Anthropomorphism of Animals
When people don't know enough about animals, they may resort to instinct, imagination, or incomplete knowledge to understand animals, to know how animals feel, think and behave. They ignorantly anthropomorphize animals, projecting their own feelings onto them. Moreover, when they lack basic scientific knowledge, as in some superstitious societies, they attribute supernatural powers to animals, or even idolize animals.
In fiction, folktales and mythology, we ascribe human qualities to animals, not necessarily out of ignorance, but usually for learning and diversion. We knowingly anthropomorphize animals, exchanging roles with them to see the world with their eyes. Anthropomorphism and zoomorphism are useful as long as we separate reality from fiction, and knowledge from ignorance.
In the future, we may physically anthropomorphize animals, literally. If technology helps us increase animals' IQ, we will have civilized intelligent animals who can fully communicate and cooperate with humans. There are already many animals at present with an IQ higher than that of many humans. Technology permitting, we will anthropomorphize animals' brains, bodies, or both, partially or fully. They may share our appearance, or we may keep some as super-smart "ambassador" animals, linking between humans and the rest of other species, and saving us much research and experiments, mostly relying on probabilities and ending with uncertain results. (On the other hand, we may zoomorphize humans: the advances in cosmetic surgeries and eugenics will make future humans barely recognizable, freely metamorphosing into various forms, a zoomorph is only one of.)
Partial, temporary, mindful anthropomorphism is useful in many ways:
• It was always a humanity's dream to speak animals' language, as seen in fiction and mythology. Anthropomorphism forces us to use animals' "vocabulary" naturally, esp. in situations requiring expressing excessive pain or pleasure. By seeing life from animals' perspective we realize the difficulty they have in expressing their feelings with their limited language, compared to our sophisticated human one. By translating animal languages, faithfully and scientifically, we do ourselves and animals a double favor, properly understanding and benefiting from animals while helping them too, with no need to get emotionally involved or superstitious about animals. This is the simplest, least error-prone type of anthropomorphism, by which we get a closer look into animals' world, whose language is complex to understand or develop even by animals themselves, which kept them from evolving like us.
• We learn more about other animals, finding out more details while we are in the anthropomorphic "imaginative mode," that we wouldn't have noticed in a strict argument focusing only on our similarities and differences that act like hard lines keeping us from seeing the details of the whole picture.
• We learn more about ourselves. As we travel back in "natural" history, we discover our roots when we were still less evolved animals. We enjoy and benefit from such trip.
• We begin to experience "feelings" similar to animals', which make us grow motivated to help animals and lessen their suffering.
Anthropomorphizing animals ignorantly leads some people to overly love, hate or ignore animals. Many animal sympathizers ascribe to animals emotions that do not exist in the first place. Animals themselves do not benefit much from humans' mindless sympathy.
Ironically, most anti-speciesists are speciesists themselves. They care about certain species and ignore the others. Most people are familiar and sympathetic with the well-known and domesticated species, while most species are unstudied, or even undiscovered yet by scientists. We have an underpopulation of endangered species, and an overpopulation of common species.
Beneficially speaking, as to how much we need animals, we have too much pets (cats, dogs, parakeets, goldfish ...); too many animals we raise to kill, to add extra taste to our dinner (cows, chickens, tunas ...); and "armies" of wild animals that highly adapted to life with humans (rats, sparrows, cockroaches, etc.) that don't serve humanity or science much while being mostly harmful to environment.
Meanwhile we lose valuable species everyday that could've helped us understand ourselves better, knowing our origins and redesigning our future. It's a history book whose pages are torn out and destroyed permanently.
Ethically speaking, we sympathize with familiar animals while we ignore the thousands of species fighting for their survival and dying everyday at the bottom of the ocean or the heart of the forest. We can't help them or lessen their suffering, or give their predators an alternative vegan diet.
If one is not versed in animal physiology, psychology and sociology, like most animal-lovers aren't, one tends to anthropomorphize animals, treating them as humans, talking to, playing with, hugging, dressing, etc., while ignoring their need for other animals like them (animal parents/friends/spouses/groups/strangers), their need for natural habitat, their physical needs, skills, strength, weakness, etc. On the other hand, people who hate animals, like speciests or superstitious people, ignorantly mistreat animals.
It's important for some to learn these facts before getting "involved" with animals, that can be extremely, irreparably life-consuming, especially for those who are rich, lonely, bored, stressed, naive, or irresponsible (e.g. children), all of whom easily grow enthusiastic about possessing, growing, and watching animals: those cute creatures that act like humans but are not humans.
Sometimes raising animals devolves into an obsession similar to raising children. Those who "treat animals as humans" are like those who "treat children as adults," projecting themselves on them and ending up objectifying animals, that become mere objects of entertainment/obsession/catharsis to their owners.