According to Merriam-Webster, anthropomorphism is “an interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics.” In other words, it’s giving human qualities or characteristics to something that is not human. Animal rights activists are the professionals at this, treating everything from amoeba to horses as if they were just like you and me. As it happens, they’re not like you and me and seeing them as such is viewing nature through a distorted and perverted lens.
This is not to say we don’t have things in common with other animals, especially other mammals. Other mammals give birth to live young and the mothers nurse the young from their breast milk. Coyotes can be loners but can also choose to work together in certain situations for the common good. It has been said that bears, when skinned, look so much like a human, many people refuse to eat bear. There is nothing wrong with accepting, and even admiring, these commonalities in other animals.
However, this reminds me of a picture that has gone around the internet for years. It’s a copy of a letter to an editor that a person wrote about a wildlife crossing sign that was recently put up in their town. The writer complained that they should move the wildlife crossing to some place safer because that was a very dangerous section of highway and it wasn’t safe for the wildlife to cross there. Because in this person’s mind, the wildlife can see and read the sign and will cross wherever the sign tells them to.
I hope we can all agree that deer can’t read. Let’s just start there.
Why can’t we love animals for all the ways they’re different than us? Humans are one of the few species on earth where the female is more attractive than the male. I love seeing mallard drakes in the creek behind my house, their majestic green necks and heads standing up proud and tall. Or a mature bull elk that carries around eighty pounds of antlers on his head like it weighs nothing at all. Or the way a pronghorn can hit speeds of up to sixty miles per hour and maintain it for miles, but yet can barely jump over a log. A person does not need to invent ways to admire and appreciate wildlife, God gave us reasons to love every creature, even if it is only as basic as spiders that eat mosquitoes.
Treating animals as if they’re human neither benefits the animals, nor the humans. We cannot tell the whitetail deer not to run out in the middle of the road or stay out of the soybean fields. Once the population is past carrying capacity, the animals will just starve to death from lack of sustaining habitat. Then there are coyotes, wolves, winter, disease and many other ways for animals to die. Sure, humans can starve to death, but in America, that’s rare and of course, all animals are susceptible to disease, but not too many humans these days being killed by predators or winter. Because we are not like other animals.
I truly believe that accepting and appreciating the differences in animals, specifically between humans and other wildlife, drives a deeper desire for conservation than anthropomorphizing them does. Those of us who do admire those traits we don’t share spend a lot of time out in nature observing and, at least part of the year, interacting with them. The type of folks who anthropomorphize, with a few exceptions, are the type that just want them to be left alone, they’re just happy they’re out there, somewhere where they don’t have to deal with them.
True love, just like with your spouse, is loving them because of how they’re different than you. And just like with your spouse, you can try like hell to make them just like you, but it never works.