Humans for the past few centuries have always labeled animals as inferior to that of the human mind, for their "behavior" and "actions" are considered barbaric and beast-like. They are monstrous brutes that do not even compare to human like compassion and knowledge.
In contrast to this typical idea of animals, Barbara Smuts, an animal researcher, wrote an engaging essay entitled "Encounters with Animal Minds", where it discusses the interactions between native baboons, but also discusses the idea of further deepening our minds to how animals interact within the world, as well as how we should act towards animals.
I truly found this work inspiring for I felt that Smuts truly captures the beauty yet complexity of animalistic interactions, but also allows readers to see that animals are sensitive and emotional creatures. I feel that, as a human being, I have seen my species constantly scrutinize and brutalize animals for their lack of understanding, as well as lack of humanistic knowledge and language. People have constantly misunderstood animals due to this barrier, for they concluded that animals have no similar compassion or emotion that humans have. Smuts clearly deny's this claim by not only joining the pack of baboons, but also learning their cultural ways and understandings. In her research, she was able to fully see the emotional complexities of the baboon communities as well as certain social behaviors that aren't necessarily known to the general public. For instance, Smuts discovered a "personal boundary space" that each baboon conforms too, and each space can be either diminished or expanded based upon the social relationship or context. To elaborate, Smuts goes on to say that social hierarchy, such as a dominant male baboon going into the space of a lower subordinate baboon, is much more acceptable than the vice versa. Because of his social class, the higher ranking baboon has authority and privilege to invade the lower baboon's space. This is also true if the baboons are highly close.
In Smuts research, she fully discusses the idea that animals, regardless of what humans think, are actually much more intelligent and socially compatible with humans than most people would like to admit. In fact, Smuts has discovered the idea that humans can actually interact with animals on a higher level. For example, due to her excessive experimental research, Smuts implemented herself within the baboon community and later learned the behaviors and social conventions of baboons by being more than just a typical observer. She engaged with the baboons in a very social manner, and was able to truly become a fellow baboon, and friend to the pack. Smuts learned not only behavioral patterns, but learned to identify which baboon was which, where they were going to go before they did, learned how to use her natural instinct in an almost pre-logical mindset. She was able to vicariously live as a baboon, and met the baboons at a more intellectual and emotional level that not many humans will ever experience.
Based upon Smuts research, I must say as a species we are slowly getting closer to a deeper understanding of what animals truly think, feel, and behave. Though for possibly another few centuries, we won't see much improvement in animal treatment and cruelty, I know that overall however, some of us are learning from our mistakes and are able to make a stance against this practice. It is becoming a more apparent topic in politics, and though it is ignored at times, it is at least being discussed within society, and that's a good place to start.