Just read a moving story in the NY Times about how chimps deal with mortality.
It’s pretty hard to deny that animals have some sort of consciousness; I’m not even sure I would want to meet someone who denies this, let alone debate this subject/conjecture with them. There’s been mounting evidence for decades now that may animals may have some sort of ‘advanced consciousness’ — actual awareness of their existence beyond impulse and instinct — when you hear about empathic responses like what is described in the Times article above…it gets even harder to deny, for me anyway.
If you’ve ever spent extended time with any animals you probably are aware of animal personality, choice and maybe even consciousness, on some level. I’ve anthromoporphized some animals myself, especially with the dogs I have loved, but this is something on a whole other order. Rational thinking on the subject calls into question my key beliefs about nature and my relationship to it — especially whether one can see nature (and most importantly animals) as a resource, as human tools and/or fodder in particular.
Related reading: the announcement of the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness.