Regarding Animals

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Regarding Animals

By Laura Moretti, The Animals Voice

Animals have voices: they speak. Some sing, others whinny; whales produce sounds so inaudible to the human ear that only other whales — sometimes 500 miles away — can hear them. Animals talk. They express themselves and communicate with others by producing meaningful sounds.

Humans don’t even deny them this.

In fact, they encourage it, especially for the amusement of other humans. “Speak, Fido!” they insist, and they don’t abandon the quest until the dog barks. “Good boy!” — as if they’ve proved something no other human being had known. And still science is obsessed with the passion of breaking the codes in animal communication.

We study, analyze, and contemplate animal verbal communication, complete with microphones and audio recorders — while scientific grant dollars are relentlessly assigned for the task.

But we miss what animals are really saying. No, no, I mean, we miss what we’re really saying.

I could write a book about the ways humans describe animals — and the one way they don’t. If you listen carefully — especially to conversations you happen to overhear — you’ll learn that most humans regard animals as everything but, well, human.

Animals want, enjoy, jump, feel sad, try, pretend, walk, play, think, dream, follow, are bored, know, cry, look for, desire, and so on. “My cat,” one woman says to another in the grocery store line, “thought he’d jump from the sofa arm to the window sill, and I knew he couldn’t fit there; he was about to hit the window, but just when he was about to make his move, he decided against it. He’s actually pretty smart.”

Animals think, reconsider, know what we know.

Well, cats and dogs and horses do. Is the jury still out on cows and chickens — and little white mice used in laboratories? I’m not certain. Humans want to ignore such animals do all the things and feel all the ways their companion animals do, but they’re afraid if they acknowledge that fact, then they’ll just have to stop eating hamburgers and fried eggs, and feeling protected by animal research science.

On the other hand, try showing any human you meet a photograph of an animal in a slaughterhouse, for example, or a mouse in a research experiment, and they’ll shun it immediately, reflecting on just how sick you are to even suggest such a thing. They know — in that unconscious way humans are capable of being — that cows and chickens and little white mice feel just as keenly as any dog or cat.

Or human.

And so they know that it is sick to eat other living beings, just as it is to force oven cleaner into their stomachs. They know this because they know having such awareness, the awareness you and I have, would alter their lives forever. In other words, they don’t want to know what they know.

The dogs they share their lives with are capable of a full range of emotion and reason and thought, but somehow, the dogs in laboratories are exempt — as if they’re some kind of specially produced tool — and not dogs at all.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways humans describe other animals — and I’ve noted, for the record, that I’ve never heard a human being describe plants the same way. Oh, you’ll get that occasional smart aleck who insists that the lettuce you’re eating is screaming, but, by and large, humans don’t regard plant life the same way they do animals — though they often treat them in a similar vein.

I’ve been thinking about this, this hypocrisy, this contradiction in terms. I think my role — or goal — in the coming years is to find a way to break through this human numbness, and elevate the status of animals above that of plants — using the average, every day human’s way of regarding animals. In other words, simply make humans recognize that animals are just the way they think they are: sentient, communicative, desiring, wanting, feeling, breathing — and fascinating — creatures. And not just some of them, but all of them.

I visited a rodeo about a month ago. I’ve been to slaughterhouses and factory farms and gas chambers and such, but I’d never actually been to a rodeo. I did know enough about them to know I was going to be very uncomfortable, possibly very angry, but I steeled myself and joined the crowd for a weekend of exciting fun (sarcasm intended).

The first event of the day was bronc riding, which bothered me less than I thought it would. In fact, what troubled me more was the anticipation the horses were feeling long before they were forced into the chute. Fear is pain, you see.

It was the events involving cattle that broke me down. Cows, please understand, don’t have a concept of fencing or barricades. When chased, they see only escape. And so, when chased, they don’t stop for walls. I watched as young cow after young cow was chased around the arena by men are horseback, lassoed and then released to play again another day. And just about every one of them — almost predictably — slammed face-first into pipe corrals and plywood gates before they were caught.

And the audience cheered.

It is painful to be awake, isn’t it? When you know what you want to know, what you won’t wear blinders for — which is truth, the truth that animals differ from us only in degree — then there is more to this consciousness than just the anger toward a species run amok with violence. There is pain — for it is not just that cow hitting the corral face-first. It is you. And it is me.

Keep fighting the good fight.