Language is a powerful tool; from which we connect thoughts, images, and judgments about the world around us. That being said, it’s important that we remain conscious of the language we use when advocating for animals.
As positive language has played a role in re-adjusting the perceptions about people who have been marginalized by society, we must not forget that using positive language is still relevant in the struggle for animal liberation.
Animal ethicists have argued that the word “pets” should be replaced by “companion animal.” I completely agree that “pets” is a derogatory word, carrying negative implications for both non-human and human animals, however, I believe the term “companion animal,” might be just as negative.
On the surface, the term, “companion animal” has some positive value to it, as it brings to mind the image of animals as our friends. It ‘s true that the animals we become guardians of, do become our companions, but the term, while being founded on good intentions seems to infer that humans have an understanding with animals that they are in the world solely to satisfy human needs and desires, and that humans have a right of dominion over them. Furthermore, by using this term, animal breeders could further justify the breeding of animals, as well as use the term as a selling point.
I propose that we refer to the animals we are guardians of by their names, or simply by saying, “I’m the guardian of…”
When society develops a vocabulary based on the idea that non-human animals are sentient, individual beings, and not “its,” “things,” or “objects,’ it’s possible that exponential progress for animal rights will be made.