Jump to content

Non-human animals speaking human language...


Recommended Posts

This seems cute on the surface, but it makes me feel sad. The sound of the voices makes it moreso.


It comes across as abusive -- anyone else think so or disagree? Or is it just similar to talking birds? (somebirds, however, will talk/imitate without instruction)

So do you think instruction such as this is appropriate?


I want my mama

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's pretty normal behaviour for dogs to be vocal in this way. Barking is actually less a part of normal, unstressed behaviour. I think in each case, the dog makes the noises, and the humans interpret what they are "saying". When you see the video, with the words "I want my mama" on the side, you are expecting to hear that. I don't think it's any more abusive than getting a dog to shake a paw or roll over for a treat. Dogs like to think, communicate, search for and interact for food, and do their part for the pack. It's all stuff they would do (a version of) in the wild.



The funny irony in this video is, the people think the dogs are speaking "human" and the dogs think the humans are speaking "dog". In each case, the humans start whimpering or howling, and the dogs join in. It probably confuses the dogs as to whether their humans are competent pack leaders or not.


I don't think it's cruelty, I think it's just humans stupidly putting human faces on non-human animals.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it's abusive. It's (over) anthropomorphic. Do tricks for me, entertain me...I think it's sad. There is nothing in teaching animals tricks like that, that are within the bounds of taking care of them. Shake, rollover and get a treat, does not teach the dog to be safe or enhance what is basically a bred-to-be-captive life. Pack animals depend on eachother and we interpret display of submissive or leadership roles as part of their nature, but that's not an opportunity to exploit that nature to teach them to perform for human amusement, which is what that is. Why okay to teach dogs tricks and not elephants? Same.


Now, it's taken me a while to face up to alot of this, myself -- I have a bird. No matter how much I love that bird, he is in a state of abuse. I cannot think of an animal which would do worse to be caged, than one whose very essence is the freedom of flight. It's worth more than just a few daily tears.

As I am his caretaker, there is nothing I could ever do to make up for any of it, but at least try to respect his nature as well as I can possibly understand it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is a real moral dilemma in whether to have animals as pets or not. The very act of containing a bird, or leashing a dog for a walk could be construed as abuse because these acts are contrary to the animals' natural states. But is this attaching too much human emotion to it?


In the case of a dog pleasing its alpha for a food reward, whether it's with a trick, or simple affection, is pretty natural behaviour. In a household, as far as the dog is concerned, the humans are just part of its pack. I don't think that the dog knows the difference between shaking a paw, and, if it were wild, licking the alpha pair's puppies. It's not what the dog is doing that matters to the dog, it's how it places the dog in the social order of the pack. Dogs are highly social animals, and need to interact like this (it's the only pack-type interaction they get with humans unless we crawl around on all fours and lift a leg on the corner of the couch). I still don't think prompting the dogs to "speak" is abusive, or getting a dog to work for a reward.


My own dog, who is a rescue from the L.A. SPCA, is a miniAussie shepherd/border collie cross (we're pretty sure) and he's very smart. He craves tasks to occupy his mind, and the second we slip up in our alpha-ness, he assumes leadership and we have to prove ourselves worthy again. Tasks like fetching, jumping for a toy, shaking a paw, rolling over, not going for a cookie placed right in front of him until he hears the command, etc., keep his mind stimulated and reinforce our roles as alphas. Abuse would be to leave him to his own devices, then yell at him, or worse, when he "marks" the house, barks at everything that moves or chews the furniture. It's just a matter of understanding dog behaviour, which is virtually identical to wolf behaviour and trying to emulate it in a way that suits life in a human world.


Obviously, the ideal, is for all dogs to be wild and free, but that's unfortunately not the reality. I cannot speak for having a bird as a pet, but I understand your feeling sad at its being caged and unable to fly around. It is a sad metaphor for what humans have done to animals. It's a really tough moral question. We humans get emotionally attached to pets, and we think we're loving them, when we're often just attaching our own human emotions and sentiments to them. It's really hard not to. I love my dog - should I set him free?


Maybe the dogs in the video were being exploited for our entertainment. The dogs in question don't care. They're not capable of reflection or resentment. They live entirely in the present. Elephants that are trained for circuses are severly physically and psychologically abused. As are circus lions, tigers etc. It gets even messier when you bring zoos and aquariums into the picture. Is a captive dolphin really any different than a dog? They do similar tricks, usually to entertain us. There is no easy answer. Humans just suck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This story is only partially relevant, but wanted to share anyway...


