New Chimp Status and Strategic Swine

As researchers continue to document the intelligence and emotional acuity of animals, beasts begin to look more like brethren, and food more like friend. On Pharyngula, PZ Myers shares a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that gives chimpanzees used in research the same endangered status as their wild cousins. According to Science, "organizations that want to continue working with chimpanzees will have to document that the work enhances the survival of the species and benefits chimps in the wild." PZ writes, "I want to see more studies done on our closest relatives — but it has to be done in a way that respects their right to live." Meanwhile, Greg Laden considers commonalities humans share with one of our preferred sources of animal protein—pigs. A new review of past swine research emphasizes that pigs have excellent long-term memories, comprehend simple symbols, demonstrate empathy, and are very social: they play with, help, and even deceive each other. Greg stresses that pig-human similarity is qualitatively different from chimp-human similarity, resulting not from close ancestry, but from parallel evolutionary histories—including an affinity for eating roots.

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