Do animals have conscience?
I always thought that only human beings have a conscience, but recently I started to doubt this. A good friend of mine asked me to look after their pets and the house while they were away. She had a hefty and very cheerful Labrador that I had to walk.
Once, after a walk, I was in the kitchen preparing food, the smell was quite strong and the cat had been rubbing against my legs for 10 minutes. And then I saw that the dog was sitting on the doorstep to the kitchen, but did not dare to enter.
Of course, I immediately realized that he had been taught not to go into the kitchen, but I decided to check how the dog would behave in the absence of his superiors. I called him, but he did not even think to budge, although it was clear that the smell and sight of the food being prepared attracted him. Then I cut off a piece of beef, held it out and called again. This time he completely lowered his ears, tucked his tail and wandered off into the corridor. Then my conscience woke up and I felt just awful for trying to knock a good dog off the right path. Of course, I followed him, and only in the corridor did he take a piece of beef from me.
When I thought about what had happened, one thought never left me - at that moment when I called the dog to the kitchen, none of its owners, who could punish him, were around. After a little thought, I decided that this deep feeling, which we are used to call remorse, made him refuse the treat.
After a brief search on the Internet, I found several more interesting cases related to the complex behavior of animals, which we are used to associate only with humans.
There is a video on YouTube with an experiment where parrots were taught to exchange food for tokens. Then the parrots were divided into pairs, in which one parrot received 10 tokens and the other none. Scientists watched in amazement as richer parrots shared tokens with their poor comrades so that they too could get a treat. This is certainly not conscience, but empathy and sympathy that no one expected from such simple animals as parrots.
Another story came to my mind about a bomb detection dog who died of a heart attack a few hours after her partner got shot to death, with whom they had worked for several years.
We often see animals act more human than we do, which gives us something to learn from them.