Do Animals Have Ethics?

July 24, 2009

Watch this video:

One of the members on my NTP group asked, “ did the leopard also have to face an “Ethical conflict”(should it, or should it not, eat something so defenseless? Did it choose an ‘ethical’ route like an human would have donem or was it just not hungry?” And let me add, did the little baby just arouse maternal instincts in the leopard?

In my Ethics class in my Philosophy course, we were taught that ethics belonged to human beings alone, and animals did not have a concept of “right” and “wrong”. But I am wondering (not particularly after the above video, but in general…do animals have any such “cannot do” code of behaviour?

The behaviour of the leopard is remarkable because the “natural” thing for it to do would have been to make a meal of the little baboon. A male lion can kill one of its own cubs casually; I have myself seen a crow being killed by the rest of the group; cats can eat their own young, and often do. So…what is “right” and “wrong”, and do animals feel it?

I have seen pet dogs learn such behaviour; when a dog passes water on the carpet, it certainly puts its tail between its legs and slinks off to a corner, ashamed. Pet do know what is “right” behaviour…they know it’s “wrong” to take eatables off the coffee table, for example…but in this case, are we not imposing OUR morality on them?

A very knotty issue….I would like to hear all your thoughts about this…