Why is there any reason to think that a horse is very conscious of itself and it's environment
Because horses react to changes within their enviroment, they get to know different humans and different horses in their herd, they have a sense of where they belong in the herd, and where the other herd members belong in the herd, and each horse definitely exhibits a unique personality, no one horse is the same. A lot of horses are able to figure out knots, gate latches, and weaknesses in fences. This might seem like a small thing, but it proves that they are aware of the existence of fences, gates, ropes and knots, and can manipulate them. They also definitely display emotions based on what happens within their enviroment, for example, if two horses are close, and are seperated, they will show anxiety and unhappiness.
For example chimps have been found to be able to pass down things they have learned to other chimps. Can cows do this? Dogs?
In a nutshell, yes, they can, and do. All female animals (mothers) pass down things to their foals, calves, etc. That's why you'll often find that nervous mares have nervous foals, and friendly mares often raise friendly foals. Some of it is genetic, but there certainly is an enviromental factor in how animals behave, and this is passed down to their offspring. Using chimp analogies is a bad move, because it won't really prove anything. No matter what chimps learn and pass down, horses and cows probably won't be able to, because they aren't chimps - they're horses and cows. Similarly, chimps won't be able to learn horse mannerisms, body language, and herd structure like foals pick up from their mothers.
You've talked about animal languages or communication before...what evidence is there that those types of animals can actually communicate in any significant way
Horses have very well defined body language, as do most animals. Sounds also come into play, and they aren't always "random", but overall, body language is more important. Herd structure can be very complex, as can pack structures, and the social organizations of them definitely prove that these animals aren't "just going on instinct to survive".
Likewise, I really doubt that horses that manage to untie knots and open gates, doors, latches, etc are just acting on instinct. They are sentient creatures, and they can learn and interact with their enviroment in more than just a random manner.
What evidence is there that animals(other than primates) are capable of any "deep" kinds of thought(and if you're going to say that's "human thought" - well that's the point.
No, that's not the point at all. Other primates can learn human mannerisms to some extent because they are built more like humans than other animals. It doesn't mean that they are more able to consent to sex than other animals, and it doesn't mean that they are superior to animals in any other way than understanding things from a human-like perspective. A monkey or other primate would probably be less apt at reading horse body language than, say, a horse, or understanding their enviroment from a horse's perspective. You're trying to tell me that human intelligence is the only intelligence, and without it sexual consent is not possible. This just isn't the case.
If horses weren't able to make descisions about sexual partners, there would be no more horses. In fact, this is rather a complex descision in terms of herd structure. The alpha mare decides who she wants, and amoung the stallions, the alpha stallion also decides who is getting the next mare.
But, now we've veered completely off-course. The original point I was making, was that it is not right to compare animals to retarded humans, or small children. And the fact remains that you can only judge humans in terms of human sentience and understanding/perception. Other animals do not fit into this bracket, they can only be judged according to their own sentience, perception and cognition.
So is it wrong? Yes, and no. I can't deny that in some cases where humans have interacted with animals, it has been abusive, breaking trust, inhumane, etc. And cases like that should be dealt with, as any other animal abuse case should. But are all bestiality cases like that? No, of course not. You mentioned it was wrong to use animals for sexual gratification in an earlier post. I agree completely. It's also wrong to use people for sexual gratification. The fact is, some bestiality will be abusive, but not all of it, in fact most of it, probably won't be. Will it still be wrong? Maybe - depending on your point of view. Sooner or later you'll learn that a great many of the truths that we cling to depend greatly on our own points of view.
Comparing animals to children in this case is totally illogical. Children (below the age of consent) are not sexually mature, they are not ready for sex, and they shouldn't be exposed to it. On that we all agree. Children who are above the age of consent should still not be exposed to it, but for different reasons. They might not be mentally ready for the hang-ups and taboos associated with human sex, and there are many dangers that come with human sex. STD's, teenage pregnancies, etc. Animals don't have these sexual hang-ups and problems. No - of course not all animals will consent to having sex with a human. Some of them won't accept it and they are capable of showing that they don't like it and won't accept it. Some of them will ... It all depends on the individual animal, and the individual person.
Comparing animals to children, or retarded humans, doesn't work. They aren't children, and they aren't retarded adults. They are (insert species here), and they can only be judged on a scale of maturity and understanding that in terms of the development pace and perception/cognition of their own species.
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