My cat has recently started imitating the way my kids say "Mommy" when he wants to get me to open my bedroom door. Nobody has trained him to do this, it's just a method that he's learned will get him what he wants. (Yes, it was a bit confusing the first time I opened the door expecting a child and instead a cat bolted into the room.)


I love my dog - should I set him free?

Tough question, isn't it? I set my cat free, but he kept coming back. There are plenty of small creatures to hunt in my neighborhood and he's got a full set of supremely sharp claws, so I really don't think he came back for the food.... I think he considers himself part of the family. Don't think I want pets in the future, but I made a lifetime commitment when I took this one in from the shelter 7 years ago, and I'm committed to caring for him as long as he wants to stay.


I think it's probably frustrating for an animal who lives with humans, to essentially be part of the pack/family but not able to communicate with speech like everyone else in the house. I think it's natural that they'd want to learn to interact with us in different ways, maybe even by trying to imitate human speech. There's no way to really be sure what they think or feel, but that's my theory.


As far as training animals to imitate human speech... I think that whether it is cruel or not depends on the method of training and how often their humans expect them to make those noises. If it's fun for both the dog and human, it could be a positive bonding sort of thing, just like a game of frisbee at the park. Looking at those videos, though, it sounds like what they're doing could maybe hurt their vocal cords if they do it too much. Done to excess or if it's something the dog doesn't enjoy doing at all, I would see that as cruel.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My opinion about the issue is about the same as Michelle's, even though it is hard to try and stay away from animals, as I love their company. Look, I know the very idea to keep animals confined in your house is selfish and has been proven to have a negative effect on them, but is it any better to alienate them completely? I mean, if a dog really likes being around you, that would be even more egoistic to turn your back on him, you would leave him out there wandering down the streets, with nothing to remind him of his ancient functioning, as cities are no good for animals, or else you would have to seek a place that is still natural and preserved from industrialization and there aren't too many of them left. It is a noble mind-set to remember that maybe dogs weren't loyal to humans in the past and that they would rely on nothing but their own means to survive but this has changed completely over the years and, if the re-introduction to nature has to be done, we should then progressively bring it back into their consciousness.


Now, is

a weird behaviour for a dog? Or is he just having a 'normal' conversation with one of his peers? I wonder if he's actually able to extract information from this, it's gotten me fascinated, for it doesn't look like he's pretending to communicate with the virtual wolf (for information, this is footage taken from THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: TWILIGHT PRINCESS on the Nintendo Wii & GameCube). Do you think the 'owner' - although the idea of thinking that you can actually possess a living being is despisable - forced him into this kind of behaviour or is it natural?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There isn't much I disagree with you here; however there are a ton of conversations now going on

My post was within the bounds of abuse as displayed in the video. I made clear why I thought *it* was abusive.


I did not address your first post which incorrectly used the word, "cruelty," but think I should now as this seems to have gone off a bit.

While "cruelty" and "abuse" can be used similary in various contexts, its application here is incorrect because it connotates intent, which I did not attach to the behavior ("abuse") by the humans. I also mentioned "state of abuse," -- of course I don't believe I'm (or the humans on the video are) purposefully harming my roommate. But the truth that is, is that he *is* in a state of abuse. I didn't cause this to be so; nor is the alternative better. In fact, this is the least harm this bird could ever experience, due to the actions of unconscious cruelty; greed; or perception of necessity by the humans who do such things (trapping, breeding, selling, trading/smuggling, etc.)


I think -- if I may? -- you are rationalizing. And deciding what is natural behavior is only to the extent that we are capable through anthropomorphizing, which is not always accurate. Not a negative criticism; so don't take it that way. We all do it. It's really difficult to think of ourselves as doing something wrong by having "pets" because we truly love them.

~ (AND it is necessary to take care of them since we are responsible for their unnatural populations and for their situation.) ~

I think this is where We get/feel a bit defensive and begin to place upon the animals what We believe they are thinking and feeling when there is really no way to be sure. So some anthropomorphising is actually good and necessary (it goes to extend our compassion and empathy); but it can also lead to rationalizing and placing undue responsibilities upon non-human animals. I am also not saying that keeping time with non-human animals is doing harm/actively abusing them; I'm saying they are already in a state of harm, and we are charged with caring for them the best we can. We unwittingly (and without malice) have imposed our human attributes to them, and that is unfair. Inasmuch as we can do without that, we should.

