Tuesday, January 14, 2014

According Animals Dignity

Long past due and most important column of the year by Frank Bruni; who states that its about time we moved from the phrase “animal welfare” to "animal dignity":

In the 2011 book “Dog Sense,” which was also grounded in research, not sentiment, and in the idea that pets have inner lives more complicated than we imagine. “Dog Sense” was published just two years after the huge best seller “Inside of a Dog,” by the psychology professor Alexandra Horowitz, which pivoted on the same notion.

It was “Inside of a Dog” in particular that caught my friend Kerry Lauerman’s attention, cluing him in to a quickly shifting human perspective on animals.
“There’s this growing obsession with animal cognition,” he said. Referring specifically to pets, he added: “We don’t want animals just for comfort. We really want to know them.” He mentioned another widely emailed story in The Times, from October, by a neuroeconomics professor who was doing M.R.I. scans of dogs’ brains and finding suggestions of emotions like ours. Its telling headline: “Dogs Are People, Too.”

Lauerman wasn’t merely musing. He was explaining the rationale for a new website, The Dodo, that’s dedicated to animal news and features and made its debut this week. He’s its chief executive officer and editor in chief, and came to it from the influential online publication Salon, where he was the editor in chief from late 2010 to mid-2013.

One of The Dodo’s principal financial backers is Ken Lerer, the current chairman of BuzzFeed and one of the founders of the Huffington Post. His daughter, Izzie Lerer, created and developed the site with Lauerman. Additionally, she’s finishing up her doctorate in philosophy at Columbia University, where her research focuses on the evolving compact between people and animals.

The Dodo’s pedigree speaks to a broadening, deepening concern about animals that’s no longer sufficiently captured by the phrase “animal welfare.” An era of what might be called animal dignity is upon us. You see signs everywhere.

A story in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday reported a sharp rise over the last few years in the fraction of American dog and cat owners with provisions in their wills for their pets. Nearly one in every 10 have made such arrangements. 

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