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Are You Insulting Your Pet?

Are You Insulting Your Pet?

I insult my dog on a fairly regular basis. Did you see that? I just did it again.

According to Oxford professor Andrew Linzey, the editor of the Journal of Animal Ethics, it's insulting to our pets to use terms like "mine" and "my," because it denotes that they're property.

We also shouldn't call them pets, because the term is insulting.

(I'll give you a minute to soak that one in. Take your time.)

Professor Linzey edited and launched the first ever Journal of Animal Ethics, a new academic journal published by Oxford University and the University of Illinois. Having solved all other problems in the world related to animal testing, animal fighting, bull fighting, and PETA's euthanizing shelter animals, they can now turn their attention to whether we should call our pets "our pets."

"Despite its prevalence, 'pets' is surely a derogatory term both of the animals concerned and their human carers," Linzey said in the editorial.

Instead, says the academic, we should refer to the critters and beasts as "companion animals."

Linzey's editorial also says we can't call them "critters" and "beasts," and our idea of "owning" an animal is outdated.

"Again the word 'owners', whilst technically correct in law, harks back to a previous age when animals were regarded as just that: property, machines or things to use without moral constraint," Linzey said in "his editorial."

Excuse me, in the "free living companion essay." Linzey thinks we should be referred to as "human carers," and not as owners, because we can't own animals. Never mind that we paid for them, pay their vet bills, and keep them inside the house.

Here's the thing: the animals themselves don't care. They don't speak English. They don't understand words, unless it's "eat," "outside," and "NO!" My dog — that's right, I said "my" dog — doesn't realize when I'm trash talking her or saying things that would make a human upset.

So when I use a sweet sing-songy voice, and say "who's an emotional burden on her family? Who's an emotional burden?" she gets really excited because I'm speaking sweetly and excitedly. (Note: my dog is not actually an emotional burden; I say this to make my wife laugh.)

That's because animals understand our tone of voice more than the words. They know what the sounds and the tone means. A sharp "NO!" means stop doing that, but "stop doing that" means nothing to them.

So frankly, Professor Linzey, animals don't really care if we call them pets. They care that we feed them, take them outside to do their business, and give them a safe, clean place to sleep. As long as we fill those basic needs, they don't mind if we call them pets, critters, or a poor substitution for real human companionship.

But Linzey and "his" co-editor Priscilla Cohn of Penn State University, home of the Nittany Lions, also want to get people to stop calling wild animals "wild animals."

"We invite authors to use the words 'free-living', 'free-ranging' or 'free-roaming," said Linzey's editorial. Sorry, I mean the editorial that Linzey wrote with his co-editor.

Sorry, not "his co-editor," but a fully self-actualized consenting woman who freely chose to cooperate in writing this drivel.

"For most, 'wildness' is synonymous with uncivilised, unrestrained, barbarous existence," said the editorial. "There is an obvious prejudgment here that should be avoided," it added, completely missing the fact they had just prejudged "most people" by assuming we associated wildness with barbarous existence. (Okay, we totally do, but still, they're prejudging.)

But Linzey and Cohn aren't done with this. They also want to have a go at some of our sayings — "sly as a fox," "eat like a pig," and "drunk as a skunk" — because it's unfair to animals.

No, what's unfair is that foxes aren't that smart, we actually eat pigs (mmm, bacon!), and a skunk has never been drunk as far as I can tell.

"We shall not be able to think clearly unless we discipline ourselves to use less than partial adjectives in our exploration of animals and our moral relations with them," said Linzey and Cohn.

Sorry guys, I think the Good Ship Thinking Clearly sailed the minute you asked us to stop calling our pets "our pets." If you want to focus on ethical animal treatment, you should try putting a stop to dog fighting and product testing on animals.

Or better yet, visit a bear-infested wilderness and explain your views on how they're now considered "free-living" and not "wild" anymore. We'll see how clear thinking you are when they try to eat you.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

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