Anthropomorphism and Animal Communication

Is animal communication fact or fiction? If we indeed claim we talk to the animals ~ and they talk to us ~ aren’t we just giving them human characteristics and expecting them to respond in a human-like manner?

These questions lead us to the subject of anthropomorphism – assigning human mannerisms and feelings to animals, thereby influencing our interactions with the animals.

In scientific circles, anthropomorphism has been viewed as taboo when the characteristics are perceived as positive, such as compassion, friendship or trust. Interestingly enough, when the characteristics are perceived as negative, such as greed or cruelty, the anthropomorphism is accepted without debate. What makes someone think like this? Is anthropomorphism a symptom of prejudice and erroneously perceived human superiority?

In my opinion, anthropomorphism can lead to division and alienation. Many times animals are treated as objects, devoid of feelings. Animals are chained, whipped, beaten, starved, ignored and taught – by humans! – to fight each other in cock fights and dog fights. When we divide creatures into groups of ‘them’ and ‘us’, it can without difficulty turn into ‘them’ vs ‘us’, where it becomes easy for us to abuse them. Our conscious is salved, because we are ‘only’ hurting ‘them’. This segregation does not encourage, or even allow, a rapport with the animals and it creates a spiritual separation.

Anthropomorphism should not exclude room for empathy and compassion. Animal communication is a way of connecting creatures to creatures, humans to animals, animals to humans. In animal communication we are invited to see the world from the animal’s perspective. What’s wrong with that?

I invite you to consider your thoughts on the subject of anthropomorphism. What does it mean to you? As you are reflecting on this, please remember: we all do better when all creatures do better.


Janet Roper