VERITY LUSH: Do we really communicate much better than animals?

COMMENT: First step to caring for the planet starts on your street

Wish you here? The Azul Fives by Karisma, Mexico

CHERYL GIBBS: My husband, scared of heights? You’re having a laugh

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As a teacher, I focus substantially on developing the thinking skills of students with whom I work.

Recently, we’ve been thinking about whether or not, if

I wonder whether, if animals always had the ability to speak...we would ever have eaten them at all

animals could speak, people would still eat them.

I would argue that the majority of people would not.

I say the majority as opposed to all, because clearly you always get some variation in human behaviour.

A person who is willing to kill others in cold blood, for example, may well have no scruples about chowing down on a chattering piglet just to get his bacon fix.

But I find this idea of speech fascinating.

Many animal groups have ways in which they communicate, even our pets, let alone those who roam wild in the animal kingdom.

However, speaking is entirely different. Speaking is key to humans – but does it make us human?

Does it help to differentiate us from the animals?

I wonder whether, if animals had always had the ability to speak (thereby negating the shock horror factor of coming down one morning to find your previously non-conversant cat orally requesting kippers for breakfast), we would ever have eaten them at all?

Most likely, not.

After all, can you imagine if the animals we routinely farm for meat – cows and pigs, or lambs – were able to stand behind their fences begging that we leave them in peace to enjoy their lives?

Because with speech, comes opinion, and the more we are able to voice our opinions and hear feedback, the more we can shape them and begin to argue a case.

Of course, we can also shout and yell and regret what we say, when we do harm – with our words – but the ability to speak does contribute to the variety of factors that set us apart from mere animals.

If we can speak and communicate, we can defend ourselves peacefully and we can also make and build relationships.

We use humour and we relate to those around us, and vice versa.

This leads me to think then, that sometimes, we do a pretty poor job in our ability to communicate freely.

LITTLE TRICK OR TREATERS ACTED RESPECTFULLY ON HALLOWEEN

The number of trick or treaters who knocked on our door this year was incredible.

Given that we had purchased two tubs of sweets, containing in excess of 150, and given that we had none left after an hour and each child took one sweet, you can imagine the action that was seen by the Lush family doorbell.

When we took our own children out briefly, it was a relief to see that everyone was respectful of the houses that were either in darkness, not decorated, or had a sign up requesting no trick or treaters.

It’s a vulnerable experience for many people – especially the elderly or those who live alone.

And in our area at least, children were polite and wellmannered.

WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THIS EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENCE?

As I write this, halloween was yesterday, meaning that Christmas ads – will soon be everywhere and the countdown to the festive period begins.

I enjoy Christmas and I don’t much care if the shops start getting bits and bobs out on their shelves early, but for many people this is a source

of extreme irritation.

Part of the issue for many people, I think, is that it’s obviously a tradition that belongs in the realms of Christianity.

Yet it has been embraced by believers and nonbelievers alike.

And murky lines have been drawn between those who wish to add light to a dark time of the year, in keeping with our nature-worshipping and Pagan ancestors, and those who wish to respect their Christian traditions.