Abstract

During the 1990's in Western culture a range of animal issues have become important. Some old ones have taken on a new urgency and some new questions have emerged. The key philosophical question in relation to non-human animals has been how are they distinct from humans. The criteria of sentience, reason, tool-making, language, free will and culture have all had their philosophical supporters. Yet the recent studies of free ranging apes and monkeys challenge all these criteria. The research on captive bonobos2 dolphins3 and parrots4 has also raised questions about the uniqueness of language as a human trait. This has led some to argue that there is a need to re-define species boundaries or at least to re-think what it is that makes us human as distinct from animal. While others take the view that even embarking on the latter project is pointless and borne from human arrogance. Whatever one's position, the certainties in this area are gone.

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