I’m sitting here writing with one of my cats stretched across my lap napping while I try to type. I think of the vibrant personalities they have, for in so many ways they are individuals like us. They have emotions, they are capable of intentional actions, and they can communicate in a “language” we share. It is not just sounds but gestures, movements, and eye expression. It is something that is built up jointly over time to come to an understanding of certain things. The difference with our regular language is that that this is not passed on, so it exists only here, for as long as we do. In the wild cats are not social animals so there is little chance for aggregation of experience to take hold.
Individual personality is not something unique to us. It is present in other animals as well. I did not always feel this way, perceiving them simply as lesser, mindless beings, When I was much younger I remember sitting on a beach with a flock of seagulls nearby. Then they were just birds, an undifferentiated group. But as I watched them, individual personalities began to emerge, particularly the one who established that he was in charge and setting the order of things. It occurred to me then that each one was different. When I go diving I see it even in fish, such as an occasionally curious barracuda that leaves in a huff when waved off.
As a city boy I will never understand how people could raise domestic animals, intimately know them and then slaughter them. I am not arguing against it, for it is part of the tragedy of our existence. But it is something I could not do now. For if in fact some measure of distinct identity applies to other animals, whose lot is mostly to suffer and die, then nothing good can be behind this scheme of things.