"So perhaps animals and humans should be treated the same. Although I did struggle to teach my dog to change the colour of traffic lights using mind-control. In the end, I just let her bark at the lights until they turned green, which seemed to work just as well."
By Nury Vittachi

I've always told my children that they can turn traffic lights green using only their minds. My wife scolds me, but it totally works. You just have to choose the moment you start thinking really carefully.

The difference between human abilities and those of lesser creatures fascinates me. Which is why I was shocked when a reader forwarded me an Indian government minister's statement that dolphins' high intelligence indicates they should be seen as non-human persons.

If the definition of being a person is linked to intelligence, three-quarters of the people on my morning commuter bus would rate a classification roughly level with chickens (no offence intended to chickens). These folk carry electronic devices which can instantly access humanity's greatest works, but use them solely for screen-pecking games so repetitive they would bore a moderately bright patch of toe-fungus to tears.

Campaigns calling for humans and animals to be treated equally are growing in North America, Europe and Australia, but India is ahead of the game. A dog was hit with criminal charges for biting a retired police officer in Lucknow in February and last year, three goats were detained for damaging a Chennai police car. In Nigeria, police famously detained a goat on suspicion of attempting to steal a Mazda 323. That didn't ring true with me: goats are canny outdoor types and would surely opt for the open-top Mazda MX-5.

Humans also come in a wide range of intelligence levels, as was made clear by a story sent in by reader Wendy Tong. A motorist named Carmen, 34, was arrested for being drunk in charge of a vehicle, it said. Police in the US state of New Jersey told her to call a friend to drive her home. She phoned her buddy Nina, 23, who arrived in a similar state and was also arrested. So they both called a third friend, Ryan, 33, who drove up looking extremely wobbly and was also detained. The news report doesn't say what happened next, but one hopes officers kept the system going until they arrested everyone in the city, state or country.

Wendy said drunkenness was not normally funny, but this report made her laugh. Agreed. Wendy, your tale reminded me of the first time I heard the song about the old woman who swallowed a fly and then swallowed a spider to catch the fly and ultimately a bird, cat, dog, and cow. I was only six but already had a skeptic's need for proof. You got photos I asked the teacher. She shifted nervously in her seat, and I've been suspicious of teachers ever since.

Outside Asia and Africa, animal arrests are rare. For example, several stoner dogs were recently found to have become addicted to the highs you get by licking cane toads in Queensland, but not one was charged with substance abuse. The permissiveness of Western societies horrifies me.

So perhaps animals and humans should be treated the same. Although I did struggle to teach my dog to change the colour of traffic lights using mind-control. In the end, I just let her bark at the lights until they turned green, which seemed to work just as well.

(13-06-2014-Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)


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