animals were venerated for what they were: sentient and spirited beings that had their accredited place in the great scheme of things where there is but continuity of all organic life.
In the Western history of thought there were however two major breaks with the positive image humans once had of non-human animals. When Aristotle defined the human being as the only rational animal, he decreed a fundamental discontinuity between us and the other animal species. Some 2000 years later Descartes radicalised the Judeo-Christian view that God created only man in his own image. To the highly influential French philosopher animals had no soul; they were but insensitive brutes, soulless, dumb and unconscious machines functioning according to stimulus-response mechanisms. This consolidated the rather unfavourable image of non-human animals modern humanity has cultivated for centuries until today: non-human animals are evolutionary inferior to us and hence worth less than humans. These are prejudices that we have exploited and still exploit at our discretion.
Fortunately the insights gained from evolutionary biology and genetics can be most revealingly combined with cognitive ethology (the science of animal behaviour and cognition) and neurobiology to offer us compelling evidence that cant but strongly motivate us to question our prejudices with regard to non-human animals.
And this is exactly
the objective of my talk: to illustrate that many non-human animals are
on a par with us when it comes to communication skills, problem-solving,
intelligent imitation, insight learning, conceptual and abstract thinking,
emotional breadth and depth. They are, of course, only on a par with us,
when we look at their perceptive, emotional and mental capacities from
the point of view of their needs, urges and interests as sentient, intelligent
and conscious actors of their own existence in their own world. Once we
come to understand that we are not the measure of all things, and that
the self-determined presence on earth of all non-human animals is as legitimate
as ours, well make a giant leap towards that sort of universal justice
many of us dream about. And in the process we may finally earn the credit
for what we still are in dire need of: authentic nobility.
Claude has a multidisciplinary academic education ranging from the natural sciences over the social sciences to philosophy. He studied in Germany and the U.S.A. He holds a M.S. degree in Wildlife Biology from the University of Massachusetts and a Ph.D. in Resource Development from Michigan State University.
As a professional ecologist he was the founder and chief executive officer of an environmental consulting company in his home country of Luxemburg. He recently founded a small institute in the Provence (France) that focuses its interests on nutrition, health, animal rights, ecology and consciousness. He has written over a hundred articles in German, French and English on environmental philosophy, vegetarianism/veganism and animal rights. His essays for a general public have been published in local, regional, national and international daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines. He's also the author of a travel book on Crete.
He gave many talks and interviews on the above topics in Belgium, France, Poland, Lithuania, Malta, Thailand, Canada and Luxemburg where he is a frequent guest on various radio stations, talk-shows and national TV.
He's a member of vegetarian and vegan societies in many countries. In 1996 he founded the national vegetarian and vegan society of Luxemburg. He has been its president ever since. He was then elected to the board of the EVU (European Vegetarian Union) in 1998. When he became a council member of IVU (International Vegetarian Union) in 1999, he was charged to act as its Liaison Officer for Europe.
Claude is fluent in several languages. He presently focuses his main interest on the philosophy and psychology of nutrition, the animal rights question and the latest developments in the study of animal emotions and intelligence.
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