Features & Stories

Story and photo by Trudy Frisk

Free-living, differentiated being and dictionary.
When is a cow not an animal?  When it’s a differentiated being, of course.

The  next livestock auction will sound very odd if editors for the new Journal of Animal Ethics have their way. They call for a totally different vocabulary regarding animals. First, we must eliminate that very word.  The term ‘animal’ is considered degrading, and abusive. “We will not be able to think clearly unless we discipline ourselves to use more impartial nouns and adjectives in our exploration of animals and our moral relations with them.” , insist the editors.

You, there in the back, with your hand up, do you have a question?  “If the word animal insults other creatures, how can there be a Journal of Animal Ethics? Shouldn’t it be The Journal of Differentiated Non-Human Beings Ethics? ” Of course it should. But when was political correctness ever logical?  To continue.

There will be no more disparaging comparisons. ‘Greedy as a pig’, ‘drunk as a skunk’, and ‘sly as a fox’, must be eradicated from the English language along with ‘beasts’ , ‘critters’, and ‘vermin’.

We’ll also have to abandon such stereotypes as ‘busy as a bee’, ‘graceful as a swan’, and ‘happy as a lark’.  There are probably slacker bees, clumsy swans, and depressed larks on valium.  Who are we humans to judge them?

We’re not done yet.  Erase the world ‘wild’ from your speech.  “Wild” , as in ‘wild animals’ or ‘wildlife’ implies that these creatures are ‘uncivilized, unrestrained and barbarous’ says the Journal. My dictionary, Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate, describes wild as, ‘not ordinarily tame or domesticated’, ‘a free or natural state of existence’, ‘passionately eager or enthusiastic’.  Why is being wild so wrong? 

No matter, we must substitute ‘’free-living’.  Mark my words, there’ll be problems.  The World Wildlife Fund will become The World Free-Living Fund, attracting hordes of  confused but enthusiastic new supporters who’ve totally misinterpreted ‘free-living’.

How far should we go?  Would it comfort the seven thousand evacuees of Slave Lake, Alberta to know their town was destroyed by a ‘ free-living fire’ , not a ‘wild’ fire?

There’s more.  Pets will be referred to as ‘companion animals’.  My feeling is that pets will fight this every step of the way.  The association of cats and dogs with humans began as a mutually beneficial working arrangement.  Dogs stood guard and barked warnings, cats killed mice and rats which spoiled stored crops.  In return humans gave them shelter and surplus food. Things have changed. Dogs bark to warn the meter reader’s arrived. Cats catch rodents for the pleasure of carrying them into the house, letting them go and purring for pleasure at the resulting pandemonium.

Some people, (you know who you are), refer to their pets as ‘fur children’, arrange play dates for them, and watch with resignation as they test their claws on the expensive leather sofa. They are totally subservient to their animals. Those pets don’t consider humans their companions; would a king call his slave his companion?

Imagine the re-branding required as Petcetera becomes Animal Companioncetera  and Petland transforms into Animal Companionland. 

One friend of mine, a pet owner, and retired Navy man, is having none of it.  “Cats are cats!” , says Terry. His cats agree.

Adopting guidelines from the Journal of Animal Ethics requires comprehensive revision of most English literature.  George Orwell’s famous satire would be converted to Differentiated Beings Farm.  Ironic, isn’t it?

Orwell would have been sardonically amused, though he might have asked the Journal to clarify its position on comparative ranking. As he wrote, “All animals (differentiated beings) are equal, but some are more equal than others. “

Back to the livestock auction.  First, let’s not assume it would be permitted.  I’m serious.
The city of San Francisco, ‘Ban Francisco’ as it’s becoming known, tried to outlaw sales of pets.  The law didn’t pass, but the attempted precedent is there.

Now, imagine the Animal Ethics strategists getting their arms wrapped around livestock sales. If exchanging money for pets is unethical, would these people condone the sale of animals for food?  Not without a fight.

Let’s assume livestock producers win and auctions proceed.  Some conditions might apply.  The terms “Bull sale”, or “Sale of Heifers”, are not only anthropocentric, they are downright sexist. Ought we to discriminate between the genders?

(As any livestock breeder can testify, animals themselves can certainly tell the difference.  If they couldn’t, there’d be no more animals.)

It gets worse.  Gender isn’t the only factor in livestock sales.  Breed and lineage are important whether the buyer is choosing a beef steer or a cutting horse. Then, there’s the question of colour.  Would a herd owner be allowed to advertise “Black Angus” or “Red Angus” cattle for sale?  Doesn’t seem likely, does it?

It’s time to take a stand for common sense.  Otherwise, as Kamloops writer Peter Grauer warns, “We’ll have to think of a new word for ‘sucker’ !” 

Other articles by Trudy Frisk

© 2023 Interactive Broadcasting Corporation