Author: has written 5271 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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315 Responses

  1. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin May 10, 2011 at 2:54 pm |

    Downright Orwellian. Spooky.

  2. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 2:55 pm |

    I had a debate with someone about this and they asked me how I could cry out against Racist, sexist, homophobic transphobic language and oppose this movement. I then banged my head against a desk a million times because what the fuck animals are humans, this is not the same thing.

    I’m glad you agree

  3. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm |

    Lara Emily Foley:
    I had a debate with someone about this and they asked me how I could cry out against Racist, sexist, homophobic transphobic language and oppose this movement. I then banged my head against a desk a million times because what the fuck animals are humans, this is not the same thing.

    I’m glad you agree

    fuck animals aren’t humans. aren’t not are lol stupid tone changing typos

  4. gretel
    gretel May 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm |

    Annnnnddddd . . . humans are animals! I’m not insulted to be called an animal, because I am a proud member of the kingdom Animalia!

    And “anthropocentric bias”? Um, if you’re a human (am I allowed to call us that?), and you’re communicating, then by definition you already have an anthropocentric bias.

    Now. Won’t someone think of the vegetables?!

  5. Hammer Time
    Hammer Time May 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm |

    Bwahahahahaha… The funniest part of this (to me) is that this article made it’s first appearance in my life on the behavioral lists that I subscribe to. There are animal related professionals just tearing each other apart over this, even as I type. While I can completely empathize with your disdain, as with everything else, there are certain words in animal related fields that have become overladen with meaning, and I believe that there is well meant intent behind these proposed changes, I’m just not sure they are the best route towards ideal treatment of non-humans. Still, really, really funny.

  6. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm |

    And what about Animal from the Muppets?

    Also, people are animals too. Of this I am certain.

  7. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm |

    I tend to lump homo sapiens in with my own use of the term “animal” anyway, which as far as I know is perfectly accurate – we’re as much a member of the Animalia phylum as cats, rats, spiders, fish, octopuses, and platypuses. I figured out long ago that differentiating “humans” from “animals” was pointless.

    As for the cats, I’ve moved away from the term “pets”. I jokingly call them co-tenants, but just calling them cats works for me most of the time. Again, we’re all animals; they just don’t adhere to (or, for that matter, understand) our gonzo social structures and resource management systems, and I love them anyway.

    It’s certainly not something I’m going to enforce upon anyone else, and the people behind the terminology in the article are trying way too hard to demonstrate their respect for the autonomy of lifeforms, but I do find it an interesting ongoing exercise to re-evaluate my relations to and with the other clumps of autonomous cells coating this rock in space.

  8. andrea
    andrea May 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm |

    Devil’s advocate here:

    First off, I’m not suggesting that I’m going to start referring to my cats as ‘non-human dwelling-sharers’, but there is a bit of a point concerning how language affects how we think of certain animals.

    There are people who would be ridden with guilt if they hit a cat with their car, because a cat is someones ‘Pet’. These same people might put out poison to kill a mouse in their home, because mice are ‘vermin’. Even more so, they may not think twice about smacking a fly, because flies are ‘pests’.

    Although I do think it’s silly to go so far as to strike such verbiage from the culture, it’d be short-sighted to assume that there’s nothing to the idea of how words affect how we think of animals, much like with people.

  9. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm |

    Hmm I guess technically humans are animals but you know what I meant. *sigh*

  10. JPlum
    JPlum May 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm |

    We’ve always called our dogs puppies, no matter their age. Should I be worried that I’m infantalizing them? Or is my use of the word ‘infantalize’ showing my anthropocentric bias??

  11. The Opinioness of the World
    The Opinioness of the World May 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm |

    As a feminist vegan, I gotta say that I agree with the intention of this article. Yes, it might sound outlandish. And yes, some of it screams contradiction; you can’t say it’s abusive to call a creature an “animal” yet turn around and tell people they should call a pet a “companion animal” instead. But language shapes how we view the world around us. If we call people “pet owners” for instance, it does subtly imply ownership as if animals aren’t living creatures any longer but merely possessions. While many people love animals, our society contains businesses such as factory farms, circuses and puppy mills which all cruelly abuse animals, exploiting them for profit. Humans and animals may not be equal; but that doesn’t mean they deserve oppression either.

  12. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 3:22 pm |

    I’m offended on the part of viruses. They’re not animals, they’re not alive in the technical sense of the word – but they do replicate, and they even influence our DNA sequence, and we’re ALWAYS trying to eradicate them and such, and that’s just anthropocentric.

    ALSO, GOD-DAMMIT, SOME PEOPLE HAVE WAY TOO MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS.

  13. Adult Child
    Adult Child May 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm |

    The Opinioness of the World:
    As a feminist vegan, I gotta say that I agree with the intention of this article. Yes, it might sound outlandish. And yes, some of it screams contradiction; you can’t say it’s abusive to call a creature an “animal” yet turn around and tell people they should call a pet a “companion animal” instead. But language shapes how we view the world around us. If we call people “pet owners” for instance, it does subtly imply ownership as if animals aren’t living creatures any longer but merely possessions. While many people love animals, our society contains businesses such as factory farms, circuses and puppy mills which all cruelly abuse animals, exploiting them for profit. Humans and animals may not be equal; but that doesn’t mean they deserve oppression either.

    The Opinioness of the World:
    As a feminist vegan, I gotta say that I agree with the intention of this article. Yes, it might sound outlandish. And yes, some of it screams contradiction; you can’t say it’s abusive to call a creature an “animal” yet turn around and tell people they should call a pet a “companion animal” instead. But language shapes how we view the world around us. If we call people “pet owners” for instance, it does subtly imply ownership as if animals aren’t living creatures any longer but merely possessions. While many people love animals, our society contains businesses such as factory farms, circuses and puppy mills which all cruelly abuse animals, exploiting them for profit. Humans and animals may not be equal; but that doesn’t mean they deserve oppression either.

    I would have to agree with The Opinioness of the World.

    Although I have not read it yet, I would nevertheless recommend The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams. If the title is not descriptive enough, she argues in favour of viewing the projects of feminism and vegetarianism (and it could be extended to veganism as well, of course) as fighting the oppression which jointly marginalises and subjugates women and non-human animals (if I recall correctly based on my reading of Adams’s The Pornography of Meat, the activist-oriented distillation of the theoretical book) in a reciprocal relationship. Her aim, then, is to encourage both veg*ns and feminists to see each other as allies at least, if not for each to adopt the other wholeheartedly as well.

  14. gretel
    gretel May 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm |

    The Opinioness of the World: If we call people “pet owners” for instance, it does subtly imply ownership as if animals aren’t living creatures any longer but merely possessions.

    But if you buy an animal, then you are an owner. It’s more a term describing the transaction, in my opinion. As opposed to someone who fosters, for instance. Or someone who feeds the neighborhood cat every now and then. It’s not as though the animal someone purchased chose to live with them. I think if you start saying “companion animal” it implies the animal had a choice in the transaction.

  15. AnonCoward23
    AnonCoward23 May 10, 2011 at 3:30 pm |

    And what about fungi? They’re always discriminated against!
    Every time when people say “flora & fauna”, they’re leaving out our fungal friends!

  16. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm |

    Jill:
    Also, to borrow from Jay:

    There has been some interesting research by Feline linguists into how the term that translates to “Where Food Comes From” evolved from “Where Food Hangs Around”, or as the kitten puts it when her bowl’s nearly empty, “meow. meeOWWW. MEE-ooWWWWW.”

    Particularly at 1 am, soon after we try to go to sleep.

  17. andrea
    andrea May 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm |

    Jill: But I don’t think that necessarily relates to the word we use for the animal, though — it relates to the human relationship with the animal. If I accidentally killed my friend’s pet rat, I’d be ridden with guilt; I am not similarly guilt-ridden to know that my tax dollars pay for the extermination of a great many rats in New York City.

    Relationships and the language play into one another though. As the Opinioness pointed out, the ‘pet’ name does indicate ownership, and a way of objectifying animals. The relationships and language used in describing animals gets pretty interesting when you consider issues of stewardship and the idea of intrinsic value in all animals, not just their value as far as their usefulness as food, or companions.

    Hmm. Just find it interesting, is all.

  18. peggyluwho
    peggyluwho May 10, 2011 at 3:35 pm |

    I think I’ll go home and ask Mr. Darcy what he’d like to be called. He’ll probably give me that same disdainful stare he always gives me when I ask him questions.

  19. bhuesca
    bhuesca May 10, 2011 at 3:36 pm |

    There was a 1970′s BBC show airing on PBS (maybe it still is airing – I don’t know) called Are You Being Served? which used the slang expression “built like a brick chickenhouse” as a way to describe both muscular men and busty ladies as attractive. I hadn’t heard the other version til today…

  20. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 3:36 pm |

    Is it condescending to baby talk my widdle fuzzyface BIZZYBEE? WHO WUVS MAMA? WHO WUVS MAMA?

  21. Richard Jeffrey Newman
    Richard Jeffrey Newman May 10, 2011 at 3:37 pm |

    Also, I had a friend once whose dad used to say was “built like a brick shithouse.” Not the nicest way to describe her, but as a simile, not insulting to the shithouse.

    Cheers!

  22. Zora
    Zora May 10, 2011 at 3:37 pm |

    WTF, Feministe! You totes just lost me.

    If considering the way we relate to other animals through our language use is so absurd, then why did you just waste an entire article on it? Me thinks the lady doth protest too much.

    You sound like every teenage boy I ever met trying to explain why it’s SO dumb to replace words like “mail man” with Mail carrier”.

  23. PetPooch.com » But what about when boys call me “foxy”? – Feministe (blog)

    [...] But what about when boys call me “foxy”?Feministe (blog)If I call a puppy my “companion bitch,” am I in the clear as long as it's a girl-puppy? SO MANY QUESTIONS. (Usual caveats: Language is important and I love animals as much as the next cat lady. But who exactly is being offended here, …and more » [...]

  24. konkonsn
    konkonsn May 10, 2011 at 3:38 pm |

    I do think wildlife is a good term to start critiquing as “wilderness” itself tends to imply something not human. What makes it wilderness is specifically because of minimal human contact, thus creating the idea that humans can’t be part of real nature. The fox is a good animal; do you call it wildlife when they get along perfectly well in cities?

  25. konkonsn
    konkonsn May 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm |

    auditorydamage:
    I tend to lump homo sapiens in with my own use of the term “animal” anyway, which as far as I know is perfectly accurate – we’re as much a member of the Animalia phylum as cats, rats, spiders, fish, octopuses, and platypuses. I figured out long ago that differentiating “humans” from “animals” was pointless.

    I honestly feel this is the better way to go. Rather than bringing animals “up” to our level (since when did we become so great?), it might be better to, you know, humble ourselves and realize we’re part of a community.

  26. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery May 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm |

    Florence:
    BIZZYBEE

  27. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 3:43 pm |

    Jill: Except, well, until my cat starts paying rent, I’m ok with saying I am his owner. I’m also ok with making decisions for him, such as (a) he is not allowed to go outside and (b) he had to get his balls cut off. These are decisions which not only limit his autonomy, but physically remove his ability to reproduce, without his consent! Not ok to do to a human, in my opinion. Totally ok to do to a cat, because he is my pet and he is a cat and not a person.

    I don’t know, Jill, this seems like a slippery slope.

  28. Frank M
    Frank M May 10, 2011 at 3:46 pm |

    It was always my understanding that in social justice discourse, we should prioritise the voices of the oppressed minority in question, and when privileged people claimed to speak for said minority, they were appropriating and derailing. It’s common sense that if you aren’t a member of a particular group, you can’t talk with any authority about what it’s like to be a member of that group.

    Therefore, I suggest all us humans should sit down and shut up and listen to what the animals – sorry, differentiated beings – have to say.

    It’s not their fault that what they have to say is mostly barking and grunting; having the cognitive capacity to use language and understand abstract concepts is a privilege!

    Also, while we’re here – has anyone considered the plants? The plants always get thrown under the bus.

  29. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery May 10, 2011 at 3:48 pm |

    I don’t know, Jill, this seems like a slippery slope.

    I don’t know, Florence, calling this a slippery slope seems like a slippery slope. Imagine what other arguments might be described that way! Where will it end?!

  30. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    Adult Child:
    I would have to agree with The Opinioness of the World.

    Although I have not read it yet, I would nevertheless recommend The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams. If the title is not descriptive enough, she argues in favour of viewing the projects of feminism and vegetarianism (and it could be extended to veganism as well, of course) as fighting the oppression which jointly marginalises and subjugates women and non-human animals (if I recall correctly based on my reading of Adams’s The Pornography of Meat, the activist-oriented distillation of the theoretical book) in a reciprocal relationship. Her aim, then, is to encourage both veg*ns and feminists to see each other as allies at least, if not for each to adopt the other wholeheartedly as well.

    I disagree fully with trying to tie in feminism and vegetarianism. You can’t use the same language. We can be allies in as m8ch as I can support your desire not to eat meat and we can support each other in feminism but to say they are two of the same doesn’t work.

  31. Lu
    Lu May 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm |

    I agree with Opinioness’s opinion, though I’m not dogmatic about language (HA! PUN! not really but sort of). I use “companion animal” or “animal companion,” usually. “Owner” doesn’t sit well with me. It seems a little high-handed if you think about it enough. You may have paid money for an animal, but what makes you his owner? What’s the reciprocal of “owner”? Do you own him body and soul? Is he a possession like a book? Do you get to order him around? I’m trying to be a little funny here, but I’m sort of questioning the idea that “ownership” is the appropriate relationship to describe living with an animal who has his own agency, his own emotions, his own ideas about the conduct of his life (though we don’t understand what they are), etc. I know it could sound ridiculous depending on your perspective (mine is vegan/animal rights/all for giving agency to creatures who demonstrate consciousness), but a lot of the language we use to name and claim a relationship with animals does tend to be a bit … what’s the word … colonizing? Animals do have minds and emotions, and who the hell knows what they even think about their lives with us? I know it’s fun to say all they think about is food in a bowl and napping in the sun and bossing us around, etc., but really, we don’t know, and it seems presumptuous to say that our version of the relationship is the only one there is: me owner, you pet. Hmm, that sounds sort of ranty, but it isn’t meant that way.

    I’m not saying people have to sign on to another way of speaking about animals or they are monstrous exploiters or whatever, but it’s good to consider what is really the basis for the language we do use.

  32. WildlyParenthetical
    WildlyParenthetical May 10, 2011 at 4:00 pm |

    The vast majority of these changes in terminology are already standard within animal studies (or critical animal studies, as it is sometimes known); the editorial is just formalising them for the purposes of the journal, I think. It’s standard to refer to ‘non-human animals’ in this context now, precisely because humans are animals, and thus there’s a disavowal of that fact when we use ‘animal’ as in opposition to human.

    Lots of stuff like this can look really wacky when you first encounter it. It’s probably important to remember that once upon a time, women’s suffrage was considered equivalently wacky, or, perhaps more telling, that at certain points in time, classing particular human (animals ;-)) as (non-human) animals was an established legal technique for denying rights, and sometimes a way of enabling killing (in Australia, Aboriginal people were once classed as ‘flora and fauna’, with this effect). Yeah, this may never make its way out of wackiness, I know, but I’m not sure that invalidates the point entirely…

    Whilst yes, it is anthropocentric to speak for animals, it’s not anthropocentric to become aware of our own attitudes towards animals, and clearly the challenge here to usual usage does that. For me – and this isn’t my direct area of study, but I find it intriguing – while I disagree with the metaphor thing and I’m massively ambivalent about these kinds of language changes more generally, I do totally get how naming things vermin makes them more killable, and naming that killing ‘culling’ gives it a different ethical and political significance. Obviously YMMV though. :-)

  33. Lance
    Lance May 10, 2011 at 4:01 pm |

    Human privilege: not problematic?

    (Really, where is the line at which we can just go with a general “don’t be shitty” approach to the systems we have in place–like those of pet ownership–rather than trying to cause massive shifts in those systems?)

  34. Lu
    Lu May 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

    gretel: But if you buy an animal, then you are an owner. It’s more a term describing the transaction, in my opinion. As opposed to someone who fosters, for instance. Or someone who feeds the neighborhood cat every now and then. It’s not as though the animal someone purchased chose to live with them. I think if you start saying “companion animal” it implies the animal had a choice in the transaction.

    Huh! That’s an interesting point! True. The latter part, I mean. I still think that saying you’re an owner doesn’t make you one. The animal didn’t have a choice in that, either.

  35. Megan
    Megan May 10, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

    I hear animals have already started a movement to reclaim the word “pet” as non-offensive and personally empowering.

  36. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:04 pm |

    It’s different, we (not all just a lot) eat animals (and before anyone says we don’t have to many people physically need to eat meat), we confine animals, we yes even exterminate animals. We do a lot of things we wouldn’t do to people.

  37. gretel
    gretel May 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm |

    Lu: Animals do have minds and emotions, and who the hell knows what they even think about their lives with us?

    I just don’t think the two are mutually exclusive: you can call yourself an owner and still recognize that your pet (or whatever) is one of the most amazing creatures on this planet. I don’t live with an animal (besides my boyfriend) now, but when I did live with a dog, I was his owner. I loved that dog to pieces, and I recognize that he had his own emotions, but I was the one who wouldn’t allow him to chew up my shoes, decided when and what he ate (and paid for his food), and–I’m going to start crying now–when he lost his appetite and stopped eating due to cancer, I was the one who decided to allow the vet to euthanize him so that he wouldn’t starve to death. There are lots of ethical questions around how we treat the animals we live with, but I think by using certain terms we’re trying to make ourselves feel better about these relationships.

