/ animal testing

Scientists Declare: Animals Are as Aware as Humans

Published August 26, 2012 in Love For Earthlings, What's New |
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An international group of prominent scientists has signed The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness in which they are proclaiming their support for the idea that animals are conscious and aware to the degree that humans are — a list of animals that includes all mammals, birds, and even the octopus.

While it might not sound like much for scientists to declare that many non-human animals possess conscious states, it is the open acknowledgement that makes it big news here. The body of scientific evidence is increasingly showing that most animals are conscious in the same way that we are, and it is no longer something we can ignore.
It is also very interesting to note that the declaration is the group’s acknowledgement that consciousness can emerge in those animals, very much unlike humans, including those that evolved along different evolutionary tracks, namely birds and some encephalopods.

“The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states,” they write. “Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviours.”
Consequently, say the signatories, the scientific evidence is increasingly indicating that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness.

The group consists of cognitive scientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists, and computational neuroscientists — all of whom were attending the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals.

The declaration was signed in the presence of Stephen Hawking, and included such signatories as Christof Koch, David Edelman, Edward Boyden, Philip Low, Irene Pepperberg, and many more.

The declaration made the following observations:

  • The field of Consciousness research is rapidly evolving. Abundant new techniques and strategies for human and non-human animal research have been developed. Consequently, more data is becoming readily available, and this calls for a periodic re-evaluation of previously held preconceptions in this field. Studies of non-human animals have shown that homologous brain circuits correlated with conscious experience and perception can be selectively facilitated and disrupted to assess whether they are in fact necessary for those experiences. Moreover, in humans, new non-invasive techniques are readily available to survey the correlates of consciousness.
  • The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviours in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behaviour and feeling states in both humans and non-human animals. Wherever in the brain one evokes instinctual emotional behaviours in non-human animals, many of the ensuing behaviours are consistent with experienced feeling states, including those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems in humans can also generate similar affective states. Systems associated with affect are concentrated in subcortical regions where neural homologies abound. Young human and non-human animals without neocortices retain these brain-mind functions. Furthermore, neural circuits supporting behavioural/ electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus).
  • Birds appear to offer, in their behaviour, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive micro-circuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches, neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in articular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.
  • In humans, the effect of certain hallucinogens appears to be associated with a disruption in cortical feedforward and feedback processing. Pharmacological interventions in non-human animals with compounds known to affect conscious behaviour in humans can lead to similar perturbations in behaviour in non-human animals. In humans, there is evidence to suggest that awareness is correlated with cortical activity, which does not exclude possible contributions by subcortical or early cortical processing, as in visual awareness. Evidence that human and nonhuman animal emotional feelings arise from homologous subcortical brain networks provide compelling evidence for evolutionarily shared primal affective qualia.

    Read more about this here and here.
    This story originally appeared on io9.com.

    Cruel Beauty: Which Companies Test on Animals?

    Published July 9, 2012 in Love For Earthlings, What's New |
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    The face cream smells delicious, feels gratifyingly luxurious, and promises to smooth out wrinkles. Best of all, the label reads “No Animal Testing.” Now you can be sure that no animals suffered or died to make this product. Right?


    Despite what the label proclaims, this face cream, or any one of its ingredients, could easily have been rubbed into a bunny’s eyes, force-fed down a rat’s throat, or smeared over a guinea pig’s raw skin. Such practices continue at many cosmetic and skincare companies, even as the words “Not tested on animals” appear boldly on the labels.

    “Consumers are shocked to learn that millions of animals each year are injected with or forced to inhale or ingest cosmetics. Those animals live in fear and loneliness every minute of their lives,” says Erin Edwards, media liaison for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the animal-rights organization better known as PETA.

    Wondering how companies get away with such brazen claims? Well, the label could mean that the company itself do no testing on animals, but instead hires a laboratory to do the dirty work. Or perhaps a company did not perform animal tests on that particular product, but it does on others.

    Clairol’s Herbal Essence shampoo label, for example, clearly notes, “Not tested on animals.” Meanwhile, according to PETA, the company continues to conduct animal testing on its other products. Even some companies that advertise their products as natural, organic, or vegan, still use ingredients tested on animals.

    Testing may be done by the suppliers, and a company may purchase ingredients with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy. Or testing may occur by a parent company, so statements on the label may be literally correct to shield the company from public relations problems – yet quite disingenuous, if not downright deceptive.

    Reading between the labels

    Since the label may not be telling the entire truth about testing, you need to do a certain amount of sleuthing to make sure you choose products that are 100 percent free of animal-tested ingredients (no matter who is doing the testing) and come from companies dedicated to that mission.

    The good news? You can have your ethics, beauty indulgences, and an honourable relationship with the animal world – and it is easier to do than even a few years ago. Many more conscientious organizations, manufacturers, spa owners, and consumers have established cruelty-free policies and have taken a stand against unnecessary testing.

    PETA has compiled a list of companies that have signed a “Statement of Assurance” that they (and their suppliers) do not and would not test on animals. You will find major brands like Revlon, MAC, Avon, and Estee Lauder on the list, as well as natural favourites such as Kiss My Face and Aubrey Organics. (Download the guide at CaringConsumer.com.) Brand names mentioned in the pages of Alternative Medicine also boast cruelty-free practices.

    The guide was started 20 years ago with a wallet-sized pamphlet with only a handful of companies, as part of PETA’s Caring Consumer Project. Today, it has grown to include more than 550 companies that do not animal test their products. Just as importantly, PETA also offers a guide listing companies that do test, including Cover Girl, L’Oreal, Olay, and Max Factor – so you can avoid them.

    The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) in the United States, which uses the Leaping Bunny name and logo, offers an animal-friendly shopping guide and also provides sample letters you can send to companies to urge them to stop animal testing. The coalition requires the companies it lists to prove that neither they, nor their suppliers, will conduct or commission animal tests during any stage of product development.

    Power to the animals

    Does it disturb you that your skincare and beauty regime may contribute to the pain, suffering, and death of countless animals? It is as simple as buying a different product at the grocery store or the cosmetics counter.

    If your favourite brands do not appear on the approved lists, let your dollars do the talking and use the power of the pen. Boycott the products and contact the companies directly. Ask them to clarify their animal-testing policy, and politely encourage them to join PETA’s or Leaping Bunny’s cruelty-free programs.

    Selected from Ecorazzi