Animal rights activists are calling for people to stop using the word “pet” when referring to animals they own.
Appearing on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, Jennifer White of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), argued that saying the term “pet” is derogatory and patronises the animal.
Instead, PETA is calling on people to use words like “companion” to refer to their animals.
“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.”
White added that animals are “their own individual beings”.
The comments come after PETA’s founder, Ingrid Newkirk, made a similar remark when she compared calling animals “pets” to calling women “sweetie” or “honey”.
“Animals are not pets,” Newkirk added. “They are not your cheap burglar alarm, or something which allows you to go out for a walk. They are not ours as decorations or toys, they are living beings.
“A dog is a feeling, whole individual, with emotions and interests, not something you ‘have’.”
Social media users have debated the subject of referring to animals as “pets” on Twitter, with many decrying PETA’s stance “absolutely ridiculous“.
“What next? Don’t call a dog a dog as it’ll start thinking it’s ugly?” teased one person.
“The pets don’t care what they are called!” another added. “All the animals care about is that they are cared for.”
Following the Good Morning Britain segment, PETA UK tweeted about its argument to stop calling animals “pets”, citing a 2011 study published in the Journal of Animal Ethics that found using the word can affect the way animals are treated.
“As we come to learn more and more about animals it’s time that we start phasing out harmful words that trivialize animal abuse or perpetuate this idea that animals are objects,” the organisation wrote.
“If we have the opportunity to use language which is kinder, more respectful towards other living beings, why wouldn’t we do that?”
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