  38. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm |

    Also, while we’re here – has anyone considered the plants? The plants always get thrown under the bus.

    Fuck. I totally forgot the plants. I have two plant companions and bet they’d give me disdainful looks right now, if they could.

  39. Audrey Bird
    Audrey Bird May 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    Jill,

    You’re really insensitive. Words can hurt us. I don’t think the article goes far enough. Why call us “companion animals” when you could call us “Master”?

    Regards,
    Audrey Bird

  40. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    I hear animals have already started a movement to reclaim the word “pet” as non-offensive and personally empowering.

    On this anthropocentric planet, that choice was *not* made in a vacuum!

  41. Sophia
    Sophia May 10, 2011 at 4:11 pm |

    Wow, Feministe. Just…wow.

    I am as disgusted by the above conversation as I am by misogynists calling each other b*tch, p*ssy, or f*ggot.

    Oh wait, these are offensive terms, you say? You might argue that the relevant issue here is that people can understand the words being said to them, while animals cannot. But words do indeed shape the world around us – when “b*tch” is an insult also equated with female, women are not seen as worthy of concern. Likewise, when “vermin” is used to refer to something that exterminators get rid off, we are blinded to the deaths of mice, rats, and foxes. Language does not cause violence, but it’s a pretty effective enabler. I think you’ll give me that much, fellow feminists.

    I’m a feminist vegetarian who USED to be an avid reader of Feministe. Now I’ve seen your true colors. As a feminist, I stand against ALL systems that cause harm. How on earth can you, as advocates of the rights of females, ignore the suffering of female dogs in puppy mills who are repeatedly raped and have their pups taken from them? Or cows who are stuffed full of hormones and have their udders hooked up to machines? The amount of animal abuse and animal killing in the world is horrendous, and I read your comments as excusing it.

    I don’t think the ethicists who proposed these languages changes (they represent a small subset of animal ethicists, I can tell you that much) are entirely right. But I am SHOCKED at your ignorant reactions to them.

  42. Lu
    Lu May 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm |

    Megan:
    I hear animals have already started a movement to reclaim the word “pet” as non-offensive and personally empowering.

    LOL.

  43. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm |

    gretel: There are lots of ethical questions around how we treat the animals we live with, but I think by using certain terms we’re trying to make ourselves feel better about these relationships.

    A 1000 times this. All this stuff about changing pet and animals and everything has nothing to do with making life better for animals it has everything to do with making oneself feel better for oppressing them

    And let’s be honest in the grand scheme of things that’s what we’ve done, we lock them up, we control their food, we take their habitats and build cities through it, we kill them, we eat them. No change of language is gonna stop that and really should it really? You can’t apply the some language ideology that feminists and anti-racists and GLBT groups do to animals it just doesn’t work it’s a whole different playing field.

  44. mk
    mk May 10, 2011 at 4:13 pm |

    Interesting that (critical) animal studies uses terminology like this, but how likely are any of these to catch on with non-academics? I have a feeling my dad and many of the sheep farmers/ranchers he knows would have a good chuckle at this article, but they’d still refer to sheep as animals.

    But while we’re talking terms, I find it really interesting that so many women with cats in their lives refer to themselves, albeit jokingly, as “cat moms.” I don’t know a single dude (and yes, I know plenty who own cats) who would ever call himself a “cat dad.”

    In all seriousness, those of you who support shifting the terminology, where would you way in on these familial terms? A lot of people adopt animals rather than buying them, even though money still changes hands.

  45. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:15 pm |

    Likewise, when “vermin” is used to refer to something that exterminators get rid off, we are blinded to the deaths of mice, rats, and foxes.

    Um, you forgot the cockroaches, jerkface. Now I see your true colours.

  46. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm |

    Sophia:
    Wow, Feministe. Just…wow.

    I am as disgusted by the above conversation as I am by misogynists calling each other b*tch, p*ssy, or f*ggot.

    Oh wait, these are offensive terms, you say? You might argue that the relevant issue here is that people can understand the words being said to them, while animals cannot. But words do indeed shape the world around us – when “b*tch” is an insult also equated with female, women are not seen as worthy of concern. Likewise, when “vermin” is used to refer to something that exterminators get rid off, we are blinded to the deaths of mice, rats, and foxes. Language does not cause violence, but it’s a pretty effective enabler. I think you’ll give me that much, fellow feminists.

    I’m a feminist vegetarian who USED to be an avid reader of Feministe. Now I’ve seen your true colors. As a feminist, I stand against ALL systems that cause harm. How on earth can you, as advocates of the rights of females, ignore the suffering of female dogs in puppy mills who are repeatedly raped and have their pups taken from them? Or cows who are stuffed full of hormones and have their udders hooked up to machines? The amount of animal abuse and animal killing in the world is horrendous, and I read your comments as excusing it.

    I don’t think the ethicists who proposed these languages changes (they represent a small subset of animal ethicists, I can tell you that much) are entirely right. But I am SHOCKED at your ignorant reactions to them.

    Is it a requirement that at least one reader says they’re gonna stop reading Feministe in response to every article posted?

  47. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:17 pm |

    *say

  48. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 10, 2011 at 4:17 pm |

    I BEG TO DIFFER!

    Our dog reads this blog religiously…we even have pictures of her staring at the screen (and she was most certainly not just playing with the pointer). Also, I do believe she commented a few years ago with an astute point about playing. Sure it looked like random letters, but once translated into human it was quite an essay on the power dynamics inherent in playing tug.

  49. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    I just failed at HTML because I was laughing too hard. But seriously – I’m offended on behalf of black widow spiders as well. None of you assholes have brought up the slaughter that takes place when one is encountered peacefully hanging out in the bathroom. SHOCKED at the ignorance, etc.

  50. Jadey
    Jadey May 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    Kristen, if Kristen J.’s dog started contributing to the conversation, I could die happy.

  51. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    Is it a requirement that at least one reader says they’re gonna stop reading Feministe in response to every article posted?

    Pretty much, yeah.

  52. Lu
    Lu May 10, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    Lara Emily Foley: A 1000 times this. All this stuff about changing pet and animals and everything has nothing to do with making life better for animals it has everything to do with making oneself feel better for oppressing them

    And let’s be honest in the grand scheme of things that’s what we’ve done, we lock them up, we control their food, we take their habitats and build cities through it, we kill them, we eat them. No change of language is gonna stop that and really should it really?You can’t apply the some language ideology that feminists and anti-racists and GLBT groups do to animals it just doesn’t work it’s a whole different playing field.

    I disagree strongly. You’re arguing from the position that animals are such a different category that changing our language doesn’t even bear thinking about and that it can’t change our attitudes toward them. I also disagree that it’s a way of making ourselves feel better about exploiting animals. I think it’s a part of trying to *stop* exploiting animals. I think that if people think about how they say they “own” animals and stop saying things like “kill two birds with one stone,” it will cause them to reflect on the position of animals in our lives and economies—to stop automatically thinking of animals as resources to fill our needs and as possessions/objects. I do not kill animals in order to eat them and I don’t sponsor the killing of animals for my food. I think that the use of violent and objectifying language describing animals is a big part of why it’s so easy for us to exploit them. That’s where I’m coming from.

  53. mk
    mk May 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm |

    @Jill Actually, in hanging out on pet discussion boards, I’ve heard a lot of people (mostly men, if I’m remembering correctly) argue that neutering is totally a violation of a dog’s bodily autonomy. Interestingly, they never mention spaying.

  54. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm |

    Jadey:
    Kristen, if Kristen J.’s dog started contributing to the conversation, I could die happy.

    That would be pretty funny. Actually she’s spent all day today shoving my computer off my lap in an attempt to snuggle more effectively. But relatively frequently she will either (1) put her paws on the keyboard and stare intently into the screen (inadvertantly typing along the way), or (2) use her nose to “hunt” the pointer on my touch screen.

  55. preying mantis
    preying mantis May 10, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    lol, Hairpin, lol.

    “These same people might put out poison to kill a mouse in their home, because mice are ‘vermin’.”

    As has been pointed out, this has way less to do with the word we’re using to describe them and way more to do with the sort of social contract we gin up wrt how we’re going to treat companion animals and service animals in any given culture.

    I mean, I don’t really like rats. If I get them in my attic, I’m going to be like “Fuck you, rats, get outta my attic,” in much the same way as I’ve been like “Fuck you, possum, get offa my porch” in the past or “Fuck you, bunnies, get outta my garden.” They put themselves in the position, in the pursuit of their own autonomous animal-goals, where they’re in conflict with my own human goals of my food not getting stolen or my porch not getting all possumed up. We could call them macaroni if we really wanted, that still wouldn’t translate into a generally recognized obligation to let them get their possum on wherever they wanted.

    On the other hand, if you’ve committed to taking care of something as a pet, even if it’s never tagged with the label of “pet,” we generally don’t accept “Fuck it, it’s just a rat” as an acceptable default way of treating the animal. If you ensure that it can’t act to meet its own needs, either through confinement or domestication, you are accepting an obligation to meet those needs for it and take reasonable steps to ensure a good quality of life, even if it’s a possum.

  56. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm |

    Why is it ok to neuter animals?

    For our own convenience.

    Also, cats are really bad at remembering to take their birth control pills.

  57. Tom Foolery
    Tom Foolery May 10, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    Likewise, when “vermin” is used to refer to something that exterminators get rid off, we are blinded to the deaths of mice, rats, and foxes. Language does not cause violence, but it’s a pretty effective enabler. I think you’ll give me that much, fellow feminists.

    So, I know the limit of your experience with “vermin” may be when you get a roach in your cabinets, but in developing nations, “vermin” straight up kill people. Malaria kills 1,000,000 people a year, and I would see nothing wrong with eradicating the mosquito as a species to prevent that. If you weren’t completely insulated from the problems your proposed behaviors can cause, putting human life on the same plane as animal life might be a bit less cut-and-dry.

  58. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    Also, we’re not so far away from the time when it was socially acceptable to neuter people, either.

  59. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    Lu: I disagree strongly. You’re arguing from the position that animals are such a different category that changing our language doesn’t even bear thinking about and that it can’t change our attitudes toward them. I also disagree that it’s a way of making ourselves feel better about exploiting animals. I think it’s a part of trying to *stop* exploiting animals. I think that if people think about how they say they “own” animals and stop saying things like “kill two birds with one stone,” it will cause them to reflect on the position of animals in our lives and economies—to stop automatically thinking of animals as resources to fill our needs and as possessions/objects. I do not kill animals in order to eat them and I don’t sponsor the killing of animals for my food. I think that the use of violent and objectifying language describing animals is a big part of why it’s so easy for us to exploit them. That’s where I’m coming from.

    No I’m arguing that in this case it won’t do shit. I’m arguing that you can’t use the kind of theories we use for human relations and apply it to animals.

  60. Lance
    Lance May 10, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    Lu: Huh! That’s an interesting point! True. The latter part, I mean. I still think that saying you’re an owner doesn’t make you one. The animal didn’t have a choice in that, either.

    An animal doesn’t have to have a choice in whether you’re its owner for you to be one. That’s kinda how the whole “ownership” thing works.

  61. Esti
    Esti May 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm |

    Sophia: I’m a feminist vegetarian who USED to be an avid reader of Feministe. Now I’ve seen your true colors. As a feminist, I stand against ALL systems that cause harm. How on earth can you, as advocates of the rights of females, ignore the suffering of female dogs in puppy mills who are repeatedly raped and have their pups taken from them? Or cows who are stuffed full of hormones and have their udders hooked up to machines?

    Because a lot of feminists are not advocates for the rights of “females”. They’re advocates for the rights of HUMAN BEINGS.

    I think there is some interesting work out there on the ways in which feminism and animal rights are complementary, or use similar ideas, or are natural extensions of one another. I am myself sympathetic to many arguments in favor of animal rights. But you don’t need to be a vegetarian, or a vegan, or against factory farming, or anti-animal ownership, or anti-animal testing, or even opposed to torturing animals for the fun of it to be a feminist.

  62. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm |

    preying mantis

    Now I’m just offended by your nickname. Who the hell are YOU to speak on behalf of the mantises?

    Won’t bother reading your comments until you adopt something less oppressive, forsooth.

  63. Lu
    Lu May 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm |

    @Lance, #69
    and my point is that I don’t buy into the concept of ownership, which here was being offered as a more honest alternative to “companion.” I’m saying both are equally invalid from the animal’s point of view. And you’re just reiterating the status quo.

  64. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    Why is it ok to neuter animals?

    For our own convenience.

    Well, there’s also the fact that some animals do enjoy health benefits from being neutered. Especially when it comes to dog breeds where breeding histories are, like, wildly irresponsible. Or so I was taught. We had a pure-bred Doberman – best dog ever, btw – with serious reproductive health issues, ’cause she was just too pure bred. Spaying her did help alleviate some problems, as I recall.

  65. Lu
    Lu May 10, 2011 at 4:36 pm |

    Lara Emily Foley: No I’m arguing that in this case it won’t do shit. I’m arguing that you can’t use the kind of theories we use for human relations and apply it to animals.

    (1) How do you know, and (2) why won’t it work? I explained my reason for saying I believe it makes a difference. I don’t see where you’ve explained your assertion.

    also, I have to stop commenting now. I have to go do something else. FYI.

  66. preying mantis
    preying mantis May 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm |

    “Actually, in hanging out on pet discussion boards, I’ve heard a lot of people (mostly men, if I’m remembering correctly) argue that neutering is totally a violation of a dog’s bodily autonomy.”

    Experiments seem to show they stop caring about it quite so much when there’s a small cash incentive to neuter them, though.

    Though I’m not entirely sure how neutering is a violation of a dog’s bodily autonomy but leashes, obedience training, fences, not letting them eat whatever trash strike their fancy, etc., aren’t. I got my dog spayed once, while I’m limiting what she eats and where she goes and who she tries to make friends with on a daily basis. Is it speciest to observe that dogs tend to be really bad decision-makers?

  67. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm |

    Jill:
    Isn’t it a little presumptuous to assume you know the animal’s point of view?

    There are people speaking on behalf of the mantises here, and you’re not doing anything about it, JILL. *frowny face*

  68. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:38 pm |

    Lu:
    @Lance, #69
    and my point is that I don’t buy into the concept of ownership, which here was being offered as a more honest alternative to “companion.” I’m saying both are equally invalid from the animal’s point of view. And you’re just reiterating the status quo.

    Do you live in a city?

  69. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm |

    Lu: (1) How do you know, and (2) why won’t it work? I explained my reason for saying I believe it makes a difference. I don’t see where you’ve explained your assertion.

    also, I have to stop commenting now. I have to go do something else. FYI.

    Because it really doesn’t change the realities of the situation. It’s literally just designed to make us feel better for taking over animal territories and domesticating them

  70. DP
    DP May 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm |

    If animals have rights shouldn’t they also have responsibilities? What are we to do, oh noble defenders of the rights of animals, with a rabid dog or a plague-bearing rat or a malarial mosquito or a homicidal elephant?

  71. Xanthippas
    Xanthippas May 10, 2011 at 4:40 pm |

    But who exactly is being offended here, and how is shifting language going to help anything in this particular situation?

    It’s not about being offended or taking offense. It’s about the modification of language to promote a different understanding, which is something that you should understand even if in this instance you think it’s silly or hyperbolic (and I agree, it is silly and hyperbolic…but I generally don’t rush to ridicule people to whom I attribute good intentions.)

    It would have been wiser not to write this blog post. It’s certainly being written on blogs whose owners are less concerned about the rights of not only animals, but also women, minorities, or anyone different at all from them.

  72. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    Jill now I really do understand what you meant. LOL you literally can’t say anything without someone claiming you are doing feminism wrong can you?

    PS I’m sorry for how I acted in previous threads.

  73. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm |

    Well Natalia, I think it’s already been established that you are a terrible person who enjoys factory farming and scouring puppy mills for dogs to kick, but that said: Doesn’t neutering animals take away their most fundamental rights to experience sexual pleasure and to reproduce if they so choose? I mean, if we accept that pet “ownership” is bad because it implies that pets don’t have individual autonomy and feelings and rights, then why is it ok for human beings to force pets to undergo painful surgery that removes their right to have babies?

    I dunno! I’m a terrible person, after all. I’m too busy bathing in the blood of the innocents here, Jill, to figure out *that* particular logic.

  74. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    Jill: Well Natalia, I think it’s already been established that you are a terrible person who enjoys factory farming and scouring puppy mills for dogs to kick, but that said: Doesn’t neutering animals take away their most fundamental rights to experience sexual pleasure and to reproduce if they so choose? I mean, if we accept that pet “ownership” is bad because it implies that pets don’t have individual autonomy and feelings and rights, then why is it ok for human beings to force pets to undergo painful surgery that removes their right to have babies?

    Or breed them, they don’t really get to pick who they date and fuck.

  75. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm |

    So just to be sure Jill is doing feminism wrong because of… animals?

  76. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    “So these carrots…”

    “Have been murdered, yes.”

  77. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:53 pm |

    Jill: Lara, please, “differentiated beings.”

    Oh rats I knew I’d get that wrong

  78. Lance
    Lance May 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm |

    Lu:
    @Lance, #69
    and my point is that I don’t buy into the concept of ownership, which here was being offered as a more honest alternative to “companion.” I’m saying both are equally invalid from the animal’s point of view. And you’re just reiterating the status quo.

    But the point is, ownership is an accurate description of the situation. Just because you disagree with it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Back when people used to own other people in the US, it was real ownership, despite the fact that it was tremendously unjust. If planters had started calling their slaves their “negro companions” it wouldn’t have changed the situation.

