Pigs can play video games


Dr Stanley Curtis of Penn State University conducted a study [1] in which he attempted to teach pigs to play a simple video game. The pigs had to move a joystick with their snouts in order to accomplish tasks with varying complexity such as moving a white dot into a blue area on the screen in front of them in order to receive a treat. The shape of the blue area became increasingly complex from experiment to experiment, but the pigs performed surprisingly well. They outperformed dogs by far and even performed better than chimpanzees.


See also: “5 surprisingly smart animals”
[1] http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19971026&slug=2568406

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Why you should not share this brutal picture of a dead animal

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Everybody who has some vegetarian and vegan friends on facebook probably knows the situation I found myself in this morning: I’m tired, scroll through facebook and one of the first things I see is a horrifying picture of a dead animal, posted by some animal activist. This made me reflect on the use of such pictures in animal activism and in which situations it might be appropriate.

Personally, I would never post such pictures on facebook and would encourage fellow vegans to refrain from doing so too, but let me explain why I think so. First of all, people posting such content are likely to have several vegetarian and vegan friends who already decided not to support this treatment of animals and might not want to be reminded of this violence over and over again. They don’t eat animals, what is the point in showing them this? Opinion might obviously differ on this point, but as far as my view goes, I don’t need and I don’t this kind of pictures on my facebook feed.

Then there is the group of friends that does not have a vegan or vegetarian diet for whatever reason. This group is usually in the majority even among people who add many vegans to their friendlist. The vast majority of this group can also get quite annoyed with regular involuntary exposure to such content. They might block the content of the person who posted it from their feed or they might just scroll over it and not think about it much. Therefore, posting these pictures too frequently is analogous to the inappropriate behavior by some overly motivated vegans lined out in “Fellow vegans, don’t shout at meat-eating strangers in public”

Does this mean that visual exposure to the conditions under which animals have to live for the mass-production of meat can’t convince people to reconsider their diet? I don’t think it does. Actually, many vegans probably watched videos or saw pictures showing these conditions  before turning vegan. This imagery can have an emotional impact on people and therefore influence their attitude towards these issues.

But these vegans often had the motivation to learn more about meat-production or were possibly asked by a friend to have a look and decided to do so. In any case, this exposure to the imagery is a voluntary one which is the major difference to the violent content posted on facebook. If the exposure to such content is an involuntary, it is more likely that people turn away from it, maybe as a self-defense mechanism and don’t reflect upon it.

To sum up, I don’t think that posting such pictures on social media will have the positive effect some people might think it has. Furthermore it can have a negative effect on both people who do not  have to be reminded of the ways animals are treated and on people who might not want to.

What was your experience with the usage of violent imagery in animal activism? Did seeing it influence you in your diet choices? Do you get annoyed if people post such content on a regular basis?

 

Eating animals makes us deny their mental capacities, research shows

seagull-249638_1280As a follow-up on “Why we don’t eat certain animals” where I lined out some reasons for an unjustified asymmetry in our treatment of animals, I decided to make a post on two publications showing psychological effects potentially involved in meat consumption such as denial of mental capacities of edible animals among meat-eaters. 

Dr Steve Loughnan from the University of Melbourne and colleagues conducted a study [1] investigating the hypothesis that eating meat but at the same regarding animals as deserving ethical treatment results in cognitive dissonance. Their experiment tested and confirmed that people who recently ate meat are less likely to attribute a high moral status to animals.

The experiment included two groups of participants: One group ate beef and the other group ate nuts. Afterwards all participants were asked to complete a questionnaire on the moral treatment of animals and specifically cows. Their results demonstrated that people who were in the ‘meat-condition’ chose significantly fewer animals as deserving moral concern and also rated cows as deserving significantly less moral concern. While the ‘meat-condition’ did not make participants attribute fewer sensations to cows, it was observed that attributing a reduced moral status to cows correlated with attributing fewer sensations to them. They argue that this “dementalization” justifies the reduced moral status on a psychological level. 

In follow-up studies [2], Loughnan and colleagues showed that animals which are generally considered appropriate to eat are rated as having “less mind” than those who are not. Furthermore, they found that meat-eaters attributed less mental capacity to animals upon being reminded that these animals suffer for meat production as compared to not being reminded of that fact. Finally, they confirmed the dissonance hypothesis previously mentioned by finding out that people who were told to think about meat-production tended to deny mind to edible animals: This was only the case for the group of participants previously told that they would eat meat afterwards – the control group ate an apple afterwards and no significant link was observed. This denial of mind could according to the authors be a psychological mechanism to deal with the dissonance caused by knowing about the conditions in meat-production but eating meat soon nevertheless. 

sources:
[1] Loughnan, S., Haslam, N., & Bastian, B. (2010). The role of meat consumption in the denial of moral status and mind to meat animals. Appetite, 55, 156-159
[2] Don’t Mind Meat? The Denial of Mind to Animals Used for Human Consumption Brock Bastian, Steve Loughnan, Nick Haslam and Helena R. M. Radke Pers Soc Psychol Bull published online 6 October 2011