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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
In his book Rattling the Cage, Stephen Wise, former president of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, proposed a legal justification for animal rights that was powerful, provocative, and controversial. Drawing the Line is an attempt to further bolster his argument that "at least some nonhuman animals are entitled to recognition as legal persons." It recounts some amazing research into behavior and learning among the nonhuman species generally touted as the "most intelligent": orangutans, gorillas, dolphins, and parrots. But there is also a fascinating excursion into the world of honeybees, who demonstrate an impressive capacity for communication. And Wise, a practicing lawyer, contextualizes his cross-species explorations by observantly chronicling the early development of his son, Christopher, and the behavioral patterns of his dog, Marbury.
Wise wants to use a "human yardstick" in proving his case for the rights of animals, arguing that it's not enough to extend them purely from an acknowledgement of suffering. That would represent a magnanimous act of species compassion, but not a recognition of what these remarkable stories of animal thought and emotion tell us. He believes that "when mental abilities add up to 'practical autonomy,' they are sufficient to entitle any being to basic legal rights." It's an argument that potentially challenges our religious, philosophical, and legal foundations, pushing us to reconsider what it means to be human, and whether it's the unique quality we think it is. Dolphin and primate intelligence may just take different forms -- and our first ventures into interspecies communication might be cracking open a window into an uncharted world. (Jonathan Cook)