    So when it comes to the animal ownership situation, we really come down to whether we want to abolish the system, relabel it, or (as I mentioned in my first comment in this tread) just try to not to be shitty about it.

    Abolishing the system is pretty much right-out. Forgetting the fact that some species have just been bred to the point that they wouldn’t survive without human assistance, you’d also need to be able to give a tractor (and enough money to buy fuel for it, and a place where they can actually buy fuel) to every poor farmer in a non-industrialized area who would have to set their beasts of burden (red-flag term!) free.

    Renaming it really doesn’t do much other than slap a new label over the same system, and while that can at times help change the attitudes people have about that system, it’s really just an indirect way of trying to accomplish this third point…

    …not being shitty about the system. If we try our best to act out of a place kindness and respect, of care and empathy, than it doesn’t really matter if you call the cat in your house a pet, a companion, or a flea-bag.

  79. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:55 pm |

    Oh rats I knew I’d get that wrong

    *gasp*

  80. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 10, 2011 at 4:55 pm |

    “So these carrots…”

    “Have been murdered, yes.”

    I am quite certain that there was a story on NPR recently about why we don’t think of what we do to plants as murder. (Something about plants not having faces). And no, it was definitely not April 1st.

  81. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    Lance: But the point is, ownership is an accurate description of the situation. Just because you disagree with it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Back when people used to own other people in the US, it was real ownership, despite the fact that it was tremendously unjust. If planters had started calling their slaves their “negro companions” it wouldn’t have changed the situation.

    So when it comes to the animal ownership situation, we really come down to whether we want to abolish the system, relabel it, or (as I mentioned in my first comment in this tread) just try to not to be shitty about it.

    Abolishing the system is pretty much right-out. Forgetting the fact that some species have just been bred to the point that they wouldn’t survive without human assistance, you’d also need to be able to give a tractor (and enough money to buy fuel for it, and a place where they can actually buy fuel) to every poor farmer in a non-industrialized area who would have to set their beasts of burden (red-flag term!) free.

    Renaming it really doesn’t do much other than slap a new label over the same system, and while that can at times help change the attitudes people have about that system, it’s really just an indirect way of trying to accomplish this third point…

    …not being shitty about the system. If we try our best to act out of a place kindness and respect, of care and empathy, than it doesn’t really matter if you call the cat in your house a pet, a companion, or a flea-bag.

    Perfectly stated.

    BTW I just want to note the guy who came up with this idea was a pet owner. He’s actively partaking in the oppression.

  82. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    So when it comes to the animal ownership situation, we really come down to whether we want to abolish the system, relabel it, or (as I mentioned in my first comment in this tread) just try to not to be shitty about it.

    But that last bit about not being shitty? Too nuanced and stuff. Too intelligent. It gives people room to make *various* decisions, and that won’t sit well with the anti-anthropocentric collective.

  83. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    Natalia: *gasp*

    Dog Gone it I’m going to hell aren’t I

  84. Jadey
    Jadey May 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    Lara Emily Foley: Oh rats I knew I’d get that wrong

    Using “rats” as a perjorative, eh?

  85. Jadey
    Jadey May 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm |

    Damn, beat me to it!

  86. Heather
    Heather May 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm |

    mk:

    But while we’re talking terms, I find it really interesting that so many women with cats in their lives refer to themselves, albeit jokingly, as “cat moms.” I don’t know a single dude (and yes, I know plenty who own cats) who would ever call himself a “cat dad.”

    I don’t know many men with cats, but when my boyfriend and I welcomed our hedgehog into the family we said we were a “hedgie mom” and a “hedgie dad.” Then we said “Tumbles, stop pooping everywhere and getting out of your house at night.”

  87. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm |

    I am quite certain that there was a story on NPR recently about why we don’t think of what we do to plants as murder. (Something about plants not having faces). And no, it was definitely not April 1st.

    Dropping my snark for a moment, I do often feel for plants. I like trees. I liked what Tolkien did with the Ents. When I get to sit in the shade of a lovely tree, I am grateful for the experience. I wish we weren’t fucking up nature like we are, so I try to do my part. Minus all of that “differentiated beings” BS.

  88. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 5:00 pm |

    “Now I’m just offended by your nickname. Who the hell are YOU to speak on behalf of the mantises?”

    I don’t have to answer to you, human oppressor.

  89. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 5:01 pm |

    Jadey:
    Damn, beat me to it!

    Looks like you were a slowpoke turtle there. Sorry

  90. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    Dog Gone it I’m going to hell aren’t I

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    I see what you did there, bb.

  91. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 5:05 pm |

    *tears, tears streaming down my face*

  92. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 5:05 pm |

    Natalia: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    I see what you did there, bb.

    I’m pretty sly eh? like a fox you might even say

  93. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 5:06 pm |

    “I am quite certain that there was a story on NPR recently about why we don’t think of what we do to plants as murder. (Something about plants not having faces). And no, it was definitely not April 1st.”

    This tyranny cannot be allowed to stand. Clearly we will all just have to stop eating and convert to breathairianism and fungi, because those fence-sitting bastards’ day has finally come.

  94. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 5:07 pm |

    *moar tears!*

  95. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm |

    This tyranny cannot be allowed to stand. Clearly we will all just have to stop eating and convert to breathairianism and fungi, because those fence-sitting bastards’ day has finally come.

    WON’T SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE VIRUSES

  96. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 10, 2011 at 5:11 pm |

    preying mantis, I love what you’ve done to your name. It’s important that we know your true role in the mantid hierarchy.

  97. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 5:12 pm |

    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids:
    “I am quite certain that there was a story on NPR recently about why we don’t think of what we do to plants as murder. (Something about plants not having faces). And no, it was definitely not April 1st.”

    This tyranny cannot be allowed to stand.Clearly we will all just have to stop eating and convert to breathairianism and fungi, because those fence-sitting bastards’ day has finally come.

    Why are you oppressing fungi, are you in favour of denying it’s inalienable differentiated being right to grow? Quit trying to stunt their growth man, that would just be CATastrophic

  98. Sid
    Sid May 10, 2011 at 5:14 pm |

    Natalia:
    “So these carrots…”

    “Have been murdered, yes.”

    You’re going to hell not for your view of animals but for your reference to that godawful movie, where you will be watching all Hugh Grant films on endless repeat.

  99. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 5:16 pm |

    *say

    Jadey: Jadey

    Wait wait wait sorry I need to do this over.

    Well you know what they say The earl bird *puts on sunglasses on* gets the worm *walks off screen*

  100. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 5:17 pm |

    “I love what you’ve done to your name. It’s important that we know your true role in the mantid hierarchy.”

    In the interests of transparency (a trait sorely lacking in the sitting president’s regime, I might add), I may be President-General of the Mantid Revolutionary Army soon. There’s been a whisper campaign running about the current president of all mantids refuding to step down when her term ends, even the UN observers certified the election as fair.

    “Why are you oppressing fungi, are you in favour of denying it’s inalienable differentiated being right to grow?”

    Their colonization of other kingdoms is at an end! We will be free! Also, let’s face it, they have no fashion sense and overplay their importance in the food chain relentlessly. I’m pretty sure we could get by without them.

  101. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm |

    Fuck grammar is for the birds when I post here it seems. Please forgive me.

  102. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm |

    preying mantis: They put themselves in the position, in the pursuit of their own autonomous animal-goals, where they’re in conflict with my own human goals of my food not getting stolen or my porch not getting all possumed up. We could call them macaroni if we really wanted, that still wouldn’t translate into a generally recognized obligation to let them get their possum on wherever they wanted.

    You put a possum on your porch/
    AND CALLED IT MACARONI.

  103. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    Around my house, the more common phrase used to refer to the cats is “people with fur.” As in, “All People With Fur…..get off the kitchen table! NOW!!” while the darling kitties (one of whom weighs about twenty pounds and takes up a good portion of the table) perk up and look at me quizzically, as if to say, “surely you are not talking to us…?”

    I do generally regard mice as vermin, as you can’t eat food the mice have been defecating on (and trust…it’s no fun to clean that basement pantry after mice have made it their Winter Home). Field mice are cute. House mice are a reason to berate the cats (‘scuse me, People With Fur) for not doing their job. They don’t regard the mice as vermin as much as they think of them as mini-entertainment centers…until they get bored, kill the mice, and deposit them on my pillow (or by the computer) so I’ll be sure to notice (and praise my cats for being the Best Cats in the World, and give them the Cosmic Kitty Treats with the catnip in them).

    I do think there’s a good conversation to be had regarding the language used to refer to other animals and to the environment in general. Much of the English language appears to be devoted to maintaining that artificial separation between “humans” and “wilderness”, and how we can’t acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between people and our environments. And I don’t think that was always the case. (been re-reading Starhawk’s “The Earth Path”; she touched on this divorcing of human beings from other beings and our shared environment).

  104. Natalia
    Natalia May 10, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    You’re going to hell not for your view of animals but for your reference to that godawful movie, where you will be watching all Hugh Grant films on endless repeat.

    “There’s something wrong with this yoghurt.”

    Oddly enough, no one has brought up the rights of the bacteria living in yoghurt. I am disappoint.

  105. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm |

    “You put a possum on your porch/
    AND CALLED IT MACARONI.”

    And now I cannot stop envisioning David Caruso doing just that in full CSI:Miami glory.

  106. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 10, 2011 at 5:29 pm |

    “You put a possum on your porch/
    AND CALLED IT MACARONI.”

    And now I cannot stop envisioning David Caruso doing just that in full CSI:Miami glory.

    How much I would pay to see CSI do that, I will not disclose, for fear they might try to take me up on it.

  107. Alison
    Alison May 10, 2011 at 5:31 pm |

    I asked my cat what she thought about me calling her my pet and thinking of myself as her owner (although by the old saying, cats have staff, not owners).

    She started licking her butt.

    I think that settles it.

  108. Gabe
    Gabe May 10, 2011 at 5:34 pm |

    This post is so unthinkingly dismissive of a point of view that is not only well-considered but (in my opinion) critically important that I think it’s going to keep me away from Feministe for quite a while. I guess I can see why it makes you feel better to dismiss other justice movements as below you, but just keep in mind how well your arguments (or lack thereof) mirror a whole lot of antifeminist crap on the Internet. Or don’t, I guess.

  109. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm |

    That’s two on the I’m leaving feministe over this posts. Cool!

  110. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley May 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm |

    *post list. 2 on the post list

  111. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm |

    “Oddly enough, no one has brought up the rights of the bacteria living in yoghurt. I am disappoint.”

    I thought we’d all just sort of agreed to oppress the hell out of them and then not acknowledge it.

  112. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 10, 2011 at 5:41 pm |

    DP: If animals have rights shouldn’t they also have responsibilities? What are we to do, oh noble defenders of the rights of animals, with a rabid dog or a plague-bearing rat or a malarial mosquito or a homicidal elephant?

    We all know how flawed and corrupt the animal justice system is.

  113. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 5:45 pm |

    I let my indoor/outdoor cat know that as a differentiated being that I was giving him the option of whether or not to be inside or outside at any time. He must still be mulling over this freedom because he’s just sitting at the door. Perhaps he is waiting for a sign.

  114. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    Shit. Have we been remiss in not acknowledging intra-animal oppression? I just had to dose my dog to keep disease-bearing and willfully exploitative blood-sucking capitalist insects from giving her potentially fatal diseases. Surely that merits some outrage.

  115. Alison
    Alison May 10, 2011 at 5:51 pm |

    Gabe:
    This post is so unthinkingly dismissive of a point of view that is not only well-considered but (in my opinion) critically important that I think it’s going to keep me away from Feministe for quite a while. I guess I can see why it makes you feel better to dismiss other justice movements as below you, but just keep in mind how well your arguments (or lack thereof) mirror a whole lot of antifeminist crap on the Internet. Or don’t, I guess.

    Well, I happen to find it pretty anti-feminist and anti-woman to say that fighting for women’s rights and equality and safety and progress should be seen as no different or no more important than not using certain words in regard to FUCKING CATS AND DOGS WHO ARE NOT PEOPLE. I am a vegetarian and I give money to animal-rights causes, but I also consider feminism a much much much more important movement than worrying about how an animal feels about being called an animal.

    Here’s a fucking clue to how they might feel: THEY DON’T. They don’t speak English. They don’t know what the word means. They don’t know what “words” are. And there is an enormous difference between fighting physical abuse and neglect of animals and wringing your hands over what words we use to describe them. Trust me, my cat would be a lot more affected by my not feeding her than she is by me calling her a pet.

    God, seriously. if THIS is your big important issue, your life must be motherfucking sweet.

  116. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 5:52 pm |

    Aaaaaand she dosed me back. She’s collaborating.

  117. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 6:18 pm |

    My cat is still at the door meowing at me. I’m really trying to shed my human privilege so I’m going to do my best to just listen to his needs.

  118. Shelby
    Shelby May 10, 2011 at 6:27 pm |

    The point of altering our language is not to cease offending non-human animals, but to change the way we humans perceive non-human animals. Additionally, using “who”, “she”, or “he” instead of “that” or “it” helps humans to recognize that animals are not mere objects to be used, like tables or basketballs, but living, feeling organisms. The way we speak greatly changes the way we perceive the world, and the way we perceive the world changes our behavior. If we begin to use language which makes us perceive non-human animals in a better light, then perhaps our negative behaviors towards them will begin to diminish.

  119. Alison
    Alison May 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm |

    Florence, jeez. He’s not “meowing”, he’s SPEAKING. How dare you marginalize his communication methods by using such offensive terminology.

  120. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 10, 2011 at 6:32 pm |

    FashionablyEvil: I am quite certain that there was a story on NPR recently about why we don’t think of what we do to plants as murder.(Something about plants not having faces).And no, it was definitely not April 1st.

    Eating other lifeforms isn’t murder; it’s what omnivores and carnivores do to obtain nutrients.

    That said, I really do wish we treated our non-human animal food supply with much greater care and respect. So we’re going to eat them — that’s no reason to make their lives painful and traumatic, now that we are beginning to understand what that business actually means and feels like. We’re slowly moving away from doing that to each other, and I can’t think of any reason we won’t develop a similar set of ethics related to the other species here, even those we like to munch on.

    Besides, the meat tastes better when they’re allowed to run around and eat actual grass.

    I need to stop myself now before I launch into a long treatise on the potential responsibilities introduced by sentience and empathy, and the pressures we have unwittingly — and completely naturally! — exerted on the rest of the biosphere, as a result of our intelligence. I had one about half-typed before I decided this wasn’t the place, or the time, to dump a wannabe-Ph.D thesis.

  121. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage May 10, 2011 at 6:34 pm |

    Errrr… herbivores as well; I guess I wasl also half-replying to one of Lara’s assertion of one difference between humans and non-humans being that we eat animals, which the cats would find rather amusing (if they could feel amused).

  122. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 10, 2011 at 6:44 pm |

    I do own my cat. I take care of my cat. She is my pet. My cat, if she got outside, would quite blithely kill every damn mouse, rat, mole, vole, and squirrel she encounterd. The tuxedo cat I had growing up pretty much cleared our neighborhood of rodents. They don’t sweat mouse rights too much.

    And we refer to mice and rats (and roaches) as vermin because they are. Yes, they are cute (well, not roaches, the movies Joe’s Apartment notwithstanding). Fancy rats are adorable and affectionate (though they are a bit different from sewer rats.) They actually do spread disease. There’s a reason why it’s not regarded as particularly sanitary or safe to have an infestation.

    And yes, human beings are animals. We are a type of animal. (I always wondered, are we wild or tame? If we created the social structure, etc., wouldn’t we still be considered wild by other animals? If they could consider things like this?)

    Dunno. I’m with auditorydamage. I’m more of an ecologist–treat animals humanely, but I don’t sweat eating them; I’m more freaking out about how we tax the environment overall through systemic and economic factors.

  123. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm |

    They actually do spread disease.

    And by that, I meant wild mice, rats, and roaches. Not the ones you keep as pets (and yes, I’ve known people who kept hissing cockroaches as pets), who don’t tend to have the fleas or tromp about in their own shit (or other animal’s shit) and step on your food supply or on you.

  124. Macha
    Macha May 10, 2011 at 6:47 pm |

    I’m so offended. I read it out loud to my crocodile and he started crying.

  125. The Opinioness of the World
    The Opinioness of the World May 10, 2011 at 6:48 pm |

    Shelby:
    The point of altering our language is not to cease offending non-human animals, but to change the way we humans perceive non-human animals.Additionally, using “who”, “she”, or “he” instead of “that” or “it” helps humans to recognize that animals are not mere objects to be used, like tables or basketballs, but living, feeling organisms.The way we speak greatly changes the way we perceive the world, and the way we perceive the world changes our behavior.If we begin to use language which makes us perceive non-human animals in a better light, then perhaps our negative behaviors towards them will begin to diminish.

    Yes, yes, a thousand times YES!!

    Of course most people who share their home with animals love and care for them. But language doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As I wrote in comment #12, calling animals “pets” implies ownership, fostering a culture where animals are not only viewed as objects and property, they are treated as such.

    The misconception exists that people who support animal rights must care about animals more than people or other issues. But that’s just not so. As someone who advocates for both feminist and animal issues, there is room to champion both causes.

  126. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 6:53 pm |

    The Opinioness of the World: Of course most people who share their home with animals love and care for them. But language doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As I wrote in comment #12, calling animals “pets” implies ownership, fostering a culture where animals are not only viewed as objects and property, they are treated as such.

    In theory? But this seems to be a case where the rhetorical benefits don’t carry much weight outside of academic circles.

