Calling animals 'pets' is insulting, academics claim.
Animal lovers should stop calling their furry or feathered friends “pets” because the term is insulting, leading academics claim. Domestic dogs, cats, hamsters or budgerigars should be rebranded as “companion animals” while owners should be known as “human carers”, they insist. Even terms such as wildlife are dismissed as insulting to the animals concerned – who should instead be known as “free-living”, the academics including an Oxford professor suggest. The call comes from the editors of then Journal of Animal Ethics, a new academic publication devoted to the issue. It is edited by the Revd Professor Andrew Linzey, a theologian and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, who once received an honorary degree from the Archbishop of Canterbury for his work promoting the rights of “God’s sentient creatures”. In its first editorial, the journal – jointly published by Prof Linzey’s centre and the University of Illinois in the US – condemns the use of terms such as ”critters” and “beasts”. It argues that “derogatory” language about animals can affect the way that they are treated. “Despite its prevalence, ‘pets’ is surely a derogatory term both of the animals concerned and their human carers,” the editorial claims. “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.” It goes on: “We invite authors to use the words ‘free-living’, ‘free- ranging’ or ‘free-roaming’ rather than ‘wild animals’ “For most, ‘wildness’ is synonymous with uncivilised, unrestrained, barbarous existence. “There is an obvious prejudgment here that should be avoided.” Prof Linzey and his co-editor Professor Priscilla Cohn, of Penn State University in the US, also hope to see some of the more colourful terms in the English language stamped out. Phrases such as “sly as a fox, “eat like a pig” or “drunk as a skunk” are all unfair to animals, they claim. “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," they say.