WE NEED TO talk about pets.
Or actually, we need to talk about how we refer to pets.
Actually, we shouldn’t refer to them as pets at all.
The new Journal of Animal Ethics has tackled what it sees as the “derogatory terminology” used to describe animals. It says:
As one of us has written… Even “animals” is itself a term of abuse (which hides the reality of what it purports to describe, namely a range of differentiated beings of startling variety and complexity).
The Journal, which is published by the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and the University of Illnois Press, says that even describing domestic animals as ‘pets’ can serve to degrade the animal’s status in the eyes of its human owner. It explains in a foreword:
Inevitably, our existing language about animals is the language of past thought – and crucially, that past is littered with derogatory terminology: “brutes”, “beasts”, “bestial”, “critters”, “subhuman”, and the like. We will not be able to think clearly unless we discipline ourselves to use more impartial nouns and adjectives in our exploration of animals and our moral relations with them.
So what to call our feathered, four-legged and other animal friends? The Toronto Star suggests that the preferred term among some veterinarians is “companion animal” rather than “pet”.
The somewhat negative reaction to the editorial in the Journal of Animal Ethics has led the organisation to post a response on its Facebook page. It says it is to counteract “a flurry of critical articles” (presumably like this one on Time.com, which is headed up by a meme of a cat with the word ‘SRSLY?’ across it).
The reponse, which is published on the Institute of Animals and Society Diary is titled: Language is Real, not Trivial. It claimed that “the media” had decided: “That crazy academics like Linzey are worried that animals will be ‘insulted’ if we call them pets, critters or beasts. Sadly, these stories entirely miss the point.”
The post reiterates:
Terms like ‘pet’ and ‘livestock’ reflect a particular understanding of animals, and then shape our treatment of them.
Read the whole response here, and tell us…
Do you think it is wrong to call an animal companion a “pet”?