Albert Schweitzer — whose guiding ethic prescribed a reverence for all life, not just human life — is a hero to many animal welfare advocates. (Click here for an earlier post on Schweitzer and animals.) Schweitzer’s respect for all living creatures is given some interesting validation by a new study — headed by Professor Marc Bekoff of the University of Colorado, Boulder — suggesting that the brains of all mammals are “hard-wired” with morality:
Bekoff told the UK’s Sunday Telegraph:
“The belief that humans have morality and animals don’t is a long-standing assumption, but there is a growing amount of evidence that is showing us that this simply cannot be the case. Just as in humans, the moral nuances of a particular culture or group will be different from another, but they are certainly there.”
And as the UK’s Daily Mail reported:
Experiments with rats have shown that they will not take food if they know their actions will cause pain to another rat. Similarly, mice react more strongly to pain when they have seen another mouse in pain.
For more discussion of Bekoff’s study, click here, here, and here. Regardless of whether some animals have a scientifically verified sense of right and wrong, Schweitzer felt that all animals’ welfare should factor into our sense of right and wrong:
It was quite incomprehensible to me — this was before I began going to school — why, in my evening prayers, I should pray for human beings only. So when my mother prayed with me and had kissed me goodnight, I used to silently add a prayer that I had composed myself for all living creatures. It ran thus: Dear God, protect and bless all living things. Keep them from evil, and let them sleep in peace.