People tend to feel strongly about PETA, one way or the other. The polarizing nature of the group recently played out on the British morning show Good Morning Britain. During the show, a representative for PETA suggested that the term “pet” is derogatory and should be replaced with a more respectful word. The backlash from the show’s hosts was swift and severe.
PETA Says “Pet” and “Owner” Imply that Dogs and Cats are Objects
During a taping of a popular morning show, “Good Morning Britain,” hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid were joined by publicist Nick Ede, his dog Beverly, and PETA representative Jennifer White. The hosts explained that PETA is pushing for a ban on anti-animal language, including referring to our dogs and cats as “pets.”
Susanna Reid got right to point, asking White “what on earth is wrong with calling them pets? They don’t care!” White agreed that while animals don’t care what humans call them, words have power and language is always evolving. She suggested that by calling dogs “pets” and ourselves “owners” we are reducing animals to objects rather than treating them as individual beings. She went further to state that PETA doesn’t believe animals should ever be purchased because of the same inherent flaw.
Piers Morgan wasted no time, verbally lunging at White and questioning PETA’s stance. He was quick to point out that the organization’s own name included the word “pet” and could not be dissuaded from making that point repeatedly. White kept her cool and stuck to the main point, restating again and again that PETA believes animals should not be “owned” and that calling them “pets” objectifies them.
“A lot of people at home who have dogs or cats will call them pets and refer to themselves as owners and this implies that the animals are a possession, like a car for example,” White said.
“When you refer to animals not as the living beings as they are but as an inanimate object, it can reflect our treatment on these animals.”
PETA Says They Should be Called Companions
When asked what animals should be called if not “pets” the PETA representative suggested that we refer to them as companions. Instead of referring to the human part of the relationship as “owners” they should be called “human carers.” That certainly describes how most dog people experience their animals and how they treat them but can calling them pets really lead to mistreatment? PETA seems to think so.
White continually attempted to make that point that word choice matters. By owning pets, they are objects that do not require a standard of care. She tried to connect the word “pet” to the larger issue of animal abandonment, particularly following the holiday season when shelters see so many animal “gifts” returned to the shelter. Guest Ede countered that ownership implies a duty of care and responsibility. The show went on to pick apart other “anti-animal” phrases that PETA would like to see go the way of the dinosaur.
Would a “Pet” By Another Name Receive Better Care?
We can all agree that words have power. By calling dogs and cats pets, are we lowering their position in our lives? Further, is that term part of the larger problem of animal abandonment? Does PETA make a good case that our language should evolve to reflect how we look at animals or is this all a bunch of hogwash? What do you think?