EurSafe edition:13 location:Porto date:28 Sept - 1 Oct 2016
An addition to the existing schools of thought in the ethological and cognitive science communities is the zooanthropological approach. While grounded in these sciences, this view on the human-animal relation is taken further and strong moral objections to any type of animal training are formulated, but arguments for these objections are still underdeveloped in our view. In this paper we critically assess the zooanthropological paradigm, while acknowledging that it is highly original and innovative work. Applied zooanthropology combines different fields of study exploring the development and dynamics of our relationship with other animals, and animals are considered sentient beings in a cognitive-affiliative paradigm. The opposition to consider animals in a stimulus-response paradigm is understandable. It is in line with contemporary developments of holistic approaches to animals that consider behavioural, physiological, psychological, social, and affective aspects. However, we argue that a clarification of what a modern animal training paradigm entails is desirable. Clarifications on zooanthropological methods and their underlying cognitive, physiological and affective processes are needed, as well as elucidations of practical implications and/or solutions, e.g. human-animal interactions, living with pets, caring for horses or non-releasable wildlife. From a philosophical perspective the rejection of ‘outdated’ animal training approaches by zooanthropology appears based on the assumption that all animals (including humans) are morally equal, because they possess ‘subjectivity’. This concept of subjectivity is not based on Regan’s concept of ‘subject-of-a-life’, nor on that of cognitive ethology, as consciousness is said to be irrelevant for subjectivity. If not based on consciousness, it remains unclear what morally relevant criteria subjectivity is based on. Moreover, it remains unclear why the presence of subjectivity should necessarily lead to a rejection of training. Furthermore, this strong abolitionist stance conflicts with the way the approach is framed in practice.