  127. Chocolate Tort
    Chocolate Tort May 10, 2011 at 7:02 pm |

    Awww dangit, I had barely kept a straight face reading all these comment’s until Macha’s post at the very end.

    I’m in between cats right now, and while I don’t know how exactly I’ll refer to the relationship between me and future cat, I shall do my best to follow Lance’s imperative: don’t be shitty.

  128. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 10, 2011 at 7:11 pm |

    (and yes, I’ve known people who kept hissing cockroaches as pets)

    My daughter likes hissing cockroaches. There was some kids’ day or another at the Illinois State Museum, and we went primarily so she could hold (and pet) the hissing roaches, millipedes, and tarantula (well, she didn’t get to pet the tarantula, just held it. err…her). She couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to hold the hissing cockroach. Hon, I had roaches that size in my first apartment. It wasn’t cute. didn’t faze her.

  129. Nilbog
    Nilbog May 10, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    Consider me (at least) the third person who is quitting this site for a while because of this.

  130. Nahida
    Nahida May 10, 2011 at 7:31 pm |

    Alison: And there is an enormous difference between fighting physical abuse and neglect of animals and wringing your hands over what words we use to describe them. Trust me, my cat would be a lot more affected by my not feeding her than she is by me calling her a pet.

    This.

    They have the ability to feel pain, and therefore should be prevented from feeling pain.

    They do not, however, have the ability to understand our words. They don’t care that we are discussing them.

    I kind of figured that the point of this was to change how humans actually think of animals, so that we’re less likely to be careless with their lives… not to consider how animals feel when we refer to them in certain ways.

  131. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 10, 2011 at 7:44 pm |

    Jill: I don’t think so, really, which is why I still fail to understand why pet ownership is itself a bad thing (or a bad phrase, or something with bad connotations).

    On a mildly serious note, I’m ambivalent about “pet ownership” because of the status of companion animals under the law. Its difficult to remove a pet even when there is evidence of abuse and if you harm someone else’s pet there are strict limits on liability so companies don’t take animal safety very seriously.

    On a completely serious note, JILL, I AM DISAPPOINT.

  132. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 7:49 pm |

    Puppy pics!

  133. Gabe
    Gabe May 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm |

    Alison: Well, I happen to find it pretty anti-feminist and anti-woman to say that fighting for women’s rights and equality and safety and progress should be seen as no different or no more important than not using certain words in regard to FUCKING CATS AND DOGS WHO ARE NOT PEOPLE. I am a vegetarian and I give money to animal-rights causes, but I also consider feminism a much much much more important movement than worrying about how an animal feels about being called an animal.

    Here’s a fucking clue to how they might feel: THEY DON’T. They don’t speak English. They don’t know what the word means. They don’t know what “words” are. And there is an enormous difference between fighting physical abuse and neglect of animals and wringing your hands over what words we use to describe them. Trust me, my cat would be a lot more affected by my not feeding her than she is by me calling her a pet.

    God, seriously. if THIS is your big important issue, your life must be motherfucking sweet.

    Oh, excuse me, I forgot I’m only allowed to have one big important issue!

    But seriously: I became a feminist before I became a vegan. And it was when I realized that all the arguments against animal dignity sounded exactly like the ones against women’s autonomy, only with some words replaced, that I realized the justifications for exploiting animals and/or treating them paternalistically were totally incompatible with my values. I’ve yet to hear one serious attempt at a justification for why “personhood” is a valid demarcator for who gets rights and who doesn’t.

    The argument that comparing women’s issues to animal issues is antifeminist/anti-woman is bogus for two reasons. One, intersectionality: female nonhuman animals face oppression parallel to that of cis women when it comes to reproductive choice or lack of it. Two, it assumes that being a nonhuman animal is a degrading state—something you may believe, but I obviously don’t, and you can’t take it as axiomatic in a discussion about animal dignity.

    And as someone has said more eloquently above, the point is not about whether we’re offending nonhuman animals with language used to describe them. It’s that the language we use reproduces patterns of oppression, a concept I hope you’re familiar with from other antioppression work. But sometimes it seems like people who act like they care about “social justice” forget everything they say they believe when it comes to animal issues, probably something do do with the fact that they think about animals in ways that are altogether too messy to risk examining.

  134. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 8:02 pm |

    “On a mildly serious note, I’m ambivalent about “pet ownership” because of the status of companion animals under the law.”

    It does occupy a weird space, probably because you have a lot going on within that sort of pet-construct. You have the suffering of the animal itself, the emotional suffering of the owner on account of the animal’s suffering, the financial investment in the animal or financial burden presented by treatment, and then the laws that haven’t necessarily kept pace with any of the above.

  135. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 8:06 pm |

    But sometimes it seems like people who act like they care about “social justice” forget everything they say they believe when it comes to animal issues, probably something do do with the fact that they think about animals in ways that are altogether too messy to risk examining.

    Or they’ve examined their approaches and have come to different conclusions than you have? Wild!

    Meanwhile, my cat is speaking* more and more loudly now. I am trying to listen to him, but my privilege interferes. Also, he’s drowning out the TV.

  136. Silver
    Silver May 10, 2011 at 8:09 pm |

    I think the term ‘pests’ can be accurate as well. Consider a country like Australia with many unique plants and animals whose extinction would be a great loss. Isn’t it justified to call foxes, rabbits, cane toads, cats, dogs, camels, horses, deer, etc, pests? (To say nothing of the many introduced insect and plant species that are destroying native vegetation and insect life as well.) All are introduced species, albeit often by human stupidity, and all out compete and help contribute to the decline of native species. Seeing as this was a human created problem, don’t humans have some responsibility in controlling these ‘pests’ to preserve the natives?

    Sure all living things go extinct eventually, but don’t living things that don’t share our homes, feed us, help us, or are just fun to look at, have some value in and of themselves? Why should poisoning 10 million rabbits be wrong in Australia, if it can help prevent erosion leading to the destruction of native habitat? Is it really wrong to kill, at least as humanely as possible, any cane toad you come across given the carnage they bring to native animals who happen to eat them?

  137. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 8:09 pm |

    “female nonhuman animals face oppression parallel to that of cis women when it comes to reproductive choice or lack of it.”

    what is this i don’t even really?

  138. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 10, 2011 at 8:37 pm |

    Gabe: I’ve yet to hear one serious attempt at a justification for why “personhood” is a valid demarcator for who gets rights and who doesn’t.

    I don’t really know what the hell you’re talking about. Surely you agree that rights vary on the basis of needs and social construction, right? Like, I have the right to an attorney and to marry whoever I want for whatever reason, but Fluffy could give two shits about both those things? Probably for the same reason that Fluffy couldn’t give a fuck if I called her my pet versus my animal companion, so long as I feed Fluffy and treat her with respect?

  139. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 10, 2011 at 8:42 pm |

    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids:
    “female nonhuman animals face oppression parallel to that of cis women when it comes to reproductive choice or lack of it.”

    what is this i don’t even really?

    Didn’t you hear about the chinchilla abortion clinic bombing?

  140. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 10, 2011 at 8:49 pm |

    “Didn’t you hear about the chinchilla abortion clinic bombing?”

    Thanks a lot, Amiable. Now I’m going to internet-hell and also need a new keyboard.

  141. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 8:52 pm |

    I understand the rhetorical emphasis on language regarding animals and animal rights, even at the extremes, but the insistence on comparing animals to history’s human slaves, animals to today’s adult women, animals to oppressed classes of people generally, not only strikes me as naive but also reminds quite strongly of the right’s insistence that there is little or no difference between an adult human woman and a fetus. An adult woman and a human fetus have different rights and statuses in our society for real-world reasons, just as I have different rights and status than my cat, or a cow, or a bird in the sky. If our laws don’t address animal rights well enough, that’s a weakness in the law. That doesn’t mean I am the same as a cow or that a cow should inherently benefit from the same rights as I do or that the cow is capable of exercising those rights in full.

  142. Florence
    Florence May 10, 2011 at 8:56 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: Didn’t you hear about the chinchilla abortion clinic bombing?

    This is completely unserious.

  143. sherunslunatic
    sherunslunatic May 10, 2011 at 9:06 pm |

    My cat is named Jimmy Carter, but his chief nickname is Florbana, which is Anglo-Saxon for “Slayer of Carpets.” Now I’m worried that I’m offending either my cat or former President Carter. (The Anglo-Saxons are a thousand years late to the party, so screw ‘em.)

  144. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 10, 2011 at 9:26 pm |

    Jill: I think assuming that all slopes are slippery belies your anthropocentric bias.

    The tyranny of the viscosity!

  145. SephONE
    SephONE May 10, 2011 at 9:54 pm |

    “The argument that comparing women’s issues to animal issues is antifeminist/anti-woman is bogus”

    Gonna stop you right there. I’m pretty sure its not. Opposing people who casually dehumanize women (in this case, for the sake of.. animal names) seems like a pretty feminist thing to do. Reinforcing it? Not so much.

  146. kung fu lola
    kung fu lola May 10, 2011 at 9:55 pm |

    Tom Foolery: So, I know the limit of your experience with “vermin” may be when you get a roach in your cabinets, but in developing nations, “vermin” straight up kill people. Malaria kills 1,000,000 people a year, and I would see nothing wrong with eradicating the mosquito as a species to prevent that. If you weren’t completely insulated from the problems your proposed behaviors can cause, putting human life on the same plane as animal life might be a bit less cut-and-dry.

    Hanta virus isn’t anything to sneeze at, either. Well, you might sneeze, and then you’ll haemorrage and die. Animals can carry serious diseases, and since most aren’t big on hand-washing (aside from our raccoon friends), it’s difficult to control the spread of infection.

  147. Sara Duncan
    Sara Duncan May 10, 2011 at 10:00 pm |

    Shelby: The way we speak greatly changes the way we perceive the world, and the way we perceive the world changes our behavior. If we begin to use language which makes us perceive non-human animals in a better light, then perhaps our negative behaviors towards them will begin to diminish.

    But explain how replacing the word “pet” with “companion animal” will make said animal not owned in every. single. practical sense of the word, and makes people treat that animal better. A “companion animal” would be an animal that chose to be with me, and over which I had no other control – something which is unrealistic to expect ever, unless I live in a very remote area where an unvaccinated, unfixed, un-leashed animal is an acceptable thing to have around because no one else who objects to rabies or aggressive animals that spray stank-ass urine on their stuff is nearby me.

    Explain why “pet” portrays our animals in a bad light, when applying the word to one of the most feared and hated animals in the world (rat) instantly makes it a member of the family with treats and toys and good food to the same person who would poison one found in their garage. Explain why my grandma’s neighbour kills the wild rabbits that eat the lettuce he grows for his pet rabbit. The word “pet” does wonders for an animals status.

    Insisting that pet owners don’t say they own their pets because then they’ll just abuse them speaks more about how people think of the word “own” than it does about the concept of owning animals. I was taught as a child that owning a pet meant I was responsible for its health and welfare; that is what owning meant – being responsible for. Why would “Stop leaving your dog in the car! You own him, and that means it’s your responsibility to keep him safe, happy and healthy” be less effective than “Stop leaving your dog in the car! He is your companion animal and that means it’s your responsibility to keep him safe, happy and healthy.”?

    There is no inherent meaning in the word “own” or “pet” that is incompatible with “to care for”. But “companion animal” is inherently incompatible with the practice of spaying, neutering, leashing, fencing and keeping indoors. If someone objects to the practice of taking pets because it disrespects animals’ autonomy or whatever, that’s fine, at least it would be logically consistent. Either we abolish pets, or we talk about the proper treatment of pets, but calling it a companion animal is just lying unless you genuinely let your pet come and go with no restrictions.

  148. Valhallie
    Valhallie May 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm |

    Gabe:
    female nonhuman animals face oppression parallel to that of cis women when it comes to reproductive choice or lack of it.

    Uhm, have you ever been around an animal? To say they make reproductive choices at all is a little disingenuous. They kind of seem to just like fucking. I’ve never really seen a zebra in line for Planned Parenthood.

    And perhaps I am wallowing in my human privilege. And perhaps I will be judged to be on the wrong side of history. But I think humans get to decide what “personhood” entails because we’re awesome and cool and can actually tell what’s going on. I am reminded of the immortal words of Werner Herzog: “”Look into the eyes of a chicken and you will see real stupidity. It is a kind of bottomless stupidity, a fiendish stupidity. They are the most horrifying, cannibalistic and nightmarish creatures in the world.”

  149. Tony
    Tony May 10, 2011 at 10:16 pm |

    I object to the term “Differentiated being” and “non human animals” because it implies Otherness from the Default of human. Most animated creatures living on this planet are even aware of the existence of human, so to define their very existence relative to human impedes understanding of our interaction with the non-human species sharing the planet. Whoever came up of those terms is clearly suffering from a severe case of anthropocentric bias.

  150. konkonsn
    konkonsn May 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm |

    Florence:
    I understand the rhetorical emphasis on language regarding animals and animal rights, even at the extremes, but the insistence on comparing animals to history’s human slaves, animals to today’s adult women, animals to oppressed classes of people generally, not only strikes me as naive but also reminds quite strongly of the right’s insistence that there is little or no difference between an adult human woman and a fetus.An adult woman and a human fetus have different rights and statuses in our society for real-world reasons, just as I have different rights and status than my cat, or a cow, or a bird in the sky. If our laws don’t address animal rights well enough, that’s a weakness in the law.That doesn’t mean I am the same as a cow or that a cow should inherently benefit from the same rights as I do or that the cow is capable of exercising those rights in full.

    What about including non-human oppression, though, in the overall intersection of oppression? I understand direct comparisons go too far; I mean, PETA does shit like that by showing chained slaves and caged animals side-by-side. But I think we need to keep non-humans in mind when thinking about how oppression works, like how feminizing the environment allows us to much more easily oppress it.

  151. Abby
    Abby May 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm |

    I feel people are distorting the animal rights perspective and using ‘gotcha’ questions about spaying/neutering in an attempt to discredit the ideology. Animals probably do not experience their sexuality the way humans do, and given the pet overpopulation crisis, spaying/neutering is essential. Animals do suffer when they are forcibly impregnated (google ‘cows and rape racks’) and separated from their babies. It makes sense to talk about their lack of reproductive freedom in those contexts.

  152. Abby
    Abby May 10, 2011 at 10:52 pm |

    One more thing–many people are upset at any comparison between oppressions. The point is not to demean women, but to elevate animals. If you want to learn more about the movement, please check out http://www.abolitionistapproach.com or read any of Gary Francione’s work. For Jill, I especially would recommend his ‘Introduction to Animal Rights’ and ‘Animals, Property and the Law.’ He explains how animals’ status as property prevents their interests from being taken seriously. Basically, as long as animals are property, they will continue to be abused.

  153. Abby
    Abby May 10, 2011 at 10:57 pm |

    Lastly, I don’t mean to be hard on you, but please don’t claim to love animals when you continue to consume them for your pleasure. Love means not killing.

  154. zuzu
    zuzu May 10, 2011 at 11:02 pm |

    Gabe: I’ve yet to hear one serious attempt at a justification for why “personhood” is a valid demarcator for who gets rights and who doesn’t.

    You could look it up, you know.

    Personhood is a valid demarcator for who gets rights and who doesn’t because the law recognizes the rights of persons. Tautological, sure, but that happens when legal concepts have been hanging around forever.

    Now, if you pay attention, you’ll hear concepts such as “full personhood” being discussed. That’s because various classes of people (women, slaves, native Americans, Chinese immigrants, etc.) were at various times, at least in the United States, not considered to have the full rights of personhood.

    It’s one reason some of us are sensitive to attempts to compare or analogize us to non-persons such as animals or fetuses. You may think you’re making a point about animals, but you’re really just reminding us all that our personhood is provisional in some eyes.

    Anyhow, another reason for making personhood the demarcator and making fetuses not persons was that some kind of demarcation was required in order to settle things. This is especially important in the context of trusts and estates, where classes of heirs have to close at some point. If Grandpa leaves money to be divided among his grandchildren upon his death, you need to know who the grandchildren are so you can divvy things up in a timely manner rather than hang around waiting to see who else will be born years from now before you start handing out checks. This may seem trivial now, but when these rules arose in England, they mattered a whole hell of a lot to the ruling classes. And since the ruling classes make the rules, here we are.

    This stuff still matters to the ruling classes, which is why I don’t think you’ll ever see any fetal personhood statute take root. It’s one thing to make a corporation a person, but it’s a very different thing to fuck with the trust fund.

  155. zuzu
    zuzu May 10, 2011 at 11:04 pm |

    Abby:
    Lastly, I don’t mean to be hard on you, but please don’t claim to love animals when you continue to consume them for your pleasure. Love means not killing.

    Wow. The Strawvegan is real!

  156. Abby
    Abby May 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm |

    I see your point, but I’m not sure I completely agree. I think there are some parallels between animal suffering and human suffering. A woman forcibly separated from her child suffers tremendously. So does a cow whose calf is taken away. Our connection to our children is something we share with other species. Why not compare the two? I think making the comparison helps women see the cruelty in farming on a deeper, more emotional level, and I’m not sure that in this case the harm done to humans is necessarily greater.

  157. evil fizz
    evil fizz May 10, 2011 at 11:14 pm | *

    The point is not to demean women, but to elevate animals.

    I see what the point is supposed to be, but it’s completely ineffective for the reasons zuzu mentions: historically, these comparisons have been used to demean, insult, and abuse people. And frankly, if you’ve seen PETAs ads which attempt to juxtapose pictures of dead pigs with pictures of the Holocaust, you won’t see the elevation of anything other than blood pressure.

