'Prof Bekoff, who presents his case in a new book Wild Justice, said: "The belief that humans have morality and animals don't is a long-standing assumption, but there is a growing amount of evidence that is showing us that this simply cannot be the case....
His ideas have met with some controversy in the scientific community, but many admit it is difficult to argue that animals do not share many of the psychological qualities previously only attributed to humans.
Professor Frans de Waal, a primate behaviourist at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, said: "I don't believe animals are moral in the sense we humans are – with well developed and reasoned sense of right and wrong – rather that human morality incorporates a set of psychological tendencies and capacities such as empathy, reciprocity, a desire for co-operation and harmony that are older than our species.
"Human morality was not formed from scratch, but grew out of our primate psychology. Primate psychology has ancient roots, and I agree that other animals show many of the same tendencies and have an intense sociality."'
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