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misguided attribution of human-like qualities to animals. Perhaps my describing Nina and Tess’s behaviour in moral terms was simply an anthropomorphic delusion? Of course, if I am guilty of anthropomorphism, then so too are a myriad of other companion animal owners. Such an owner might describe their dog as “friendly”, “playful”, “gentle”, “trustworthy” or “loyal” – a “good” dog. The “bad” dog they try to avoid at the dog park, on the other hand, is bad because he is “mean”, “aggressive”, “vicious”, “unpredictable”, a “bully” and so on. Nor are these seemingly moral descriptions entirely useless. On the contrary, when an unfamiliar dog is bearing down on you in the street, being able to work out into which category it falls is a valuable skill to have. If I’m guilty of anthropomorphism, so too, it seems, are many others.

Mass delusion is always a possibility. Nevertheless, there is a large and growing body of evidence indicative of at least apparent moral behaviour in animals. As a result, a small but growing number of professionals are at least flirting with the idea that animals can act morally. In Primates and Philosophers, the primatologist, Frans de Waal, has argued that animals are at least capable of proto-moral behaviour: they possess the rudiments of morality even if they are not moral beings in precisely the way we are. This was also Darwin’s view in The Descent of Man. In a similar vein, the biologist, Marc Bekoff, has been arguing for years that animals can act morally (see Wild iaCommons)

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“Lassie the wonder dog” (1961)

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