Animal Academics: Using the Word ‘Pet’ Insults Your Pet, er, Companion

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Here’s a frightening thought: The cat ladies are right. Kitties (and their doggie counterparts) are companions, not pets, and calling them otherwise is just plain offensive.

According to a report published in the Journal of Animal Ethics, using “derogatory” terms such as “critters,” “beasts,” and — you guessed it — “pets” when referring to animals of any kind can affect the way they are treated.

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In other words, a note for animal caretakers (don’t even mutter the word “owners” — that’s even worse than “pets”) everywhere: You’re doing it wrong.

We know what you’re thinking: What kind of far-out piece of academic research are you alluding to here? But in all seriousness, researchers from the Oxford Center for Animal Ethics, along with the University of Illinois and Penn State University, suggest that using these words to describe animals degrades the relationship that exists between humans and these… friends. (Is that term allowed? We just don’t know anymore!). Instead of referring to animals as “wild” and “vermin,” which dates back to times when animals were treated unkindly, we should be cultivating a language that shows mutually respectful relationships between humans and the animals that live among us.

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“Our existing language about animals is the language of past thought – and the crucial point is that the past is littered with derogatory terminology,” the report states. “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.”

So there you have it. Your cat or dog is now your companion, the rats you see on the subway are “free-living” and those pesky pigeons? You know, they’re just free-roaming, ready to fly at your face at any moment.

But for what it’s worth, we’re pretty sure that you dog doesn’t mind being called a “pet” just as long as you keep up with the tasty food, belly scratches and long walks around the neighborhood.  (via The Daily Mail)

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