Does this drive you (animal) crackers, too?

DO YOU mind me calling you pets, I asked the two small animals who live in my house the other day.

Tayla, the six-monthish “rescue” puppy, wagged her tail happily and licked my face. Miss Kitty gave me her best disdainful ‘what do I care’ look and carried on cleaning her lush black fur.

I guess not, then.

It’s still a worry, though. According to a couple of academics writing in the recently launched Journal of Animal Ethics, published by the University of Illinois, the word “pet” is derogatory and no one should use it.

Tayla, Miss Kitty and other domesticated creatures, they say, should be renamed “companion animals”.

Oh, we mustn’t say we “own” these companions, either.

“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,” say the academics.

Untamed animals should not be called wild – the connotation is “too close to uncivilised” – they’re free ranging.

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

As Canada’s The Star points out, there should be “no more references to silly geese, stubborn mules and drunk skunks”, and what about snakes in the grass and dirty dogs? I guess they’re outlawed, too.

Now, I’m not suggesting these academics aren’t well-meaning. Other articles in the journal rightly question the use of animals in spinal cord research, and discuss Canada’s commercial seal hunt, as well as how animal suffering is unrecognised by researchers.

Unfortunately, though, the ridiculous contentions in the animal language article tend to diminish the importance of those worthy topics.

As the Guardian newspaper says, you couldn’t make this stuff up. Well, you could, they say, “but it wouldn’t be half as funny”.

“Don’t say: ‘It’s political correctness gone mad,’ adds the Guardian. “Do say: ‘It’s political correctness deviating from the generally accepted norms of perception!”

Actually, I’m thinking of dropping the people at the Journal of Animal Ethics a letter of complaint with a strong demand that they change the journal’s name.

According to my copy of The Concise Oxford Dictionary, another definition of “animal” is “a brutish man”. And among the synonyms in another dictionary are “beast” and “brute”.

They should call it the Journal of Living Organism Ethics instead, I’ll insist. Then I’ll no longer be offended.

Doesn’t have quite the same ring, though, does it? — Stevie Godson

(A version of this column was first published in the Daily Dispatch)








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This entry was posted by stevieg on Sunday, June 26th, 2011 at 10:12 am and is filed under General . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Anna says:

    You have got to be kidding. haha Funny. I’m sharing this.

  2. Amy Lynn says:

    As an employee of a Corgi & a Cat, I’m not sure I understand the issue. Funny stuff, Stevie G.

    • stevieg says:

      Know what you mean, Amy. The issue for me is that surely these academics should be doing something useful with their time – and NOT taking the emphasis off the good work that’s overlooked because of their nonsense.
      Glad you enjoyed the post, though.

  3. Ed says:

    Too silly for words.

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