PETA wants people to stop using the word pet
Brittany Hambleton
Brittany Hambleton
February 13, 2020 ·  4 min read

PETA Wants You To Stop Saying The Word ‘Pet’ Because It’s ‘Offensive to Animals’

The organization “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, aka, PETA, has been known for making outrageous claims and statements in the past. From requesting a gravestone for lobsters who died in a truck crash, to claiming that cow milk is a symbol of white supremacy, they have more than once indulged in the ridiculous in an attempt to push their agenda. 

While the fight for animal rights is a noble pursuit, over the years the organization has destroyed their credibility time and time again with over-the-top accusations and highly offensive ad campaigns.  

Perhaps this is all part of their grand plan? In any case, it appears they are at it again, this time requesting that we remove the word “pet” from our vocabulary when it comes to referring to our furry friends [1].

The Word “Pet” is Offensive

PETA senior media officer, Jennifer White, recently spoke with Piers Morgan and co-host Susanna Ried on Good Morning Britain about the organization’s campaign to change the way people refer to their animals.

White explained that in the eyes of PETA, “pet” is a derogatory term, and is not considered animal-friendly language. She explained in the interview that PETA does not hate the word “pet”, but wants to encourage the public to use a better term, such as “companion”.

The organization wants to highlight the importance of language, and how it can change the way we treat our animals. White argued that the term “pet” and “owners’ ‘ implies that the animal is a possession. This gives the impression that an animal is more like an inanimate object as opposed to a living being, and can reflect the way we treat them [1].

Read: Animal Cruelty Is Finally Officially a Nationwide Felony

Pet is Not the Only Word They Have a Problem With

PETA is not only asking for a ban on the word “pet”, but also on other common phrases and expressions that contain supposedly non-animal friendly language. The organization is proposing that phrases like “kill two birds with one stone”, “be the guinea pig”, and “beat a dead horse” be changed to “feed two birds with one scone”, “be the test tube”, and “feed a fed horse”, respectively [1].

“Language is always evolving,” argued White. “We’re not saying these words are offensive, we’re not saying that phrases are offensive…all we are doing is providing better phrases that people can use” [1]

Language Effects Behaviour

When referring to the way in which the words we use affect our perceptions and behavior, PETA is not entirely wrong. In the world of psychology, there is research to suggest that words create filters through which people view the world around them. Jack Schafer, Ph.D., uses the following example:

“If a friend describes the person you are about to meet for the first time as untrustworthy, you will be predisposed to view that person as untrustworthy, regardless of the person’s actual level of trustworthiness.

He continues to explain that the word “untrustworthy” creates a primacy effect that predisposes you to view the person you are about to meet as untrustworthy. From that point onward, you will continue to view that person as having that quality, regardless of their actual actions [2].

In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, authors Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman explain how this very thing happens.

“A single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress,” they write [3].

The People Aren’t Buying It

Despite attempting to use the psychology of language to support their cause, the Good Morning Britain hosts were not buying White’s argument. 

Publicist Nick Eed, who joined the panel in the discussion, argued that the word “pet” is not the problem- it’s a lack of education and poor ownership that is to blame for the mistreatment of household animals. 

“I am an owner because I bought my dog and I own it,” he said. “If you look in America, especially with people like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, they talk about ownership as having some kind of care for something and taking responsibility. I have a responsibility for my dog.” [1]

The hosts of the show are not alone in their opinions. In a poll shared on the show’s Twitter account, 97 percent of the nearly fifty thousand respondents did not agree with PETA’s attempted language ban [1].

Eed, who is an animal lover himself and supports animal rights, expressed his frustration and disappointment with the organization on the matter.

“My issue with [PETA], is that you are known for doing some great activism,” he explained. “Now you’re trivialising all the work you’ve done by basically just trying to change a name.” [1]

So while PETA may continue to push for these changes, it is unlikely that anything will come of it, and this will remain yet another failed campaign to add to the organization’s ever-growing list of outrageous activism.

There is no doubt that many of the core values of PETA or noble, but is this something that will resonate with people and lead to a greater good? What do you think?

Keep Reading: German Lab Called Out for Abhorrent Animal Cruelty