The Kennel Club is hoping to address accusations of inbreeding which were raised in a 2008 BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed.
The Kennel Club is hoping to address accusations of inbreeding which were raised in a 2008 BBC documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed.

It's an insult to call Fluffy a pet

By FIONA MACRAE Time of article published Apr 28, 2011

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London, England - In a statement that gives a whole new meaning to animal rights, leading academics have called for pets to be renamed “companion animals”.

They say that rather than being a term of endearment, “pets” is an insult to the animals concerned, and their owners, who should be known as “human carers”.

The editors of a new journal devoted to animal ethics, including an Oxford University theologian, also want the terms “pests” and “vermin” to be dropped. Wild animals, meanwhile, would be referred to as “free-living or free-ranging”.

Even innocuous phrases such as “sly as a fox” and “drunk as a skunk” are seen as an affront to animals.

The recommendations reflect a feeling in some academic circles that the language we use when thinking or talking about animals affects how we treat them.

The call for a new type of animal language is made in the first issue of the Journal of Animal Ethics, which bills itself as being “devoted to the exploration of progressive thought about animals”.

Although the changes are mainly aimed at those contributing articles to the journal, it is hoped the message will influence how other people view their pets.

In the editorial, Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey, an Oxford theologian who has written or edited 20 books, and US philosopher Professor Priscilla Cohn call for a major rethink of animal terminology.

“Despite its prevalence, ‘pets’ is surely a derogatory term both of the animals concerned and their human carers,” they say. “Again the word ‘owners’, whilst technically correct in law, harks back to a previous age when animals were regarded as just that: property, machines or things to use without moral constraint.

“In addition, we invite authors to use the words ‘free-living’, ‘free-ranging’ or ‘free-roaming’ rather than ‘wild animals’.

“For most, ‘wildness’ is synonymous with uncivilised, unrestrained, barbarous existence. There is an obvious prejudgement here that should be avoided.

“We want to bid farewell to the numerous metaphors and similes by which we put down fellow animals or humans: ‘sly as a fox’, ‘drunk as a skunk’, ‘eat like a pig’... and many others. All of those say much more about humans and their perception, or rather lack of it, than they do about animals.”

They conclude: “We shall not be able to think clearly unless we discipline ourselves to use less than partial adjectives in our exploration of animals and our moral relations with them.”

But Marie Clair, spokesman for the Plain English Campaign, said: “It is not plain English, it is not necessary and if they want to alienate people further from the world of science, this is the best way to do it.

“I don’t know of any pet that has complained about being called a three-letter word.” - Daily Mail

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