15. Listening to Other Animals
You may think, how is it possible to listen to another species if they don’t speak our verbal language? This is a common excuse I hear. I am very guilty of assuming this was a valid excuse during my life. The truth is, it divides humans from acknowledging and understanding others. Comparable to the dividing of humans in the past who spoke a different language or perhaps had a disability.
Some consider verbal language to only makes up 7% of human communication. This information was proposed in 1967 during two research studies by Mehrabian & Wiener, and Mehrabian & Ferris. When I first heard this I was surprised, it may or may not be true, but I believe it is something worth considering regardless. We may not realize it, but our communication works through our body language or tone of voice quite often. This is incredibly useful and important for eliminating communication barriers we, as humans, thought we had with others. This is not a new concept. I believe if we use apply these concepts we could create an even stronger relationship and communication with other species and would contribute to the effort of ending speciesism.
It is not just our world and it is not just for those who speak one desired language. If we embrace our differences and unite (as seen in historic revolutions) it will surely help the liberation of animals, which they so desperately need.
To base an individual’s worth on a view of their intelligence is irrelevant to their ability to feel the same emotions as others. The question is not are they worthy, but do they feel? We have many humans with disabilities who we expect to be treated as equals and with basic rights. Even if we cannot fully understand them, we do understand their ability to feel, just like us. We expect them to not be taken advantage of, and if they are we have consequences set in place. This is very much a human-oriented basic rights practice that I know we need to widen our circle of compassion to include all beings who have this ability to feel the same emotions such as pain, happiness, or sadness so that they can have the basic right to their life, as we do.
I believe we can learn a lot about what another species is communicating through listening and observing. Body language can be a very useful tool. Importantly, the most useful tool I have found in communication is listening. Listening builds our knowledge and understanding of another. When we stop listening, we stop learning. However, it is important to remember that all species are unique and have their own individual personalities. So we can’t be too hard on ourselves if observations vary from animal to animal. Listening is a form of respect that we must have in order to keep their best interest in mind, instead of ours. As equals, we should never stop listening.