Do you shudder when the TV newscaster reports another horrible animal abuse story? Do you wonder how people can treat animals so cruelly? Do you admire the Jane Goodalls of the world, great and small, but, geez, with the family and the job and the stress, who has the time? If you really would like to be one of the people who do something more than change the channel, then I've got a proposal for you. We all know about the power of the spoken word. I'm not talking about the in-your-face soapbox kind of thing that turns a lot of people off. What I'm talking about are subtle changes you can make in the way you refer to animals in your daily conversations, using words that can help to open minds rather than words that reinforce the status quo of animals as inferior beings. For instance, consider the word "pet." Stop using it. It implies ownership, rather than guardianship, of animals. Which in turn implies that animals are property. Which implies that the pet/property can be replaced by an article of equal or lesser value in the event "it" is stolen or damaged.
So you are not your "pet's owner." You are the guardian of a companion animal. He or she is not an "it," even if he or she has been neutered. You do not "get rid of" an animal whom, for reasons outside your control, you are unable to care for; you find him or her a new home. You do not "kill two birds with one stone," "beat a dead horse," or "bleed like a stuck pig." Crude people are not "animals." Calling someone a "filthy pig" is usually more of an insult to the pig. And, finally, even though you may still eat meat, at least remember that sirloin is dead cow.
All it takes is a little practice to recognize and eliminate the negative ways we've become accustomed to referring to our animal companions. And it can have a huge impact on the awareness of others.
So many people have a fierce opposition to the fact that animals have an inalienable right to our respect and guardianship. They are feeling, thinking creatures. Their abilities may be different than ours, but in many ways they are our superiors, and there is much we can learn from them. Is that threatening? Confusing? Are we afraid of the implications? Do we just not want to have to think about it?
Whatever the case, your use of positive language can open the hearts of those who haven't thought about it; encourage those who have thought about it but haven't been able to commit to what they believe in their hearts; raise questions in the minds of those who are opposed; and support those who share your feelings.
As far as the animals are concerned, that's a pretty good day's work.
Michael W. Fox, vice-president of the Humane Society, said that, "to call an animal with whom you share your life a 'pet,' is reminiscent of men's magazines where you (a figure of speech, don't take it personally) have the "Pet of the Month." It is supposed that the continued use of the word "pet" to designate dogs or cats threatens to reduce their level of respect to the current status of twentieth century North American women. Now that's radical. ~The McGill Red Herring
"Owners" Are Urged to Become "Guardians" in Honor
of National Homeless Animals' Day
are not our property, we are not their owners" campaign
"The concept of "ownership" encourages people to think of their animals as property, commodities, or things. This leads to a large number of animals being abandoned and then killed in shelters," explains IDA President Elliot Katz, a veterinarian. "As the number of people who think and act as guardians grows, the number of animals who die in our nation's shelters will shrink."
What you can
To learn more about IDA or the Guardianship Campaign, see www.idausa.org.
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