    On an unrelated note, preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids, I really don’t appreciate this attempt to make yourself a spokes-mantid when you’re really just the token Pterygota, Neoptera, and Dictyoptera. And yes, I did just throw you in there with everyone else in the subclass, infraclass, and superorder because you all look the same.

  158. SephONE
    SephONE May 10, 2011 at 11:17 pm |

    Silver bullet? Geez, Jill, now you’ve done it. The werewolves will be emailing you.

  159. Abby
    Abby May 10, 2011 at 11:22 pm |

    However, if the analogies are alienating people, then I see no reason to use them. You don’t need to believe that animals and people are equal or that their suffering is exactly the same. You just need to believe that their suffering matters and that unnecessary killing is wrong. If you have those two common beliefs, then you need to go vegan.

  160. Natalia
    Natalia May 11, 2011 at 12:41 am |

    Lastly, I don’t mean to be hard on you, but please don’t claim to love animals when you continue to consume them for your pleasure. Love means not killing.

    Eh, no. You can’t tell people how to feel. Farmers who regularly have to kill their animals are still perfectly capable of loving them.

    Killing is brutal. It is what it is, basically, and you can’t get away from it. There are some animals I have way more sympathy for than some people sitting in prison (like the guy who raped and murdered a girl who went to primary school with me – and has never shown a hint of remorse). But who gets to use the word “love” and who doesn’t cannot be decided in this framework.

  161. Tapetum
    Tapetum May 11, 2011 at 12:47 am |

    I hereby award this thread the Cat-ass-trophy!

    Also, on the eating of animals – humans are omnivores. I don’t see it as inherently immoral that cats, as obligate carnivores, need meat to survive. I also don’t see it as inherently immoral that as omnivores, lots of humans find meat tasty and efficient food. I definitely feel that it’s an obligation to keep the animals we intend to eat happy and healthy and to kill them humanely.

    It may also have something to do with my views on death. Everybody and everything dies. One birth, one death whether soon or late. I tend to view the manner of death as much more relevant, morally speaking, than the time. Terrified, painful deaths after miserable confined lives? Horrible, ought to be stopped. Quick humane deaths after healthy happy lives? I don’t see the problem. It’s a heck of a lot better than what nature generally gives them.

  162. outrageandsprinkles
    outrageandsprinkles May 11, 2011 at 1:03 am |

    Does this mean I don’t love my cats since I have pork chops in the fridge? Or does that just mean I don’t love the dog from Doug?

  163. Aubrie
    Aubrie May 11, 2011 at 1:13 am |

    Okay. I think I understand this. Wait for it. Here it comes.

    What these guys are upset about is the negative connotations the words “animal,” “vermin,” etc., have (in their minds, anyway). The same way it’s offensive to use the terms “chink, spick, nigger, honky,” etc., to different humans, it’s also not entirely PC to call a mouse a critter or a roach a vermin.

    Though I’m not exactly sure how these guys became aware that animals do not like being called animals, since, y’know, animals can’t speak English…or any human language, for that matter. Except parrots. Kinda.

  164. WildlyParenthetical
    WildlyParenthetical May 11, 2011 at 1:32 am |

    Critical animal studies is not necessarily the same as animal rights; it’s concerned more to ask about how and why we’ve structured our ideas of personhood, rights and justice etc in and through a line of delineation between human and non-human animals. So it’s not as simple as just extending human rights to animals – the question of how those rights are structured is a live question, and it’s not just live in relation to animals – when you look at the history of the development of many rights, the inclusion of new groups has often fundamentally changed those rights, or made particular rights more explicit. And it’s changed our ideas of personhood, and citizenship, and who ‘counts’ for legal reasons.

    As for the ‘parallel’ oppressions thing, I think the point that might be being missed (maybe?) is that there has always been a group who has been used to insult and demean other groups. So, historically, what we would call disability now marked ‘degeneracy’, and it was also used to preclude people of colour from being considered full humans; similarly, the infantilisation and animalisation of women has been a key element in their oppression. The fact that people now find the use of children, those with disabilities, and degeneracy to elaborate a hierarchy of being problematic should probably be a strong clue that it’s worth interrogating how and why animality came to mark inferiority too. And like I said, these are not just theoretical concerns. For me, the fact that Aboriginal people in Australia were recognised only as animals as a way of enhancing dispossession makes the line between human and non-human animals a profoundly ideological one, one which I think we should take a hint from history, and remain really wary of. Which is why I’m kind of unimpressed with all the ‘but they’re just different! therefore we can own and kill them!’ talk: yes, they are different; that’s true of every category (of human animals) that has been historically excluded from full personhood. The question is why that difference enables ownership or killing or the privileging of human life as more important.

    The other thing to remember here is that these arguments are new; whilst some animal rights people will simply argue against farming, killing, and pet ownership, and recommend their immediate suspension, there are many within particularly critical animal studies who are concerned to address the problems that that suspension would cause for animals: that we have so thoroughly changed animals through our use of them that to just step away with our hands raised is really just a refusal to take responsibility for the position we’re in. So assuming that those asking these questions are necessarily insisting on particular changes (especially the simple extension of human rights to (non-human) animals) is kind of wrong.

    Finally, you know how some of you have pointed out that cats and dogs do actually influence our behaviours? Like by insisting on being fed, or by needing care? Donna Haraway (a very famous feminist, who also wrote ‘The Cyborg Manifesto’ some of you might have encountered elsewhere) wrote ‘The Companion Species Manifesto’ to suggest that whilst, yes, there are many aspects of the relationship with animals that are about ownership, and that those can often be oppressive, we are as shaped by our companion animals as they are by us. So using the term ‘companion animal’ is to avoid the implication that the relationship between human and non-human animals is as simple, as top-down, and as property-based as, say, owning a coffee table. There are some who think that it just covers over oppression, yes; it’s an ongoing debate.

    I have to add that having watched the recent meta on this blog, and the suggestions about kindness and benefit-of-doubting, some of the snark on this thread seems kind of… well, weird in that context. I’m not surprised there are people withdrawing from this space, and I think it’s pretty sad that the legitimacy of their upset is being so fully dismissed. It’s clear that many of you think this concern about how animals are situated is ridiculous; the hostility, though, is pretty unnecessary. Where and how permission is given to mock around here seems a bit… well, cliquey. [shrug]

  165. Rose
    Rose May 11, 2011 at 2:44 am |

    Doesn’t neutering animals take away their most fundamental rights to experience sexual pleasure and to reproduce if they so choose? I mean, if we accept that pet “ownership” is bad because it implies that pets don’t have individual autonomy and feelings and rights, then why is it ok for human beings to force pets to undergo painful surgery that removes their right to have babies?

    I’m de-lurking for the first time because I find this comment (if it’s not sarcasm) and others like it to be extremely problematic.

    I live in a city whose animal shelters are chronically overburdened. There are many more unwanted animals than there are spaces in the shelters, and not enough resources to provide every animal the care it needs.

    Would anyone like to guess how our overwhelmed shelters get by? They do two things. First, scarce resources be damned, they try to accommodate as many additional animals as they possible can, which leads to overcrowding, which leads to more stress and disease amongst the animals. Second, they step up their rate of euthanasia.

    My city’s shelters took in 24,119 animals in 2010.
    8,972 of them were euthanized. That’s 24 to 25 a day.
    394 died of natural causes.
    In total, nearly 39% never leave the shelters alive.
    You can see the numbers for yourself here: link.

    This is why spaying and neutering pets is important.

    …Anyway, who says fixed pets can’t experience sexual pleasure? My neutered male kitty joyfully humps anything made of fleece =P

  166. Brett K
    Brett K May 11, 2011 at 2:56 am |

    Silver:
    I think the term ‘pests’ can be accurate as well.Consider a country like Australia with many unique plants and animals whose extinction would be a great loss. Isn’t it justified to call foxes, rabbits, cane toads, cats, dogs, camels, horses, deer, etc, pests? (To say nothing of the many introduced insect and plant species that are destroying native vegetation and insect life as well.)All are introduced species, albeit often by human stupidity, and all out compete and help contribute to the decline of native species.Seeing as this was a human created problem, don’t humans have some responsibility in controlling these ‘pests’ to preserve the natives?

    Sure all living things go extinct eventually, but don’t living things that don’t share our homes, feed us, help us, or are just fun to look at, have some value in and of themselves?Why should poisoning 10 million rabbits be wrong in Australia, if it can help prevent erosion leading to the destruction of native habitat?Is it really wrong to kill, at least as humanely as possible, any cane toad you come across given the carnage they bring to native animals who happen to eat them?

    Yes, this. As someone with a friend who nearly died of dengue fever (and two friends who had malaria), my sympathy for pests (!!!) like mosquitoes is approximately zero. Unless you want to argue that all of those mosquitoes I’ve killed (and there have been hundreds, if not thousands) were as important as my friends/myself, in which case fuck you.

    Also, in places like Australia, a lot of animals are designated “pests” because of the threat they pose TO OTHER ANIMALS. Anthropocentric bias?

    I love animals. My goldfish are about as spoiled as goldfish can get (not to speak for Narmer and Djoser or anything, but if they could speak for themselves it would probably be along the lines of “why is that big ugly thing not giving us more food right now and also all the time”). But comparing struggles for animal rights, as righteous as they may be, to things like feminism or anti-racism, is incredibly fucking insulting to marginalized people who have been dehumanized and compared to animals for centuries. I guess that’s my human privilege talking, or something.

  167. Brett K
    Brett K May 11, 2011 at 3:12 am |

    SephONE:
    Silver bullet? Geez, Jill, now you’ve done it. The werewolves will be emailing you.

    JILL HOW DARE YOU SILVER BULLETS HAVE BEEN USED TO OPPRESS AND KILL MY PEOPLE FOR CENTURIES

    Uh… I mean… nothing wrong here. I am not a werewolf. Please continue.

  168. Calla
    Calla May 11, 2011 at 3:12 am |

    I agree with most of what WildlyParenthetical said in the post above, but wanted to add to it.

    As others have been pointing out throughout the comments, humans are animals. No one is yet to offer a logical reason why one species of animal (the human in this case) is vastly superior to all other species. It’s logically inconsistent to believe in evolution and also believe that humans are fundamentally different than all other animals. For example, Jill thinks a comparison between cow mothers and human mothers is problematic. However, serotonin is primarily responsible for the bonding that occurs between all mammal mothers and their children regardless of species. Because we followed the same evolutionary trajectory for so long, humans cannot be fundamentally different from all other animals.

    However, since most commenters here do believe humans are fundamentally different from all other animals (without offering evidence as to WHY that is the case), it follows most commenters also believes that human life is fundamentally more important than all other animal life. Once again, no one has backed this concept with a logical explanation. All pack animals are going to defend their own pack, and humans are pack animals. A lion will think the life of a lion is more important than the life of a human. Can someone explain to me why the human is automatically right and the lion automatically wrong?

    Jill explains that this is because humans have more autonomy than other species, “There are clearly-articulated reasons why it’s bad to own people (because among a multitude of other reasons, people deserve full autonomy, and labor that people perform for other people should be fairly compensated with the option of leaving at any point, etc etc). But those reasons don’t apply to animal ownership.” Why don’t these reasons apply to non-human animal ownership? Why don’t other animals deserve autonomy? Everyone keeps posting comments that I am supposed to accept at face-value as absolute facts without justifying why they should be accepted. This is one such example. Another example: “Human beings treat non-human animals and human animals really, really terribly. I’m not sure how removing the property framework is the silver bullet here, since that hasn’t really stopped human-on-human abuse or violence.” If I follow this statement to its logical conclusion, Jill thinks outlawing slavery was pointless since (1) there is still human trafficking and (2) humans still kill each other. I, on the other hand, think the emancipation proclamation was a step in the right direction.

    I suppose Jill came to this conclusion because of our treatment of domesticated animals. Please note the “ed” at the end of domestic. Humans domesticated some other species. In an ideal world, domesticated dogs, cats, pigs, horses, chickens, etc. etc. would be extinct. We have taken away their agency through selective breeding and socialization. We infantilize individuals who should be autonomous beings. We dictate when adults get to eat, go outside, where they can play, with what they can play, etc. We have created an unfortunate situation where the adults of one species must rely on an individual from a completely different species to provide for them and keep them safe. This is messed up. So yes, A.R. activists do advocate for spaying and neutering. It is not ideal. It is never ideal to strip someone of agency, but in this case, it is the lesser of the evils. We do not want future generations of infantilized adults who will also be stripped of agency.

    Oh, and as far as ‘paying’ for an animal equaling ownership goes, this was the logic of slave traders and slave owners. You cannot own a sentient being. I do have rescued cats who live with me. I call them “my cats” the same why I call my partner “my partner” and my siblings “my siblings.” And though I am their caretakers because they are unable to care for themselves, I do not own them anymore than a human who cares for a differently-abled human owns that human, or a parent owns their child. (Though parents do spend a lot more on their children than most of us spend on our companion animals, so by Jill’s logic….)

    The main thrust of this post was supposed to be about the importance of language. So, allow me to end on that point. We say “people of color” instead of “colored people” for a reason. We say “transgender” instead of “transgendered” for a reason. And it does not come down to only the fact that individuals may be offended if we use a term that is not PC. Rather, the lens through which we see the world is significantly impacted by our choice in language. The terms ‘pussy’ for “weak-willed individual” or “gay” for “ridiculous” are not harmful only because they are sexist and homophobic, but because they create a culture in which sexism and homophobia are deemed acceptable. The same holds true for phrases like “eat like a pig.” When we live in a world where sexist, homophobic, racist, transphobic, and yes, speciesist language is condoned by society at large, we live in a world that creates a culture of acceptance of these ‘isms’ themselves.

  169. WildlyParenthetical
    WildlyParenthetical May 11, 2011 at 3:24 am |

    Brett K:
    Also, in places like Australia, a lot of animals are designated “pests” because of the threat they pose TO OTHER ANIMALS. Anthropocentric bias?

    Yeah, except that those ‘pests’ are generally introduced animals. The point is that we human animals fucked up, and now we class a whole bunch of animals that we’re responsible for as ‘pests’, so that they can be killed off. This isn’t to say we should or shouldn’t do it, but it is to point out how quickly we disavow responsibility in and through the ways we designate animals as belonging to particular groups like ‘pests’ or ‘vermin’ etc.

    Very few people are making the strong arguments that are being attributed to animal studies people here, arguments that are being supposed from a couple of words. Perhaps instead of just dismissing out of hand based on imagined arguments, it might be better to find out what those arguments are first?

  170. tree
    tree May 11, 2011 at 6:32 am |

    Jill: That a chicken has a deep emotional attachment to all of its eggs?

    or that, y’know, chickens will sometimes eat their own eggs. or the eggs of other chickens. because they’re chickens and it’s what chickens do.

    it’s easy and emotively effective to point to mammalian behaviour and ascribe it to all ‘animals’ but the truth is very different. non-mammalian animals often have vastly different relationships with offspring or potential offspring than humans do.

  171. tree
    tree May 11, 2011 at 6:41 am |

    WildlyParenthetical: Yeah, except that those ‘pests’ are generally introduced animals. The point is that we human animals fucked up, and now we class a whole bunch of animals that we’re responsible for as ‘pests’, so that they can be killed off. This isn’t to say we should or shouldn’t do it, but it is to point out how quickly we disavow responsibility in and through the ways we designate animals as belonging to particular groups like ‘pests’ or ‘vermin’ etc.

    i don’t know where you are, but in australia we’re not disavowing anything. we grow up knowing about introduced species and how they came to be introduced and why it was a bad idea. we learn about the laws governing what can and can’t be brought into the country and what can and can’t be transported between states. that can include anything from a piece of wood to a fruit fly to a rabbit. these laws exist to ensure that we, as humans, don’t end up ‘introducing’ anything else into our environment.

    also? we didn’t introduce mosquitoes. and they are still pests.

  172. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 11, 2011 at 6:46 am |

    “Uh… I mean… nothing wrong here. I am not a werewolf. Please continue.”

    Liar. I bet every full moon you go around oppressing livestock and thus not loving your pets.

    “The point is not to demean women, but to elevate animals.”

    Then I’m pretty sure it’s kind of a super-huge failure. Because, you know, what it’s actually doing is demeaning women and poc and whoever the hell else gets dragged into it with “Mistreatment of animals is just like x.”

    It’s kind of like when PETA tries to do that thing where you don’t demean women, you elevate animals, and what they actually do is just inspire the latest trend in violently misogynist porn, because it turns out that (Surprise!) society at large doesn’t really think women are all that elevated and should be even less so, and then PETA gets upset when people point out that that’s what they’ve done because they thought it would work out differently this time than the other five thousand times they’ve done this.

    It seems obvious to a lot of people (But not everyone! Apparently!) that for this to function to elevate animals instead of demeaning oppressed classes of humans, you have to first get to a point where there’s a pretty solid super-majority of society that agrees that those oppressed classes of humans have the same rights as every other human instead of the point where you have a politically influential movement trying to retroactively declare Hawai’i not a state because real states don’t produce black people who think they can be president.

  173. WildlyParenthetical
    WildlyParenthetical May 11, 2011 at 7:11 am |

    tree: i don’t know where you are, but in australia we’re not disavowing anything. we grow up knowing about introduced species and how they came to be introduced and why it was a bad idea. we learn about the laws governing what can and can’t be brought into the country and what can and can’t be transported between states. that can include anything from a piece of wood to a fruit fly to a rabbit. these laws exist to ensure that we, as humans, don’t end up ‘introducing’ anything else into our environment.

