Last night I went to the release party for the children’s book Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary by Maya Gottfried (paintings by Robert Rahway Zakanitch). This beautifully illustrated book features poems by 15 rescued farm animals, all of whom now live good lives at Farm Sanctuary. Poetry seems the perfect medium for conveying animals’ possible thoughts. For instance, here’s Cece the Rabbit’s haiku:
I’m very nervous
A noise back there! Must. Keep. Still.
When it’s safe, I’ll run.
Along these lines, I’ve always thought the ASPCA’s slogan, “We Are Their Voice”, with animals holding blank, cartoonish speech balloons in their mouths, was clever and effective. Animals can’t stick up for themselves; humans have to act for them.
Temple Grandin’s Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior takes another tack. Dr. Grandin, an animal scientist, has autism and is somewhat alienated from human interaction and emotion. However, she understands animals in a way that most humans can’t, and her book is full of a skilled interpreter’s observations.
We don’t have to be poets, campaign directors, animal scientists, or Dr. Dolittle to guess what animals would say to us if they could. Nor do we need to have Cesar Millan’s innate, intuitive understanding of animals’ experiences. We just have to think about how we like to live our own lives–safe, well-fed, loved, and comfortable (and who doesn’t want a quick, painless death?)–and try to provide this for all animals.