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How can we justify exploitation of elephants

The following appears in Wikipedia’s article “elephant cognition”:

The elephant’s brain is similar to that of humans in terms of structure and complexity. Elephants use tools, are self-aware and show compassion and cooperation. They have close-knit families that can only be separated by death or capture. Like humans, they are not born with the instincts of how to survive, instead requiring a long period of learning. They are highly altruistic and will even aid other species, including humans. They are often seen going out of their way to avoid hurting or killing a human. If an elephant is hurt, other elephants, even unrelated ones, will aid it.

Only humans and elephants are known to have a recognized ritual around death. Elephants can even produce abstract art and distinguish melodies. They have been observed working together to solve a problem that one cannot. An Asian elephant worked out how to unlock the shackles on her feet and then helped the other elephants to escape. A Japanese test of elephants’ ability to count showed that the elephants scored higher than the humans.



In light of the above, how on earth can humans justify their forced exploitation for commercial purposes?

Bruce Bolinger




Grass Valley


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