The animals can remember …. But our language they will never speak; not from lack of
intelligence, but from the different construction of their speaking apparatus. In the world
of man, someone must speak for them. And that is why, in a nutshell … goddesses and
— ALICE WALKER, The Temple of My Familiar
We are their voice.
— ASPCA MOTTO
AS ALICE WALKER points out in the quote above, it doesn’t take any special magic to speak to animals. The real challenge lies in speaking for animals. If there is anything mysterious and magical about governing animals, we will confront it here, in our discussion of how they can be represented in the political process.
Democratic government of a mixed human/animal community seems to require that nonhuman animals receive political representation. Indeed, representation is central to the legitimacy of modern liberal regimes. But representation is a complex concept, and its practice even more so. The concept of representation is related to the concepts of political agency, authority, and accountability; its practice can take place in both political and legal institutions, and it can be regarded as both a formal institution and an informal, creative performance. Indeed, this is a topic on which artists, writers, and other culture workers have a great deal to contribute. Not all politically relevant representation takes place in political or legal arenas.
Consider, for example, the work of Joanna Macy. A scholar and practitioner of Buddhism, Macy approaches animal representation not as a political practice but as a spiritual practice, a creative performance that may heal one’s relationship to the nonhuman world. Macy’s workshops are used in classrooms, churches, and grassroots organizing; they focus on helping people “transform despair and apathy, in the face of overwhelming social and ecological crises, into constructive, collaborative action.”1 One of her most popular workshops, the Council of All Beings, centers on the transformative potential of speaking for animals.