In other words, we *do* have to train animals -- for their safety; but not for our entertainment as in the video. Playing with and above all respecting them, of course, is necessary; just not for our entertainmet. All should be done for the benefit of the animals and not what benefits us:this is where we get muddy. (And not to imply that we should not enjoy it as a side benefit)


We are so acclimatized to certain animals (and they to us) that it is very difficult to see the connection of keeping a dog and keeping a llama. My contention is, while different situations, etc., it is at its base the same: One is domesticated, the other is rare and it seems so wrong, right? Isn't this the same (ir)rationale used by omnis regarding flesh consumption? It's okay to keep dogs because we love them and take good care of them, they love us back; but it's not okay to keep 'exotics' because it's unnatural, the poor things; Similar to: It's okay to eat cow, sheep, and pig; but cruel to eat dog, cat, or monkey.

One of the stupidest human rationales is the concept of animal cruelty laws. How pathetic is that? We put people in jail for hitting a dog (as well we should), and then go off to chomp down on a chicken leg. Nonsensical.


This is not an ideal world where dogs can be free to live their natural lives. In fact, dogs are mutants from what they originally were, (same as chickens and cows are only remnants of what they should be) and we are surprised and do awful things to them when they display a bit of their true nature or some of their wildness emerges.

For instance, there are domesticated dogs who have gone back to their nature. They are usually runaways, lost, or abandoned dogs; many are bred for fights and experienced other abuses. They somehow find others and form those packs; very much like feral cats. Of course We cannot allow this and what is our perception? It is that the dogs have gone "wild," are "vicious," "deranged." Because they do what they have to, to survive and because we cannot control them (or even when they "misbehave" we must "correct" them), they must be exterminated. The original, true nature of dogs is not one of lying at the feet of humans; it is roaming in packs, looking for live food.


There is very little of what we place upon them as "natural behavior" that is true. A lot of this has been bred out of them, though, yes, that's true (sadly).


I really think we overstep when we presume to "know" what an animal feels and thinks, and we grossly misinterpret, even with the best of intentions. Of course, all we can do is the best we can, and all we can do is anthropomorphize; but it's best, in my opinion, to err on the side of caution and impose as little as we can of what we want on them, and just do the job of taking care of them. Loving them and showing affection for them is fine, as long as we realize that it's more for us than them and be realistic and not get carried away. If any anthropomorphizing is beneficial it would be here because, heck, who wouldn't rather be with their own? We have to assume, that no matter how "luxurious" and lavish a lifestyle we give non-human animals, no matter how much of *our* style of "love" we shower them, it is not natural for them. I can never, ever fulfill for my roommate what he would get from other birds -- never. And as much as dogs have been bred to rely upon humans and their wildness genetically stripped from them, and so are "okay" with their current existence, they still deserve better.

They deserve respect, and I don't believe that some deserve more than others (meaning, dogs and birds may have completely different experiences, but it stems from the same base of abuse).

I believe we need to be realistic and acknowledge that keeping animals, is ultimately not ideal. I do believe there are connections we can have with them and understandings; but there are limits.


Anyone familiar with the "Twilight Zone"? Brilliant show. Anyway, one of my favorite episodes which left an indelible impression on me when I saw it as a child was the one entitled, "People Are Alike All Over," starring Roddy McDowell (luv him!) Anyway, the gist is that space explorers end up shipwrecked on another planet; the hosts perceive the humans as the aliens, of course. In the end, McDowell ends up in a "house" fashioned by the hosts, from his memory (implicit is that he was possibly experimented on.) This house looks like a typical American home, but when McDowell tries to engage his surroundings, he finds it merely a prop (ie: like we place fish in a bowl with silly sunken treasure chests and plastic seaweeds, etc.) and non-functional. Then a curtain opens and he realizes he is in a zoo and he is the animal being observed, behind glass, by the hosts' public. Isn't this what we do? Not only the obvious, but in that, just as the hosts (implicitly) believe they are making the human animal comfortable by placing it in its "natural habitat" and treating it well, taking care of it, etc., we also believe our animals are "happy."

Great episode; rent it if you can. So much online nowadays, I wonder if it can be downloaded? Another great one is "To Serve Man." Anyway...


For me, in a selfish way, I would hate to let my roommate go...but I would do it in a New York minute. If I could. I love him that much. Nothing would make me happier than to give him his true life purpose back. Acknowledging this always keeps me on the straight and narrow. do I shower him with love and attention? Oh, Lord, you'd laugh at me I'm ridiculous. I even like to think myself a silly, doting "mama." I won't deny it. But that's me; and his attachment to me, while *I* certainly love it -- being true to my dominant-needing human tendency -- it is sad and

unnatural. That's the ugly truth.


Really, I could go on and on. There are actually a lot of discussions we could have stemming from this subject and a lot to be addressed here.

Basically, I'm sayin' keep it real (istic)


So we mostly agree; and on this we certainly do: Humans suck

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 15 years later...

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...