If it is only recently that the question of animal intelligence has grown in the public sphere, on the side of scientists it does not date from today. Our dear Darwin, father of the theory of evolution, already spoke of the exceptional mental faculties of mammals. He even compared them to those of Men.
On the other hand, it was to prove it that we had to wait for the 21st century. Thanks to the research of scientists such as Jane Goodall, we now know that animals are not only sentient, but also “sentient”. Astrid Guillaume, semiotician, lecturer at the Sorbonne and founding president of the French Society of Zoosemiotics, explains that “The word sentient relates to consciousness. It is to be aware of one’s environment, to be able to evaluate the risks and the benefits, or to remember certain actions and their consequences. “
Clearly, sentience is more in knowledge and knowing, where sensitivity is in perception.
Astrid Guillaume, semiotician
Thus, we discover that what we thought was reserved for humans – having a conscience or even experiencing feelings such as fear or pain – would also be applicable to animals! For example, pigeons might assimilate abstract concepts like similarity, and sheep would be able to remember other sheep or human people for at least two years.
If it is often said that they are almost only lacking the word, here too the scientific advances are surprising.
Previously, the word language was exclusively reserved for humans. However, once we study it through the prism of semiotics, that is, the expression of signs, behaviors, traces and odors, then we can bring animals into science. languages.
These discoveries shake up the very conception of our relationship with animals. If they are legally considered to be sentient beings, this awareness of their condition is not yet taken into account by French law. While we keep learning more about their skills, we continue to lock them up and mistreat them.
But, the bill strengthening the fight against animal abuse adopted by the National Assembly on Friday, January 29, will perhaps change that. Loïc Dombreval, deputy and rapporteur for this bill, tells us that “It is a law which is concerned with two main categories of animals. The first, the pets which one would believe pampered in the hearths, but which in reality are victims of mistreatment and abandonment. Finally, the second category concerns captive wildlife, such as dolphins or mink raised for their fur. ”