Pet Companion Animal Peeve: Professor Calls For the Elimination of Such “Derogatory” Terms As “Pet,” “Beast,” “Owner,” and “Wildlife”

This morning I kissed by co-human carer and fed my companion animal before sitting down to blog on the recent publication by the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, a theologian and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics. Linzey has denounced the use of the word “pet” and “owner” as derogatory. Don’t even get him started on references to animals as “beasts” or “critters.”

Linzey’s views are shared by other animal rights activists and appeared in the Journal of Animal Ethics. If accepted, it will require a fair amount of verbal adjustment. For example, “wildlife” is totally out. He explains: “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 prejudgment here that should be avoided.” Of course, there may be some confusion some between Caribou and college students as free-living animals, though the later are more overtly “uncivilised, unrestrained, [and] barbarous.”

Nevertheless, Linzey believes that animals are being mistreated in part because of how we refer to them. Indeed, the reference to “owner” appears to be a virtual claim to slave-like dominion over innocent animals: “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.”

Also out are expressions such as “sly as a fox, “eat like a pig” or “drunk as a skunk.” You can presumably still say “eat like a truck driver” and “drunk as a sailor” however.

Now, this blog spends a considerable time on animal rights and causes. For the purposes of full disclosure, however, it has featured the “Pet of the Week” contest — a clear objectification of companion animals. A review has also found numerous references to wild animals and wildlife.

We are not the only ones who will need immediate revision. The bible is full of such derogatory language that will need to be changed. For example, Proverbs 12:10 should now read “A righteous man regardeth the life of his [companion animal].”

Other passages will need for work:

Genesis 9:2
“The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts [free-living animals] of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands [given the freedom to pursue their own sense of worth and self-realization.”]

Genesis 22:13
“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of [asked it to be a companion to] his son.”

Petsmart will have a bit of a challenge with the change to Companionanimalmart.

For my part, I feel “companion animal” is still derogatory. It suggests that my dog Molly is accompanying me rather than the opposite. I prefer “non-human associate being.”

Since Molly now wanders the house and sleeps in any of the five beds of her choosing at night, it is clear that she has few beastly inhibitions. Indeed, I am pretty sure she views herself as the human carer.

Heck, I will call her Caesar Augustus if she would stop eating socks and give this human carer part of the sheets at night.

Source: Telegraph

Jonathan Turley

32 thoughts on “<del datetime="2011-04-29T11:05:23+00:00">Pet</del> Companion Animal Peeve: Professor Calls For the Elimination of Such “Derogatory” Terms As “Pet,” “Beast,” “Owner,” and “Wildlife””

  1. pardon me?

    Wildlife films with an attitude. What will they think of next? Well, why not? We needed a successor to Marlin Perkins and Steve Irwin. You go, Randall! Good on ya, Mate!

  2. I love “Honey Badger”! Thanks for posting it. The narrator should overdub some eps. of Attenborough’s “Life On Earth” series. It would be amazing, but he probably doesn’t give a s*** 🙂

  3. To answer your rhetorical question it appears that since, skunks do not drink alcohol, “drunk as a skunk” cannot be pinned on the habits of Mephitis mephitica.

    This is a charming North American mammal and member of the weasel family which takes its name from the Algonquian Indian word meaning “urinating fox.”

    The term “drunk as a skunk” is, as you guessed, simply a good example of our love of comparisons and rhyming, made especially popular by the fact that “skunk” happens to be one of the few words that rhymes with “drunk.”

    Similar, albeit non-rhyming, terms for “extremely drunk” have included, over the years, drunk as a fly, a log, a dog, a loon, a poet, a billy goat, a broom, a bat, a badger, a boiled owl, and several dozen more too risqué to list here.

    Although comparative terms for drunkenness have been popular throughout the history of English, “drunk as a skunk” seems to be a fairly recent (20th century) addition to the canon.

  4. I can basically understand where the professor is coming from (however absurd it may be), but being against the phrase “drunk as a skunk?” What effect does this phrase have on anything? Are skunks’ rights across the nation being trod on because of the unfair stereotype that they are drunkards? It’s just a rhyming expression with no deeper meaning or characterisation behind it. You might as well claim that saying “polka dots” discriminates against the Polish by linking them with a tacky sense of fashion.

  5. Rafflaw…
    They do indeed, I have 1 and he rules the house including the 2 cats!!

  6. OS,

    I think I’m safe as long as I have the monopoly on thumbs. They know what a can of cat food is. They know what a can opener is, but damned if they can’t get it to do the trick Daddy makes it do.

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