NPR considers the lobster  »

An animal behavior professor, reports NPR, has concluded that crustaceans do, in fact, feel pain.

As for what this might mean for those of us who occasionally dispatch a crustacean or two, the best way to minimize potential pain is likely electrocution or driving a knife through the creature’s brain, Elwood says. But as most of us lack specialized machinery and knowledge of crustacean anatomy, the easiest way is still dropping the crab in a pot of boiling water.

If you’re determined to eat animals, I guess how much they suffer before becoming their dinner doesn’t matter at all.

[Photo by Andrea Westmoreland via Flickr]


Gossip Girl, dolphin-style: it’s all about who you know!  »

After a 20-year study, University of New South Wales biologists conclude that who your mother hangs out with is as important as who your mother is—at least in bottlenose dolphin communities. Who doesn’t love a good nature versus nurture study?! A: FASCISTS!

You can read the full text of the study online but I’m really into the Wired synopsis linked at the top because LESS READING. But yeah, this is all totally new data. These researchers studied 52 female bottlenose dolphins in the eastern gulf of Shark Bay, Western Australia. It looks like they chose these dolphins for their nature/nurture study because dolphins have a lot of things in common with us, such as, “Slow life histories characterized by late sexual maturity, long interbirth intervals, and extensive maternal care.” They say dolphins have those things in common with great apes, but that totally includes us and does that not sound familiar? Can’t you imagine those dolphins like totally screening their calls for mom? OMG cut the cord, Flipper!

The conclusion they reach is that “Female calving success depends on both genetic inheritance and social bonds. Moreover, we demonstrate that interactions between social and genetic factors also influence female fitness.” So essentially, DNA does matter but if you got them bad genes, your mom can offset that by hanging with the right crowd. Moreover, dolphins rule and I love them!

[photo by Peter Asprey via wikipedia commons] [ additionally, omg so cute!]


Homosexual animals are not gay, OK!  »

The biologists profiled in this week’s New York Times big Sunday Magazine article, "Can Animals Be Gay?" would like you, general public, to please stop associating the terms “gay” and “lesbian” with non-human animals. This is extrapolation that they, the disinterested scientists, do NOT do, and that we the general public should not do, as it muddles the very important distinction these scientists draw between non-human animals and human animals, and they do not want our anthropomorphism and judgmentalism and morality getting in the way of their scientific conclusions.

Fair enough, to an extent. I do not want horrible eugenicist bigots demanding that we isolate the so-called and still-debated “gay gene” and allowing for some kind of “gaythanasia” escape clause in their no-abortions-ever laws, and that is a possibility—touched on by one of the scientists interviewed—if we allow for the blurring of that line.

However, as a vegan, I believe that the more similarities we find between “natural” human behavior and “natural” animal behavior, the harder that will make for the general public to accept abuses such as animal testing (let alone eating animals—come on, son). Because we’re people, and, “As the biologist Marlene Zuk explains, we are hard-wired to read all animal behavior as ‘some version of the way people do things’ and animals as ‘blurred, imperfect copies of humans.’”

Now, as many “it thinks it’s people” jokes I may make, I do not believe that animals are “imperfect copies of humans” and find it, oh yes, offensive that others might. It’s cute when a non-human animal’s behavior reminds me of a human’s behavior, but that doesn’t mean that the dog is actually “trying to be” a person. It does have agency, however; it does have its own biological makeup, just as we have our own that allows us to feel and behave compassionately. So if you feel like maybe animals can be gay, like maybe that is an argument for the “naturalness” of homosexuality, maybe that should inform your behavior toward animals in other areas. If animals of all kinds share so many similar traits, how humane is it to make such clear distinctions between “us” and “them,” really?

[photo of rabbits by Jeff Koons for the NY Times]

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