How would the world change if household pets and other animals could talk?
I'm not talking about an ideal fictional world, I'm talking our world. In the next few decades. Studies with African Grey parrots (re: Irene Pepperberg and Alex), chimpanzees, whales, and dolphins have shown that other animals have certain cognitive components of speech. Other animals do have methods of communicating in basic ways, as rudiments of language are present all around the animal kingdom. For instance, while most animals out there won't realize what you mean by looking in a certain direction, a dog will immediately follow your gaze to watch whatever you're looking at. Nonverbal communication is taking place.
Separately, genetic engineering is taking place on an ever-expanding scale, so that gene therapy for already-developed organisms is becoming a possibility for the future. It's in its infant stages, but finding the biological mechanisms for changing the genome of an organism is completely plausible given the versatility of genetic tools (e.g. retroviruses). There are pretty much no limits to what living things can do.
So, what happens when the capacities of genetic modification come into contact with the field of animal cognition? What are the ethics of enabling animals to talk? How would this play into issues of civil rights? Do pets deserve the right to speak if we can give it to them, or should they all be kept silent?
How would you, as furries, react to the dawn of sapient, talking, non-human animals?
I ask these questions because I am going into this field of research. I plan to study genetics to make these adaptations possible by determining what genes are responsible for the development of language-related structures in an organism, such as vocal chords and the right neural pathways. From that point, it's a simple matter of swapping the "language genes" into the genome of an individual from another species. Do any of you scientists have advice for me as I tread these waters? Does the idea rub you the wrong way, or do you want to see it happen?