    I am Australian, thanks, Tree, so I don’t need to be told the history. And I was responding to the idea that we kill pests in order to protect other non-human animals, so mosquitos are kinda beside the point. The animals that have become classed as pests because they kill other animals are predominantly introduced species.

  174. Andrea
    Andrea May 11, 2011 at 7:15 am |

    Just a couple of points:

    On pets having not choosing their companions: Have you ever tried to set a cat free once it has accustomed itself to your home? It ain’t easy. They’ll find their way back over miles once they’ve decided your home is home.

    On taking calves away from cows: First let me point out I’ve never farmed, or spent any time away from cows so if they really do suffer noticeably when their offspring are taken away then I am wrong…

    But to assume that if we were able to gauge animal emotions, that a cow would feel the same towards it’s young as humans feel towards ours, to assume the same relationships with their young, that’s a little anthropocentric, in and of itself if you ask me.

  175. samanthab
    samanthab May 11, 2011 at 7:27 am |

    “I do think there’s a good conversation to be had regarding the language used to refer to other animals and to the environment in general. Much of the English language appears to be devoted to maintaining that artificial separation between “humans” and “wilderness”, and how we can’t acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between people and our environments. And I don’t think that was always the case. (been re-reading Starhawk’s “The Earth Path”; she touched on this divorcing of human beings from other beings and our shared environment).”

    That’s a really good point. I don’t have a problem with calling my kitty my pet (see here: etymologic derviations of the word pet: http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pet
    But I do think there are really weird ways in which we *anthropomorphise* animals and deny them their identity as, you know, animals. And probably the idea that pets be referred to as “companion animals” is one of them! We’ve totally denied our own identities as part of “nature,” and that thinking does channel into serious consequences. We eat chemically laden foods over freshly grown, we pollute our air, etc. all with the implicit understanding that we can triumph over nature. It doesn’t really work that way.
    So I think there’s a grain of good intention underneath all of this that’s been really misapplied. Our need to triumph over nature is really problematic; on the other hand, a symbiotic relationship between one animal and another is “nature,” too. And when one behaves as if your “companion animal” might object to word choice, erm, who’s the anthropocentric one here?

  176. Florence
    Florence May 11, 2011 at 7:36 am |

    WildlyParenthetical: And I was responding to the idea that we kill pests in order to protect other non-human animals, so mosquitos are kinda beside the point. The animals that have become classed as pests because they kill other animals are predominantly introduced species.

    This is a side-comment, but this is really interesting to me. If I’m correct, the majority of antagonistic introduced species in the U.S. are insect or plant species (like kudzu). I googled it but got a world overview. What kinds of animals were introduced that have become a problem in Australia? I saw cane frogs mentioned upthread…

  177. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 11, 2011 at 7:51 am |

    “f I’m correct, the majority of antagonistic introduced species in the U.S. are insect or plant species (like kudzu). [...] What kinds of animals were introduced that have become a problem in Australia? I saw cane frogs mentioned upthread…”

    It depends on the region of the US you’re talking about, too. Nutria, quaker parakeets, and exotic snakes are a problem in the Gulf Coast. I’ve been told that southern Oregon is having a small capybara (!) problem. Feral/stray cats are an issue almost everywhere they can survive the winter. Walking catfish are an issue everywhere the laws of nature aren’t in force. Snakeheads are an issue almost everywhere it’s not an irradiated wasteland.

    Australia has issues with at least bunnies, feral cats, and rats in addition to the cane toads.

  178. Tapetum
    Tapetum May 11, 2011 at 8:11 am |

    Starlings, English sparrows and house finches are also introduced and problematic species in the US. House finches have had an enormous negative impact on the native finch species, especially purple finches.

  179. Florence
    Florence May 11, 2011 at 8:29 am |

    I genuinely had no idea. But between capybara and walking catfish, oh, and fetal pig face, this blog is freaking me out today.

  180. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 11, 2011 at 8:30 am |

    “Animals do suffer when they are forcibly impregnated (google ‘cows and rape racks’) and separated from their babies. ”

    That’s not the same as “reproductive freedom.” Cows, cats, ducks, dogs, and horses are not people. They do not experience the world in the same way we do. They fuck around and do not plan their families because they have no capacity to even know what that is. Preventing cruel treatment is not the same thing as promoting reproductive rights.

    Also, if it’s bad to kill other animals and eat meat, you’ll probably want to have a word with my cat. Who’s, you know, a carnivore. I’m not about to feed her lentils as that would actually harm her. Then again, I’m unapologetic about eating meat–I don’t eat a lot of it, but I do eat it because I see nothing wrong with doing so.

    I don’t love all animals. I also don’t love all people and I really wish that everyone would drop that fucking word from their vocabulary when they try to talk about SJ. If the only beings that deserve justice are those that we love, we’re in deep shit. Some horrible things have been done in the name of “love.” When it comes to animals and the environment, I’m more of the thought that we shouldn’t make them suffer unnecessarily and we should practice good ecology. I also think it’s a good thing to prevent things like disease, so I’ve no compunction about stopping infestations of vermin.

    But I do think there are really weird ways in which we *anthropomorphise* animals and deny them their identity as, you know, animals. And probably the idea that pets be referred to as “companion animals” is one of them!

    This.

  181. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 11, 2011 at 8:32 am |

    Andrea: On pets having not choosing their companions: Have you ever tried to set a cat free once it has accustomed itself to your home? It ain’t easy. They’ll find their way back over miles once they’ve decided your home is home.

    Yeah, but maybe it’s kitty Stockholm Syndrome. I dunno, I’m of the opinion that we’re not going to know actual animal motivations/feelings in most contexts. Screaming before slaughter? Fairly obvious. Anything else – difficult to say.

  182. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 11, 2011 at 9:00 am |

    PrettyAmiable: I dunno, I’m of the opinion that we’re not going to know actual animal motivations/feelings in most contexts.

    I think dogs are relatively communicative.

  183. A_W
    A_W May 11, 2011 at 9:08 am |

    Andrea: On pets having not choosing their companions: Have you ever tried to set a cat free once it has accustomed itself to your home? It ain’t easy. They’ll find their way back over miles once they’ve decided your home is home.

    True. Thing is, and I find this bit amusing on the whole – most cats actually do choose their companions. You ever seen a cat live with someone they absolutely loathed (unless, of course, they liked someone else in the house?). I did – the cat (quite emphatically) said Fuck You to her owner by means of pissing in her owners’ bed and clean laundry and absolutely refusing to be petted by her – but let everyone else. Then she moved in with me. I didn’t have a choice in the matter, incidentally. She just showed up in my section of the house and refused to leave. Also demanded food, water, clean litter and so forth – literally. If she wanted in she’d knock, and if she needed food/water, et cetera she’d meow until I got up and she’d take me to whatever the hell she wanted. I told – everyone – I’m not getting another pet since the last cat didn’t like it when we moved and he left, and that it was hard as hell to find a place that allowed pets. That’s another thing – if a cat doesn’t like something, -they leave-. Way for people to totally ignore autonomy, there. Incidentally, we still have the cat, or rather, she still has us. …..but yeah, not everyone chooses to have pets. Some animals just move right on in.

  184. No
    No May 11, 2011 at 9:08 am |

    That might be the stupidest thing I ever heard.

  185. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 11, 2011 at 9:10 am |

    “But between capybara and walking catfish, oh, and fetal pig face, this blog is freaking me out today.”

    Walking catfish are pretty freaky. They’re all “Where is your sense of what fish are now?” and using evolution for evil and weirdness.

  186. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 11, 2011 at 9:15 am |

    Kristen! Is that your puppy? It’s adorable.

  187. Calla
    Calla May 11, 2011 at 9:43 am |

    tree: or that, y’know, chickens will sometimes eat their own eggs.or the eggs of other chickens. because they’re chickens and it’s what chickens do.

    it’s easy and emotively effective to point to mammalian behaviour and ascribe it to all ‘animals’ but the truth is very different. non-mammalian animals often have vastly different relationships with offspring or potential offspring than humans do.

    And when I bleed once a month, I don’t morn the loss of my eggs either. I’m not saying that if I were to ever have a child, I would treat that child the same way hens treat their chicks, but that an egg is not the same thing as a chick in the least.

    Anyway, a study earlier this year did show strong evidence that hens empathize for their chicks. http://www.livescience.com/13135-hens-show-empathy-chicks.html

  188. Natalia
    Natalia May 11, 2011 at 9:49 am |

    Kristen! Is that your puppy? It’s adorable.

    Stop objectifying the puppy, >:|

    Then again, I can’t help but objectify capybara. They are magical.

    I have to add that having watched the recent meta on this blog, and the suggestions about kindness and benefit-of-doubting, some of the snark on this thread seems kind of… well, weird in that context. I’m not surprised there are people withdrawing from this space, and I think it’s pretty sad that the legitimacy of their upset is being so fully dismissed. It’s clear that many of you think this concern about how animals are situated is ridiculous; the hostility, though, is pretty unnecessary. Where and how permission is given to mock around here seems a bit… well, cliquey. [shrug]

    Regina George is just tired, yo. She’s just fed up with the sanctimony of SJ blogs in general.

  189. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 9:52 am |

    I think there’s a difference between killing for your own survival and killing for pleasure. Our existence forces us to cause a certain amount of suffering, but when you kill animals for your enjoyment, I don’t think it makes sense to say you love them. I think we may just have a fundamental disagreement on the issues, though. I believe that death is a harm to animals, and that people who, for example, have a dog killed because they don’t feel like caring for the dog are doing something wrong. I say this because I have a little spaniel who seems to enjoy life and want to keep on living.

  190. Calla
    Calla May 11, 2011 at 9:55 am |

    Andrea:

    But to assume that if we were able to gauge animal emotions, that a cow would feel the same towards it’s young as humans feel towards ours, to assume the same relationships with their young, that’s a little anthropocentric, in and of itself if you ask me.

    No one is saying that humans have the exact relationship with their offspring as cows have with theirs, but that cows do desire to form bonds with their offspring. As I pointed out earlier, both cows and humans (like all mammals) produce serotonin causing us to bond with our young.

    You say that A.R. activists are making assumptions by claiming cows don’t want their young taken from them, well, it is just as presumptuous to assume a cow doesn’t care if her child is taken from her. So at best, you are acting the same as the individuals you are trying to criticize. At worst, you are admitting you just don’t care at all what happens to the cow because you don’t think they deserve any agency. . . but haven’t explained why they don’t deserve agency.

    It’s not too hard to find scientific information explaining that yes, cows are distressed when they’re young are taken from them. They have the same instinct to protect their young that other mammals, including humans, have.

    If you’re really interested, you can download a report on animal welfare in the dairy industry here: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/mediacenter/dairy_report.html Yes, it is from an animal protection organization, but you can look at all the citations to see that the sources from which the information is derived are not biased.

  191. andrea
    andrea May 11, 2011 at 9:57 am |

    Jill: I dunno… I live in an apartment and my cat has been outside maybe 4 times, in a carrier, either while moving or on his way to the vet. If I dropped him even blocks from my house, he’d be pretty effed.

    Possibly, but maybe not. I had a cat that i had adopted from a woman who was trying to find homes for her animals, as she was getting up there in years. I had the cat in my apartment for a number of months. She stayed inside with the other cat and was not taken out. When I moved into my house, which was in the same town, but on the other side, from the house I had adopted her from. Months later, she got out of the house and returned to the house I had adopted her from. Repeatedly. The previous owner eventually ended up taking her back, as it was clear she was not happy with me.

    It’s just anectodal, yes, but it’s a bit of an example of a pet choosing their companion. I will concede though that it was ultimately my choice to let her return to her previous owner and her previous owners’ choice to let her stay.

  192. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 11, 2011 at 9:59 am |

    Wait, do you think people here are puppy killers? I thought you were talking about people who eat meat.

  193. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 10:08 am |

    @Sheelzebub I agree that cats have to eat meat. Human beings generally do not. I don’t see how your cat eating meat out of necessity justifies your eating meat for pleasure. I don’t mean this in a hostile way, but I don’t understand your point.

  194. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 10:13 am |

    I probably shouldn’t have made the ‘love’ comment. I just feel that if everyone is allowed to say they love animals, regardless of their actions, then the word has no meaning. Can a person who say, shoots his dog for fun claim to love that dog?

  195. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 11, 2011 at 10:18 am |

    WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT PUPPY KILLERS. WHERE DID THIS COME FROM.

  196. Natalia
    Natalia May 11, 2011 at 10:18 am |

    The oppressive/infantilizing politics of LOLcats have yet to be brought up in this discussion.

    Also, this thread is convincing me that there *are* ways in which progressivism can, over time, morph into a philosophy very similar to that practiced by certain sects of self-flagellating monks.

  197. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 10:18 am |

    Are dogs morally different from pigs? Jill said she is not against the painless killing of young, healthy animals. I assume that she has no problem with killing a young, healthy dog if that is her view.

  198. gretel
    gretel May 11, 2011 at 10:26 am |

    Abby: I believe that death is a harm to animals, and that people who, for example, have a dog killed because they don’t feel like caring for the dog are doing something wrong. I say this because I have a little spaniel who seems to enjoy life and want to keep on living.

    Hmm. What if they have a dog euthanized because that dog has terminal cancer and is starving to death because he refuses to eat anymore?

    These issues aren’t simple or straightforward, so can we please stop pretending they are? For instance, I’m a vegetarian, but I am sure that animals (insects, definitely; rodents, most likely ) have died during the production of the food I eat. Not to mention the suffering of humans who have worked in shitty conditions for shitty wages. We can’t eliminate suffering. All we can do is try our hardest. And not everyone can be vegan or vegetarian. Some people have significant dietary and health restrictions or religions reasons, etc., for eating animal products. I really resent the assertion vegans love animals the most. It’s not that simple.

  199. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 10:29 am |

    I am talking about dogs to show you where your philosophy on animals leads you. Most people here probably care about dogs, but morally, they are no different from pigs or many other animals we kill for food. If you believe that we can kill pigs for food, when other food is available, then why can’t we kill dogs for food? Or why can’t we simply kill dogs or pigs (painlessly of course) because it brings us some pleasure in some other way? Most people in the U.S. do not need meat to survive. We are killing animals mostly for our enjoyment.

  200. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 10:32 am |

    Sorry. Cross-post.

  201. Florence
    Florence May 11, 2011 at 10:35 am |

    gretel: I really resent the assertion vegans love animals the most.

    Right? We’re veering toward the edges of saying that vegans experience the purest love for animals and that all others are morally corrupt. The sanctimony factor is through the roof on this one.

    Abby: Can a person who say, shoots his dog for fun claim to love that dog?

    Abby, this may be a point in time where you realize that this genuinely held POV is extreme even to a lot of sympathetic people, and that by suggesting we condone the mistreatment of animals because we disagree with you you are alienating people who would otherwise be supportive of your goals, i.e. the humane treatment of animals, period.

    Out of curiosity, are you at all personally familiar with the realities rural life?

  202. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 10:39 am |

    @ Gretel
    I do believe these issues are complicated, and I don’t claim to be perfect. You’re right that killing can sometimes be necessary or merciful. But euthanasia is not what is going on at farms.

    I agree that not everyone can become vegan, and I don’t judge people who truly can’t. I do believe we should all be as vegan as possible. I see very few people making that effort.

  203. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 10:52 am |

    @Florence
    I certainly don’t mean to alienate people. I hope you will not have a negative view of animal rights because of my poor debating skills. My intent was merely to point out inconsistencies in the way most of us think about animals, but I should probably leave that to better writers. Dan Cudahy at unpopularveganessays.com is especially good. :-)

    I have been to a few farms and once (unsuccessfully) tried to catch a rooster for a friend of mine. I have never been to a typical American farm.

  204. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 11, 2011 at 10:58 am |

    “WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT PUPPY KILLERS. WHERE DID THIS COME FROM.”

    Presumably the same place people who hate bugs but think butterflies are super-pretty and really like them come from. It would probably be easier if people who “love animals” started qualifying it around people who are prone to misinterpreting hyperbole. Like, I love [most] animals, but certain animals (mosquitoes, horseflies, lampreys, fire ants) can pretty much go to hell, and certain animals (possums, spiders, rats, grizzly bears) can go to hell depending on the situation. When I was younger, I might have just made the statement “I love animals,” even though the same qualifiers applied at that time as do now, because I hadn’t met any vegans yet.

  205. gretel
    gretel May 11, 2011 at 10:58 am |

    Abby: I agree that not everyone can become vegan, and I don’t judge people who truly can’t. I do believe we should all be as vegan as possible. I see very few people making that effort.

    I think that even when people do make an effort, the overwhelming issue is that (and I’m in the US, so I’m speaking from my own particular experience) there are structures and institutions in place that severely impact people’s dietary options and choices (if people even have a choice; some don’t). Take the USDA, for instance. And Monsanto. And other large corporations or institutions that have an impact on what food is available for people and how much it costs. I think we need to focus more on those forces and give individuals a break.

  206. zuzu
    zuzu May 11, 2011 at 11:01 am |

    If it’s okay for a cat to eat meat, and if it’s okay to have a cat as a “companion animal,” then it must be okay to kill some other animal to provide meat to feed your companion-animal cat.

  207. zuzu
    zuzu May 11, 2011 at 11:02 am |

    Also, too: this thread has now rocketed past Princess Beatrice’s hat. Well done!

    Maybe we should photoshop that hat onto the fox, and start closing in on filling the gaps.

  208. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 11, 2011 at 11:05 am |

    “Maybe we should photoshop that hat onto the fox, and start closing in on filling the gaps.”

