4 min read

Here's Why Smart People Agree Animals Have Emotions

It's hard to imagine that anyone who has ever met a bouncy dog or a purring kitten would deny that animals have feelings.

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But some of the smartest people throughout history have assumed that only human beings have emotions. Seventeenth-century philosopher René Descartes, for example, was so convinced animals were just automatons, he cut them open to find the mechanisms that made them move.

Since then we've made some progress. Scientists have compiled thousands of studies on animal neurology and behavior and come to some stunning (or stunningly obvious) conclusions (depending on your perspective).

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In 2012, a group some of the most brilliant thinkers of our time, including Stephen Hawking, came together to declare that animals do in fact have emotions:

"The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates."

The passage might seem dry and technical, but it has animal lovers cheering.

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See, "affective states" means moments where emotions govern consciousness. Essentially, the declaration says that many animals (not just the human animal) show emotions, consciousness and desires.

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The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness made a big splash when it came out in 2012, but it's not just yesterday's news. In fact, it could help impact everything, from factory farming to puppy mills to captive animals in zoos and circuses.

But, of course, anyone who's ever really known an animal already knows animals deserve better than how they've traditionally been treated.

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Watch a video on the declaration below: