Lori Marino and Debra Merskin, Intelligence, complexity, and individuality in sheep


Marino & Merskin’s target article on the cognitive and psychological capacities of sheep commendably aims to use science to critique human practice. However, the article fails to make specific recommendations about how human-sheep relations should change going forward. We also underscore two problematic assumptions highlighted by other commentators: (1) that cognitive complexity is important to the case for the moral status of non-human animals and (2) that the way humans use and treat animals is caused by our conception of animals’ capacities. Scientists should engage more with philosophy and ethical theory to articulate the implications of animal capacities for human treatment of animals.

Author Biography

Peter Woodford is an Assistant Professor at Union College, Schenectady, NY. His research focuses on the intersection of science and ethics, the evolutionary foundations of ethical values, scientific research on altruism and cooperation, and the relationship between science and religion. Website

Alecia Carter is a research scientist with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique at l’Université des Sciences de l’Évolution de Montpellier. Her research investigates how animals acquire and use information to make decisions. Website