PETA is calling on all pet owners to drop the word “pet” and “owner” from their vocabulary.
The group argues that such language implies that animals are “no different from cars or other possessions”, and claims this idea is supported by academic research.
It cited the Journal of Animal Ethics, which published a paper that examines how “derogatory” words such as “pet” and “pest” can “affect the way we treat animals”.
PETA claimed that researchers suggested society should use language that shows “mutual respect” between humans and animals. The group now recommends that “animal companion” should replace “pets”, and “guardian” should replace “owner”.
In a statement, the association said: “People who love their dogs or cats often refer to them as “pets” and to themselves as their “owners”, but this implies that the animals are no different from cars or other possessions. Referring to – and thinking of – animals not as sentient beings who have personalities and emotions but rather as inanimate objects can affect our treatment of them.
“This speciesist worldview, which using words like “pet” and “owner” helps perpetuate, is part of the reason why some people think nothing of acquiring a dog in the same way they would get a fancy handbag and then discarding him or her once the novelty wears off – because they see animals not as individuals but as objects or commodities.”
It added: “We understand that this is a new concept, but our language has always evolved, and so, really, changing the way we talk about animals so it better reflects our treatment of them is a natural step.
“There are many words and phrases that were commonly used 50 or more years ago that most people wouldn’t dream of using today, because – thankfully – we’ve come to understand how hurtful and harmful they are. So, as we learn more and more about animals, it’s time we started phasing out harmful words that perpetuate the idea that they’re objects.”