04 May 2011

Editors of Journal of Animal Ethics claim we should drop the term 'pets'

An editorial in the new Journal of Animal Ethics—a joint venture between Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and the University of Illinois—claims that we should change our animal language to updated, less derogatory terms.

For example, rather than calling animals "pets," they should instead be called "companion animals." And "wild animals" should be labeled “free living or free ranging animals.”

Additionally, the editors of JAE believe that the term "owner" should be completely forgotten and thrown away. Instead, they say humans should be regarded as "human carers" for their "companion 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," explained the editors.

Interestingly, a recent study by Milo’s Kitchen, a company that manufactures dog treats, seems to indicate that American families may feel the same.  The study revealed that 81% of Americans consider their dogs to be equal members of the family.

The JAE editors also believe that words such as "pests" and "vermin" should be replaced by less insulting names.

According to the editorial:
Our existing language about animals is the language of past thought – and the crucial point is that the past is littered with derogatory terminology: 'brutes', 'beasts', 'bestial', 'critters', 'sub-humans', and the like. 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.

What do you think about the term "pets?"

Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/b1ue5ky