On Animals and Anthropomophisation

The trouble writing anthropomorphic animal characters is that it is easy to immerse yourself in the details of the physics of the environment such as the scale of the environment, the engineering of buildings/transport/distribution systems to accommodate all manner of animals or what do they eat, what is the food chain like, etc that you lose the essence of what you’re trying to achieve. The problem is that by making them sentient questions of the eco-socio-political framework arise such as: how do they hunt/farm food that they might possibly interact with socially or productively? How does Simba hunt the zebra in Lion King that just bowed at his coronation or stop himself from eating Pumba? Or do you just ignore these kind of questions? But beyond just concerns of the circle of life and the food chain, do you include humans and what impact do they have? Are they on equal footing or overlords or a subservient former prime predator of earth or are they completely ignorant of the issues going with the animals? What kind of history are we talking about? I actually find writing such characters and scenarios a lot more difficult than writing general sci-fi and fantasy as in those I just make everything up. In this format however the rules governing my imagination are a lot more and certainly more constricting I feel. My current problem- if in a society of similar advancement to current human levels is inhabited by two-legged sentient versions of earth’s animals with a similar food chain and interaction between the animals should I make my ‘domestic’ animals sentient in a ‘wild = sentient and domesticated = dumb‘ world view or if all are sentient what kind of socio-political heirachies do you create? Apart from hunting that everybody knows happens but live with, assuming some sort of system or awareness is present, where else does the meat come from and who does the farming? Better yet, what are they farming. Certainly not sentient cows. A natural progression I came to after realising that a functional society has to have agriculture and some sort of food production and distribution channels. So too the other things like socio eco-political structures as well as industry. If this were Hollywood I’d just ignore all these things and leave plot holes galore or Roald Dahl/Beattrix Potter I’d just cop out and give selective sentience but I’m not. So what now?

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