On CBC's The Current this morning there was an interview with primatologist Frans de Waal (who's plugging his new book, The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society) about empathy in animals and how, what a surprise, it actually exists - as does self awareness.
Part of the interview discusses some recent experiments at McGill university where some guy tests empathic behaviour in mice by subjecting them to pain while another mouse is in the same cage as the one being tortured. So mice are empathic but what's that say about humans?
It's good to see that science is sort of starting to catch up with what any empathic dog owner already knows. I've never understood why it is that when an animal exhibits obvious emotional traits, we diminish it by labeling it "instinct" but when people display emotional traits, we consider it something noble and profound. That just seems to me to be one of the few emotional traits humans have in abundance which other animals don't: conceit.