    Can we go with the fancy butterfly hat Beatrice wore to a different wedding? I don’t know that pink would really be that fox’s color, and I don’t think we should offend its dignity like that.

  209. Florence
    Florence May 11, 2011 at 11:10 am |

    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids: Can we go with the fancy butterfly hat Beatrice wore to a different wedding? I don’t know that pink would really be that fox’s color, and I don’t think we should offend its dignity like that.

    Why don’t we let the fox choose?

  210. Alison
    Alison May 11, 2011 at 11:11 am |

    SPEAKING OF THE HAT – FYI she’s going to auction it off on eBay!

    http://j.mp/ktQC3M

    Can’t wait to see how much it goes for :)

  211. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 11:14 am |

    I can see a huge psychological difference between a person who enjoys the act of killing and a person who merely pays for and enjoys the results of that killing. I’m not sure there’s a moral difference, though. For the animal, the act is the same. If it’s unnecesary, I think you shouldn’t do it.

    As for protecting yourself from disease… I certainly would not ask people to sacrifice their own health or lives for an animal. I am merely asking people to stop consuming animals and animal products when it is unnecessary to do so. Of course, if there is a way to get the mouse out without killing him, then I think that’s the best choice.

  212. Florence
    Florence May 11, 2011 at 11:17 am |

    If it’s okay for a cat to eat meat, and if it’s okay to have a cat as a “companion animal,” then it must be okay to kill some other animal to provide meat to feed your companion-animal cat.

    Right. I had to switch my cats from a corn-based feed to a venison-based feed (which is 8000 times more expensive, but readily available due to current deer over-population) because they were having GI issues on the other stuff. It makes me bristle to think that killing my cats with corn feed is abusive by the reasoning at play here.

  213. Calla
    Calla May 11, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    Jill: Well, sort of, but not really. We’re eating meat for our enjoyment and pleasure (and for nutrition and sustenance and whatnot). We’re not, for the most part, standing around cheering at slaughterhouses. I do think there’s a bit of a moral difference there.

    I’ll give you that pigs and dogs are morally equivalent. But are all animals morally equivalent? Is it ever justified to kill, say, a rat that might be a vector of disease? A mouse in your home whose feces can cause serious health problems? A spider? A mosquito? What’s the line?

    Number 1, just because someone isn’t ‘standing around cheering slaughterhouses’ does not mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for the harm they cause. If I actively know my neighbor is torturing and killing dogs (and yes, 99% of animals used for human consumption in this country are raised in CAFOs which means they are tortured), and that neighbor is torturing and killing dogs BECAUSE I personally get enjoyment and pleasure from the result, it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m ‘cheering’ for it. If I am the reason the dogs are tortured and killed, I am not absolved of responsibility just because I did not personally do the killing.

    Number 2, All animals have the right to act in self defense. This includes humans. So, when someone is exterminating misquotes to prevent the spread of malaria to the human population, it’s no different than when a deer uses his antlers to kill a coyote who’s trying to eat him.

    You are trying to create tiers of worth in the animal kingdom. Humans: number 1 animal. Dogs and Pigs: number 2 animals. And so on down the line. But this classifications are nothing more than arbitrary. No one has yet responded to my first post where I asked WHY anyone believes humans are fundamentally different from all other species even though we evolved on the same trajectory.

    Humans have some skills that other animals don’t have, yes. The fact that I am having this debate right now is a testament to this. But cheetahs can run faster than I can. Whales can hold their breath underwater for longer. Ants are much better at construction than any human, etc. etc. The only reason we value the traits unique to humans above the traits unique to other animals is because it is beneficial for us to do so. There is no fundamental reason why having the ability to debate should be a trait valued above the ability to see clearly in the dark. If there is, I am yet to hear a convincing argument for it.

    On another note, I personally think this debate about love is a silly one. What does love have to do with anything, and who is to say how much someone else is capable of loving? Just because someone eats animals does not mean they don’t love their resident dog. The two are not equivalent. I do not cry when I hear that a human stranger died, or that thousands of human strangers died, but I cry if an animal close to me (human or otherwise) dies.

  214. Florence
    Florence May 11, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    My last sentence in #240 makes no sense. Ugh. You know what I mean.

  215. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 11, 2011 at 11:21 am |

    “Why don’t we let the fox choose?”

    Okay, but no coercing its choice by smearing one with chicken fat or something.

    “(which FYI is TERRIBLE for bird populations)”

    It really is.

  216. ACG
    ACG May 11, 2011 at 11:23 am |

    If we really are pushing the fact that humans are animals just like any others (which is true), and that we should all be respected on the same level (which is up for debate), then why do we as humans have to deny our animal nature? Calla asked why we’re right and lions are wrong–who said anyone is right or wrong? Lions think lions are most important, rabbits think rabbits are most important, humans think humans are most important. Unlike lions or rabbits, however, humans look out for other species and acknowledge their inherent value as something other than food or competition. We’re the only species (to my knowledge) that even bothers debating how rabbits should be treated.

    If my cat and I deserve the same self-determination, why does she get to eat moles and I’m expected to suppress my omnivorous nature and just eat tofu? Why should my dog get to breed to his heart’s content while I have to restrain myself out of respect for the human population and the earth as a whole? As a human, I do have the capacity to completely remove myself from interaction with the rest of the animal kingdom–but as an animal, why should I be expected to do what no other species on the planet does?

    I take ownership over my pet because they weren’t doing to well at it themselves–all three were foundlings (Harveykitten in a trash can OMGKITTYPANTS), and two of them were damn close to dying before our oppressive intervention. Were I a lion, I probably would have just seen them as food-meat, but I’m not, so I saw them as members of another species who nonetheless needed my help. We have since learned that giving them their agency now would result in the consumption of a lot of used Qtips, so we continue to exercise our oppression and hope that if they ever learn to speak, they won’t tell us how much they resent us.

  217. Alison
    Alison May 11, 2011 at 11:26 am |

    Jill: Good point. Or is it only ok if the companion animal hunts and kills his own food? (which FYI is TERRIBLE for bird populations).

    And probably also would be terrible, health-wise, for the cat – when I lived in SF, I’m fairly sure if I’d let my cat out of my apartment to roam the streets and made her live off pigeon meat, she would not have been the healthiest kitty in the town. Fleas and disease are not exactly power foods. Not to mention I lived basically in the Tenderloin…

  218. SephONE
    SephONE May 11, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    “As others have been pointing out throughout the comments, humans are animals. No one is yet to offer a logical reason why one species of animal (the human in this case) is vastly superior to all other species. It’s logically inconsistent to believe in evolution and also believe that humans are fundamentally different than all other animals.”

    Because we have internet forums. Whooo, superior beings!

  219. gretel
    gretel May 11, 2011 at 11:33 am |

    Calla: No one has yet responded to my first post where I asked WHY anyone believes humans are fundamentally different from all other species even though we evolved on the same trajectory.

    We are fundamentally different from non-humans. Look at our DNA. Or anatomy and physiology. But then again, humans are different from other humans, too. I feel like trying to debate this question will enter Peter Singer territory–with discussions of the intricate differences in the pre-frontal cortexes of various creatures–but I really don’t want to go there.

    I’ll just admit that I’m a speciesist. I care more about human suffering than I do about non-human suffering. Why? I am a human, so perhaps that has something to do with it. Also, it was how I was socialized. I know if the choice is between saving a human and saving a non-human, I’m going to save a human.

  220. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 11:34 am |

    Re:Cats
    Are we talking about an ideal world or the world we currently live in? I don’t think we should be breeding any more cats, and in an ideal world, we wouldn’t be facing this problem. In the world as it is, I think we have to feed cats meat,i.e., raise and kill animals for them to eat or (more likely) feed them the slaughterhouse by-products not fit for human consumption, as not everyone is going to go vegan overnight. Cats are our family members and our responsibility. I realize this is somewhat inconsistent and perhaps even immoral of me, but I see no other option.

  221. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 11, 2011 at 11:40 am |

    If you believe that we can kill pigs for food, when other food is available, then why can’t we kill dogs for food?

    Oh, FFS. In some places, dogs are considered food. In some places, it’s considered barbaric to eat a cow but just fine to eat a lamb, chicken, or other animals. In some places, eating a cat is a-ok.

    I’m fine with all of those things.

    On another note, I personally think this debate about love is a silly one. What does love have to do with anything, and who is to say how much someone else is capable of loving?

    It came up because someone posted about “How can you say you love animals if you eat them?” and “Can a dog owner really love his dog if he shoots him for pleasure?”

    Lions think lions are most important, rabbits think rabbits are most important, humans think humans are most important.

    THIS. Jeez.

  222. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 11, 2011 at 11:45 am |

    “We are fundamentally different from non-humans. Look at our DNA. Or anatomy and physiology.”

    Well, fundamentally different from non-primates, anyway. We do actually share a lot of behaviors and peculiarities with apes and monkeys.

  223. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 11, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    I’ve abandoned “pet” because of my commitment to political correctness. I now refer to my cats as “assholes”, “lazy sacks of shit”, “little monsters” and “money holes”. They are also “dumb asses”, and due to recent weight gain “chubsters”. I’m trying to work “lesbian shitasses” into the cycle, but they don’t read Jezebel and so they don’t get it and take offense.

  224. SephONE
    SephONE May 11, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    “You are trying to create tiers of worth in the animal kingdom. Humans: number 1 animal. Dogs and Pigs: number 2 animals. And so on down the line. But this classifications are nothing more than arbitrary. No one has yet responded to my first post where I asked WHY anyone believes humans are fundamentally different from all other species even though we evolved on the same trajectory.”

    You yourself have no convincing argument. This is a meaningless conversation, as it always was, because it’s just a back and forth with no conclusion. And no one is trying to create a tier of worth. It’s already there, top of the chain we are. Besides that, we humans sort of already have a lot to deal with.. I have no problem ranking myself above animals. That doesn’t mean I support animal cruelty or anything of the like, it simply means I have my own priorities. There’s a long history of marginalized groups being dehumanized, don’t expect positive reactions when you casually do it in this thread :\

    Also, there’s a difference between missing a point and not accepting it.

  225. Florence
    Florence May 11, 2011 at 11:49 am |

    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids: We do actually share a lot of behaviors and peculiarities with apes and monkeys.

    Like frequent, extended, social masturbation! Oh.

  226. Calla
    Calla May 11, 2011 at 11:50 am |

    @ACG, I appreciate your thoughtful comment and that you responded directly to something I said. I often find myself trying to convince A.R. activists that since humans are animals, it’s silly to than act like we are somehow removed from or above nature. This is why I understand killing in self defense. This is why I don’t think it’s a problem that we build cities. (Ants also don’t care who they kill when they build their anthills.) etc. etc.

    I agree that humans have animal instinct same as the next species. Part of our animal instinct is to reason. The level on which we can employ reason is one trait that makes us different (though not better than or superior to) than many other species Why act only on your instinct to eat an animal and not on your instinct to reason through the pros and cons of eating animals?

    The idea of ownership has been debated throughout this thread. Your cat does not own the mole they kill. Humans are the only animals who believe we have the ability to ‘own’ any other sentient being we want. Farmed animals are property. But why? How can a human own a cow anymore than a human can own a human?

    Furthermore, I do think your analysis is missing an important point about power. Dictators are capable of slaughtering all their people if they wish since they are dictators. But most of us find it morally reprehensible when they do. We think it an abuse of power. Humans are, for better or for worse, more powerful than other animal species. And like dictators, that make us capable of wielding abusive power. If you want to go outside and catch a mole with your bare hands, and eat the mole uncooked and whole, I have no problem with it. This is not an abuse of your privileged place in society.

    When there are nearly 10 billion land animals slaughtered in this country each year–animals who have been bred to the point where their incapable of defending themselves, animals who live their entire lives in intense confinement unable to turn around or spread their limbs, 90% of whom are not even subject to the humane slaughter act, none of whom are treated like animals but like unfeeling objects, and when this system of farming is responsible for more anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions than any other industry, when this industry survives solely off of the commodifcation of sentient beings (including human workers), when it has been linked to outbreaks in disease, mass pollution of waterways and air, and when it is taxing the health care system due to a directly correlated rise in obesity, heart disease and diabetes. . . Well, when this is the case, and a human chooses to support this system, when we believe it is our ‘right’ to support this system, I believe it to be a mass abuse of power.

  227. Tracey
    Tracey May 11, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    gretel: Now. Won’t someone think of the vegetables?!

    All we are saying is Give Peas a Chance!

  228. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 11, 2011 at 11:55 am |

    “I personally think slow lorises are the most important. Have you seen those things?? SO CUTE.”

    Just to warn you, it is now an Internet Thing to counter any mention of slow lorises (which are the cutest things ever, yes) with gruesome accounts of them being seized from the wild. So, uh, maybe don’t read any post that starts with “zomg how can you think those videos of slow lorises are cute don’t you know…!” if you want to keep being able to squee over them.

    “Like frequent, extended, social masturbation! Oh.”

    Bonobos are also well-known for their love of fancy hats.

  229. Florence
    Florence May 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm |

    Jill: Are we sure that other primates don’t have rudimentary understandings of ownership, and that those understandings never apply to other sentient beings?

    You can argue quite easily that animals have an understanding of possession, or “mine”, and even sometimes jealousy, which is hilarious when we cover the cats’ rat-shaped toy with catnip, or when they jostle over who gets the best spot on the couch or The One Who Brings Food’s lap.

  230. Calla
    Calla May 11, 2011 at 12:07 pm |

    SephONE:
    “You are trying to create tiers of worth in the animal kingdom. Humans: number 1 animal. Dogs and Pigs: number 2 animals. And so on down the line. But this classifications are nothing more than arbitrary. No one has yet responded to my first post where I asked WHY anyone believes humans are fundamentally different from all other species even though we evolved on the same trajectory.”

    You yourself have no convincing argument. This is a meaningless conversation, as it always was, because it’s just a back and forth with no conclusion. And no one is trying to create a tier of worth. It’s already there, top of the chain we are. Besides that, we humans sort of already have a lot to deal with.. I have no problem ranking myself above animals. That doesn’t mean I support animal cruelty or anything of the like, it simply means I have my own priorities. There’s a long history of marginalized groups being dehumanized, don’t expect positive reactions when you casually do it in this thread :\

    My point is that classifying only humans as different than other species is arbitrary. We are as different from all other species the same way that a cat, a pig, a cow, a deer, a fly, etc. etc. is different from all other species. There’s no reason that all other animals should be lumped together and we should stand separate.

    There was an article not too long ago that many scientists are pushing for dolphins to be considered ‘non-human persons.’ Other primates are respected above non-primates in countries like Spain where it’s illegal to test on any primate. Classifications are bound to shift and change over time and categories of animal/human are socially constructed. As WildlyParenthetical stated back in comment 38, “In Australia, Aboriginal people were once classed as ‘flora and fauna.’”

    That is my argument. Humans are only fundamentally different because we choose to classify ourselves in such a way. That is the only argument I’ve seen presented here, and it’s a lousy one. It’s the same argument that allowed men to classify themselves as superior to women….

    Oh, there I go again being insensitive of marginalized groups who have been dehumanized. A comparison between human animal oppression and non-human animal oppression (and FYI: a comparison is not an argument that they are the same oppression) is only degrading to the humans involved if the non-humans are, in fact, lower on a hierarchy than humans–only if it is degrading to be an animal. This creates a circular logic that makes you physically unable to see all other species as anything but lower than humans. The issue is often not dehumanization, but deanimalization–where animals (human and otherwise) are treated as though they aren’t sentient.

  231. gretel
    gretel May 11, 2011 at 12:12 pm |

    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids: Well, fundamentally different from non-primates, anyway. We do actually share a lot of behaviors and peculiarities with apes and monkeys.

    True.

  232. Calla
    Calla May 11, 2011 at 12:13 pm |

    Jill: How the heck do you know that? Are we sure that other primates don’t have rudimentary understandings of ownership, and that those understandings never apply to other sentient beings?

    Also, most other animals don’t believe they have the ability to “own” anything because they don’t have the cognitive functions to even conceive of “ownership” as a concept. So I’m not sure that makes human beings somehow ethically challenged.

    I think it is clear that other animals have the idea of ownership. Someone pointed this out directly following your comment with an example involving cats. And you’re right. Now that I think of it, some ant species do take slaves from other ant colonies. So I guess some other species (at least some ants) believe in ownership of other sentient beings.

    As you pointed out, we have cognitive functions that is much greater than the cognitive ability of most ants, meaning we have the ability to analyze whether ownership of a sentient being is a good thing. And I’ve been arguing throughout, that I don’t think it is.

  233. SephONE
    SephONE May 11, 2011 at 12:27 pm |

    So it’s not argument they’re the same oppression because you say it’s not? No, I’m gonna say it is, and I’m still gonna say that’s dehumanizing bullshit. Because you and others have presented it that way throughout this thread. You and Peta would be great friends I’d wager. Thanks /so much/ for telling me how dehumanization isn’t an issue though.

  234. Abby
    Abby May 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm |

    SephONE, most vegans I know are opposed to PETA. I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that Calla supports PETA’s ad campaigns.

    I think people have made good points about how comparing humans to animals can hurt some already marginalized humans. Does this critique really apply, though, when feminists are talking among themselves? Is there a danger that feminists are going to dehumanize women, or are analogies ‘safe’ and useful here?

  235. jennygadget
    jennygadget May 11, 2011 at 12:44 pm |

    “(well, not roaches, the movies Joe’s Apartment notwithstanding)”

    Don’t forget Enchanted.

    “But explain how replacing the word “pet” with “companion animal” will make said animal not owned in every. single. practical sense of the word, and makes people treat that animal better.”

