Imagine that one day, your pet is suddenly noticeably more intelligent. For instance, perhaps your dog begins to understand English. She can’t speak, but she’s able to respond appropriately to anything you say, just as a mute adult human would. Or maybe your cat suddenly displays the ability to make basic representational drawings, as well as a five- or six-year-old kid.
Your first thought, of course, is “$$$:D$$$”. But you quickly discover that it’s not just your cat/dog/bandersnatch, but all such animals that now have this new ability.
What would you do? How would you feel? Would you be delighted that your pet is now even more interesting, or would you start to feel guilty about keeping such an intelligent creature captive? Would it make a difference if your pet expressed a desire to be free, or actively tried to escape? Would it depend on what the ability was, or the level of intelligence? Maybe you’d be fine with, say, tool use, but unnerved by the ability to communicate. Maybe rudimentary communication would be fine, as long as the pet has no grasp of higher concepts like time, death, or ethical questions. Maybe you’d welcome every level of intelligence, even exceeding your own. Or maybe you think animals are already too intelligent to keep as pets.
If you kept your pet, would you treat it any differently, or behave differently around it? Would you still let it see you naked, for example? Would you expect more from it, such as chores around the house, etc.? If your dog was suddenly functioning on the level of, say, Brian on Family Guy, you might well insist that he go get a job.
Me, I don’t know. At first, I thought I’d be uncomfortable keeping an intelligent animal as a pet, but then I considered my toddler, and realized, it’s kind of the same scenario in a lot of ways. If I’m taking good care of them, is that what’s most important? Or is that really just the paternalistic attitude often found in slave owners and colonizers?
What do you think?