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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pets should be renamed 'companions', claim animal rights academics (and rats are just 'free living')

By Daily Mail Reporter

'Free ranging animal': Rats should not be called vermin because the term is derogatory, according to the editors of the Journal of Animal Ethics

Animals should not be described as 'vermin', 'pests' or even 'pets', animal ethicists have decided.

Academics say that traditional words used to characterise animals like 'beasts' and 'critters' are derogatory and should be replaced.

They say words like 'pests' and 'vermin' should be dropped altogether, and 'pets' replaced by 'companion animals'.

'Wild animals' should be termed 'free living or free ranging animals' they argue, because 'wildness' is too close to 'uncivilised'.

The call for a new 'animal language' has been made by the editors of a new academic journal, the Journal of Animal Ethics, published this month for the first time by the University of Illinois Press.

They said: 'Despite its prevalence, "pets" is surely a derogatory term both of the animals concerned and their human carers.

'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.'

But their semantic zeal does not end with man's best friends. They also argue for a new understanding of animals in their natural habitat.

'In addition, we invite authors to use the words "free-living", "free-ranging" or "free-roaming" rather than "wild animals",' they said.

'For most, "wildness" is synonymous with uncivilised, unrestrained, barbarous existence. There is an obvious prejudgment here that should be avoided.'

The Journal of Animal Ethics has been launched with the goal of widening international debate about the moral status of animals.

The editors claim that the change in vocabulary is essential to updating our understanding of the relationship between humans and the natural world.

'Companion animal': The words 'pet' and 'owner' are bad because they evoke the idea of property rights, academics say

'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,' they argue.

'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.'

It is edited by the Reverend Professor Andrew Linzey, a theologian and Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, and Professor Priscilla Cohn, Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at Penn State University and Associate Director of the Centre.



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