Cleaning Up Your Animal-Unfriendly Verbiage

I was recommended by a friend to read The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams quite awhile back and I just finally got around to reading it. It is an excellent book that will make you re-evaluate the very basis of the way you think (or more accurately do NOT think) towards animals, regardless of whether or not you are a vegan or a corpse-eater. Adams routinely points out culturally accepted verbiage and symbolisms that enable you to avoid the “meat is murder” issue. A few examples from the book: a hamburger is not called cowmeat, nor are chicken wings considered chicken’s wings and the very word “meat” is not mentioned unless it is a local cultural abnormality to consume it, such as dogmeat (such as in the USA).

Moving on. If you are vegetarian, the obvious next step to ending animal enslavement is becoming vegan. Now if you are vegan, I urge you to evaluate the language you use daily. It is amazing the number of phrases and words one uses during the course of a normal day that somehow reflects poorly upon the other animals with which we share this earth. A couple I need to work on are: ass and son-of-a-bitch. Yeah I know, “curses”, big shocker to those who know me! :) If you have read the book you will see that I have no decent defense as to why I use these, except for that they are culturally accepted phrases and ingrained in my brain. But I cannot resist! My excuse is thus: I use ass as meaning a stupid or idiotic human….never thinking about donkeys (which is a sneaky aspect of our very language….) and as for son-of-a-bitch, I use it to mean, well….an ass :), never a female dog or female human. An excerpt by Noreen Mola and the Blacker Family that Carol J. Adams put into her book, The Sexual Politics of Meat, just may give you the head start you need in cleaning up your animal-unfriendly verbiage!

Language is a powerful tool. The words we choose do more than name or describe things; they assign status and value. Be careful, then, how you choose words to refer to non-human animals, for you may be using expressions that maintain prejudices against them.

Referring to a non-human animal as an “it” strips him or her of dignity and perpetuates the view that other animals are objects, inferior things or property.

Referring to people who share their homes and lives with non-human animals as “owners” or “masters” connotes slavery, and we should be uncomfortable with the connotation. Friends, companions and protectors is preferable.

Avoid calling other animals “living things.” They are living beings.

Refer to non-domestic animals as free or free-roaming, not “wild” or “wildlife.”

When referring to animal suffering and death caused by human action, use painfully explicit words that reveal the true facts. “Euthanize,” “put to sleep,” “sacrifice,” and “destroy” are favorites of animal researchers (and some animal control people), while “cull,” “harvest,” “manage,” and “thin the herd” are favorites of hunters, trappers, and their ilk. These words mean kill, so say kill.

Guilty people try to cover up their horrifying cruelties against, and backward exploitation of, non-human animals with deceptive euphemisms like the ones above. Say it like it is, and correct others when they don’t, so that people will realize the true nature and full extent of the suffering we inflict on other living beings.

Watch out, too, for expressions that convey contempt for animals. “Son-of-a-bitch,” “bird-brain,” and “hare-brain” are insults at the expense of animals. Think of alternatives to calling a person a “snake,” “turkey,” “ass,” “weasel,” “chicken,” “dog” or the like.

Liberate your language, for it’s an important step in liberating all animals!

-By Noreen Mola and The Blacker Family, Animals Agenda, 6, no.8, October 1986, p. 18


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