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. ” I agree that a dog is a friend and a cat is a supervisor “…Rafflaw
    Ever owned a Border Collie ?

  2. BIL does not want to be murdered in his sleep. Probably better to not agitate the natural born killers in your home. The cuteness is just a disguise.

  3. You know the old adage. Dogs have masters; cats have staff.

    Thing is, when you pick up a dog, you know you have something. Pick up a cat and it just sags and runs to the bottom.

  4. I guess I’d be tarred and feathered for referring to my cat as and “eating, sleeping, shitting, fur ball.”

    I shall refer to him as “nourishment consuming, suspension of consciousness, expulsion of feces, fluff orb.

  5. Considering the savage traits “wild animal” brings to mind the term is entirely appropriate- for us. Homo sapiens sapiens is about the most persistently and calculatingly savage creature in the animal kingdom.

  6. Would Professor Linzey be less offended if we use a more precise and accurately descriptive term for our four-legged friends? How about……genital lickers?

  7. “Oh, the humanity. Oh the botany”
    … Otteray Scribe


    Well said sir, well said 🙂

  8. I’m getting a headache.

    It may be time for me to take a break from the news.

    Spend some quality time with my critters.

  9. “…they only eat what a plant “gives up voluntarily…”


    How hypocritical. Those fruits and nuts are plant BABIES!! Would the writer of that give up his or her babies for plant food? I think not!

    Oh, the humanity. Oh the botany. How sad.

  10. At least “companion animal” is more dignified than the euphemism my circle uses: “fur baby.”

  11. I don’t know . . . “animal” seems sort of a demeaning word . . . could we call the “companion beings” or maybe “companion life forms”?

    Years ago I used to be on a vegetarian mail list, I really enjoyed a lot of the recipes people posted but you often had to wade through a lot of moralizing and preaching from your moral superiors. My favorite one of all time though came from a ‘fructarian’ (they only eat what a plant “gives up voluntarily”). The exact rant still sticks with me:
    You are all hypocrites! One type of plant you take into your living rooms and nurture while another plant you take into your kitchen and hack to death!!!”

  12. Our behavior is more telling than our words are. I would settle for a “kinder gentler nation” based on deeds rather than on words. -Dredd

    And yet, words do matter, of course. Having said this… I, too, would “settle” for, as you say, ‘a “kinder gentler nation” based on deeds rather than on words.’

  13. The Rev’d you say….now who is who’s master…help I am confused…but if you treat them and care for them well….who is really the better for it…your companion or your companions companion…..

  14. I started to call Percy in here and explain what Professor Linzey’s admonition would mean at our house with some redefining of roles and life styles. But then I thought better of it. I was afraid he would bite me.

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