    Exactly. Mail Carrier versus Mail Man (or, in the case of my 12 year old self, paper carrier vs. paperboy) is not only trying to change language from what was accurate (on the grand scale, if not technically), but no longer is, to what wasn’t accurate, but now is – it’s also meant to remind people of that change and make them less likely to use antiquated language as a defense against acting as if that change hasn’t already happened/shouldn’t happen.

    What actual law or act is calling a pet a companion animal supposed to change? What specific, concrete change are you arguing for that this discussion around language would remind people of? That’s the part that I don’t get. Because otherwise it’s just wishy washy and – debates about language not being something that endears movements to the general public – counterproductive.

    I mean, I can see arguing for change within certain specialized professions/communities as they develop such goals (maybe – I’m skeptical of several of the terms discussed here, but admit that I haven’t researched them much either), but several of the commenters here and the original article claim that this is about common language as well.

    (Also, I’m kinda annoyed at the idea of calling all pets companion animals, as that term makes me think of animals that are kept as companions for medical purposes, which is often very different from a typical pet. I also find the whole “differentiated being” term problematic for similar reasons as I do not actually think that many animals even come close to thinking of themselves that way, or in the case of certain invertebrates, actually act that way.)

    “It may also have something to do with my views on death. Everybody and everything dies.”

    Agreed. It’s…well…ok, I’m about to make this overly long comment even longer and potentially demonstrate that I am a bad person, but – story time:

    I was hiking the other day and a runner and I came across a squirrel – a young one, but not a a baby by any means – that was clearly in distress. Both of us desperately wanted to grab it and take it someplace safe – so cute! so sad! and strangely not afraid of us. But, well, aside from the other obvious reasons why this is not always a good idea, we were on National Park Service land. It was a National Recreation Area and not a National Park, but the general rule is still: do not fuck with the wildlife.* So, we left the poor, cute critter alone. And while I still kinda want to ask next time I’m at the Ranger Station what they want me to do in that situation, the fact is that the squirrel being in danger had (one hopes) nothing to do with my presence and everything to do with the fact that there are other predators and dangers out there. And while it was sad to watch it happen, I’m not particularly saddened by the idea of not every animal born in the wild making it to adulthood.

    So, I’m all for minimizing the hurt we inflict on non-human animals when possible, but I’m not particularly concerned with whether or not each and every one enjoys a long and full life the way I am with people. And quite frankly, my nerdy self is more interested in saving variety in species and ecosystems than individual animals. And no amount of shifts in language will change that opinion.

    So I’m not really sure why I should care if humans kill animals, so long as the purpose is to help people by providing food or getting rid of carriers of disease (or the disease itself) or finding cures for diseases or even just re-establishing bio-diversity in the face of invasive species or fixing previous bad land use/animal control policies.

    (And now, thanks to someone bringing up Ents, I am imagining all those trees in the prescribed burn areas of Sequoia National Park crying out in silent pain…or possibly descending upon campsites en masse… :p)

    * and see, this is a time where I like this term. There are different rules for dealing with animals in National Parks compared to your local park- even when they are the same species, and there are good reasons for both sets of rules. And the animals and plants in the NP being more “wild” than the urbanized ones in my local park is one of those reasons. I can see maybe changing the terms we use for the animals that live alongside us in urban areas, but tossing it out altogether?

  236. ACG
    ACG May 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm |

    Jill: I personally think slow lorises are the most important. Have you seen those things?? SO CUTE.

    Well, yes, objectively, slow lorises are the most important. Particularly the ones with tiny umbrellas.

  237. Brittany-Ann
    Brittany-Ann May 11, 2011 at 1:06 pm |

    Lara Emily Foley:
    *say

    Wait wait wait sorry I need to do this over.

    Well you know what they say The earl bird *puts on sunglasses on* gets the worm *walks off screen*

    I absolutely and completely LOVE you for this.

  238. andrea
    andrea May 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    Calla:

    You say that A.R. activists are making assumptions by claiming cows don’t want their young taken from them, well, it is just as presumptuous to assume a cow doesn’t care if her child is taken from her. So at best, you are acting the same as the individuals you are trying to criticize. At worst, you are admitting you just don’t care at all what happens to the cow because you don’t think they deserve any agency. . . but haven’t explained why they don’t deserve agency.

    I never said they don’t deserve agency, so I’ll thank you not to put words in my mouth. If you scroll up, I was the one suggesting that we think about whether animals have intrinsic value outside of how they benefit humans, thankyouverymuch.

    I was simply arguing that we don’t know what they are thinking, either way, and that it’s presumptuous to assume they relate in the same familial patterns that humans do.

  239. Crystal
    Crystal May 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm |

    gretel: But if you buy an animal, then you are an owner. It’s more a term describing the transaction, in my opinion. As opposed to someone who fosters, for instance. Or someone who feeds the neighborhood cat every now and then. It’s not as though the animal someone purchased chose to live with them. I think if you start saying “companion animal” it implies the animal had a choice in the transaction.

    That’s sort of the point. From an animal rights perspective, you shouldn’t be buying animals. If you buy an animal, it’s from a breeding facility and you’re ignoring all of the healthy animals at animal shelters. Just as people do not own people, as men do not own women, people do not (or should not) own animals.

    Personally, I don’t mind the animal-based adjectives but I think we should do away with words like vermin/pest.

  240. Do I Feel Like a Cow? – Thoughts about Non-human Female Mammals | Eve Bit First

    [...] happy little post inspired by, you guessed it, another comment on Feministe. I found the whole thread pretty problematic – it’s chock full of people mocking animal [...]

  241. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth May 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm |

    I’m a wildlife rehabilitator (oh, excuse me, “free-living” rehabilitator) and I’ve got two baby red foxes right now. Both are very smart, and very sly. Yeah, I said it. They are SLY.

    However, I will disagree with the term “blind as a bat,” because bats aren’t even close to being blind. :-)

  242. gretel
    gretel May 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm |

    Crystal: That’s sort of the point. From an animal rights perspective, you shouldn’t be buying animals. If you buy an animal, it’s from a breeding facility and you’re ignoring all of the healthy animals at animal shelters.

    I understand that perspective, but many shelters charge an “adoption fee” (yes, I spend far too much time looking at animals I’d love to adopt), so what you’re saying is not necessarily true. I understand that the fee is a different than paying to buy a pure-bred dog, or whatever, but it’s still a fee.

  243. WildlyParenthetical
    WildlyParenthetical May 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm |

    SephONE:
    So it’s not argument they’re the same oppression because you say it’s not? No, I’m gonna say it is, and I’m still gonna say that’s dehumanizing bullshit. Because you and others have presented it that way throughout this thread. You and Peta would be great friends I’d wager. Thanks /so much/ for telling me how dehumanization isn’t an issue though.

    First of all, I’m so not a PETA fan. But second, the question here is actually about why dehumanisation works: why is it that declaring someone less than human means that you get to treat them badly? That concept is premised on the idea that humans have the right to treat animals badly; that’s why dehumanisation means bad things can happen to you. The point here is that the only reason humans believe that is because they make the distinction between human and (nonhuman) animal, and then fiddle the human/animal line til some humans are in the category that lets them be abused, oppressed, discriminated against, and whatever else we think attends ‘dehumanisation’. Challenging that line – asking why it’s there, on what grounds, and what it functions to support – actually strengthens the case for social justice of various kinds. Well, I reckon, anyway.

  244. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm |

    @PA

    YES! And yes she is. She’s adorable.

  245. ACG
    ACG May 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    I paid a fee to adopt Dave (and had to have a home visit), and the other shelter dogs we’ve been looking at recently have had fees. But is the exchange of money really what defines “ownership”? If you buy one necklace and inherit another from your great-grandmother, you still own both. And if I were to go buy a dog from a pet store right now, I’d feel that my ownership of my theoretical new pet-store dog, my rescue dog, and my two foundling cats would be the same, regardless of whether or in what manner money changed hands. They are at once my property, my companions, my responsibility, my entertainment, and occasionally (embarrassingly) my anthropomorphized kids, but they’re still mine.

  246. Florence
    Florence May 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm |

    ACG: I paid a fee to adopt Dave

    Dave! Lulz. People names for pets are the best.

  247. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. May 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    Florence: Dave!Lulz.People names for pets are the best.

    Then you’d probably enjoy Madison Abigail [His Last Name] (I lost the coin toss).

  248. Calla
    Calla May 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm |

    Abby:
    SephONE, most vegans I know are opposed to PETA. I don’t think it’s fair to conclude that Calla supports PETA’s ad campaigns.

    True that.

    SephONE:
    So it’s not argument they’re the same oppression because you say it’s not? No, I’m gonna say it is, and I’m still gonna say that’s dehumanizing bullshit. Because you and others have presented it that way throughout this thread. You and Peta would be great friends I’d wager. Thanks /so much/ for telling me how dehumanization isn’t an issue though.

    It’s not an argument that they’re the same oppression because I never said they were the same oppression. If I compare the oppression of slaves to the oppression of women under misogynists, this is not saying they’re the same oppression. You have proven my point about being unable to escape circular speciesist logic in your own response here.

    andrea: I never said they don’t deserve agency, so I’ll thank you not to put words in my mouth.If you scroll up, I was the one suggesting that we think about whether animals have intrinsic value outside of how they benefit humans, thankyouverymuch.

    I was simply arguing that we don’t know what they are thinking, either way, and that it’s presumptuous to assume they relate in the same familial patterns that humans do.

    I would thank you not to put word into my mouth as well. I never claimed to ‘know what a cow is thinking.’ But the same way I can get an idea of when my resident cats are hungry, sick, etc., humans can understand the basic feelings of cows.

    I don’t personally think it is presumptuous to assume a cow wants to nurture her own young when 1, that’s what she would naturally do. 2, She moans when the calf is taken from her. 3, the chemicals released by mother humans that have been linked to bonding with young are released by mother cows. Evolutionarily speaking, why would this chemical work that drastically differently in a cow than in a human?

  249. emma
    emma May 11, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    Jill:
    Also, totally serious question: Why is it ok to neuter animals?

    Because about 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year in the U.S. alone. I do agree that it’s presumptuous to assume we know what is in the best interest of domesticated animals, but I think we can all agree that being alive is in their interest.

  250. ACG
    ACG May 11, 2011 at 4:32 pm |

    Florence: Dave!Lulz.People names for pets are the best.

    Dave is the dog, and the cats are Harvey and Stinkybutt Kitty. Stinkybutt Kitty is, of course, also a people name.

  251. Brett K
    Brett K May 11, 2011 at 5:24 pm |

    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids:

    Just to warn you, it is now an Internet Thing to counter any mention of slow lorises (which are the cutest things ever, yes) with gruesome accounts of them being seized from the wild.So, uh, maybe don’t read any post that starts with “zomg how can you think those videos of slow lorises are cute don’t you know…!” if you want to keep being able to squee over them.

    It is awfully sad what happens to them, though. For one thing, the pose they make (with their arms outstretched) when they’re being petted or tickled is actually their bodies shutting down out of terror. I know, this totally ruined like 90% of YouTube for me.

    Speaking of which, this thread has raised kind of an odd question for me: is it okay to feel differently about primates than about other animals? I have no problem with dogs, cats, hamsters, etc. as pets, but the thought of someone having a primate (like a slow loris) as a pet is kind of horrifying for me. A lot of that has to do with the horrifying circumstances under which primates are captured to be pets, but I think that, for me personally, it has more to do with the fact that primates are so similar to humans. Is this hypocritical?

  252. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 11, 2011 at 5:51 pm |

    I also had to go to Cat Class.

    !

    So…what did you learn there? The importance of letting Kitty have the best, most comfy, right-in-line-with-the-television spot on the couch? Of not making your bed, so Kitty can smoosh himself in your comforter and blankets? That you are a degenerate if you don’t immediately get out of bed at 4:00AM to feed your starving Kitty? How to give proper belly rubs? How it doesn’t matter if twenty pounds of Kitty is on your chest when you’re lying down, because it’s Your Duty to pet him (and let your body provide him with the requisite belly warmth)? How to grow a proper pot of catnip? Managing the grocery store budget so as to allow for ample purchase of kitty toys? How uncouth it is to take wanted pillows and/or blankets (or your jacket) from underneath a lounging kitty? How yelling and throwing pillows at your cat, who is methodically knocking items off your dresser at 4:00AM in an attempt to get you up and pouring the cat food, is totally unacceptable behavior? How books, newspapers, magazines and laptops are the bane of kitty existance? Which brands of cat food have the best taste? How to sigh gently while saying, “aww, that’s ok” when faced with cat puke? The detestable human practice of keeping dogs, and why you should never engage in it?

    (I mean, that’s how my cat Max would run the curriculum. Frankly, I really like dogs. Max…..really doesn’t.)

  253. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 11, 2011 at 6:50 pm |

    Calla: My point is that classifying only humans as different than other species is arbitrary. We are as different from all other species the same way that a cat, a pig, a cow, a deer, a fly, etc. etc. is different from all other species. There’s no reason that all other animals should be lumped together and we should stand separate.

    Well, there are a few reasons. Some better than others.

    Humans have culture. Humans have ethics. Humans have history and law and language. All of that makes us, as a species, different than any other species.

    It doesn’t make sense to talk about giving another species all the rights that humans have, because no other species has the cognitive and expressive ability to exercise those rights in the ways that humans, as a species, do.

    Should we grant other species some protections from violence and abuse? Yes, we should. We do now, but we should do more, IMO. But protections and rights aren’t the same thing, and there are sound clear reasons to reserve the concept of “rights” for humans.

  254. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm |

    “It is awfully sad what happens to them, though.”

    It is–I don’t think anyone would argue it isn’t, especially as cute as they are–but there’s not a whole lot we can do about it aside from not provide a financial incentive to keep the trade in them alive, which nobody here was going to do anyway for other reasons.

    “That concept is premised on the idea that humans have the right to treat animals badly; that’s why dehumanisation means bad things can happen to you.”

    …you do realize that treating a human like a really well-treated animal to whom nothing bad ever happens is still inherently abuse, yes? A person who’s denied agency does suffer from being denied agency even if the person controlling them has nothing but their best interests at heart and acts with the utmost care and concern.

  255. sherunslunatic
    sherunslunatic May 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm |

    By the way, if you have the stomach for it, the horror movie Grace is a really interesting examination of veganism, gender, and mothering.

  256. Andrea
    Andrea May 11, 2011 at 10:48 pm |

    Calla: True that.

    It’s not an argument that they’re the same oppression because I never said they were the same oppression. If I compare the oppression of slaves to the oppression of women under misogynists, this is not saying they’re the same oppression. You have proven my point about being unable to escape circular speciesist logic in your own response here.

    I would thank you not to put word into my mouth as well. I never claimed to ‘know what a cow is thinking.’ But the same way I can get an idea of when my resident cats are hungry, sick, etc., humans can understand the basic feelings of cows.

    I don’t personally think it is presumptuous to assume a cow wants to nurture her own young when 1, that’s what she would naturally do. 2, She moans when the calf is taken from her. 3, the chemicals released by mother humans that have been linked to bonding with young are released by mother cows.Evolutionarily speaking, why would this chemical work that drastically differently in a cow than in a human?

    I also didn’t say you said we could know what they were thinking. I said we couldn’t, but I never claimed that YOU said that we COULD. Ugh this is ridiculous.

    If you read my original post, I also mentioned that I’d never been around cows, so I don’t know how they behave around their young AND IF THEY DID, then I was wrong.

    I also didn’t say it wasn’t natural for cows to nurture their young. I said we don’t know that they relate to their young in the same way we do, emotionally. We can make educated guesses, yes and based on evolutionary patterns we can deduce that they bond, but it’s still an assumption to see bonding animals in a human context. Whether it’s a correct assumption or not.

  257. zuzu
    zuzu May 11, 2011 at 10:57 pm |

    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids: It is–I don’t think anyone would argue it isn’t, especially as cute as they are–but there’s not a whole lot we can do about it aside from not provide a financial incentive to keep the trade in them alive, which nobody here was going to do anyway for other reasons.

    Well, if more people knew the reality of how they were treated, there might be less demand for cute videos of them on YouTube, and that might decrease demand. Financial support isn’t the only kind; you gotta watch the market-creation end.

    I mean, there are a lot of families who adopted a Dalmation because they saw a movie, and that didn’t turn out well.

  258. Jill
    Jill May 11, 2011 at 11:02 pm |

    Given Florida’s recent law, maybe we need to differentiate between “animals” and “humans” more clearly:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/11/floridas-bestiality-law_n_860836.html?fbwall#s277665&title=Josh_Chambers

  259. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 12, 2011 at 12:21 am |

    This thread is fanTAStic, y’all. I’ve been dying the entire time! :D

    I want to ask, regarding the “humans don’t have to eat meat/pleasure vs. necessity” arguments… what about medicine and medical research? Humans don’t have to try and cure cancer right? So does animal testing fall under “necessity” or “pleasure”? Not dying of cancer is awful fun, but animals suffer for it. And what about the hierarchy of lab animals… first you try something in mice before you start on non-human primates, and test it in humans last, for example. Should that kind of practice (valuing mice less than monkeys, and both less than humans) be abolished in the spirit of animal equality?

    I think most people would support medical testing on animals, eve if they are vegan (or whatever)… so I’m not sure how that fits in with animal personhood. If we’re okay with some uses of animals, and some middle-ground between “pet” and “vermin”, then we’re already compromising our morals a little bit and now we’re just negotiating how far we are willing to do so. How do we rank medicine above food, or can we? And if so, we have to rank animals as well — no matter if we call our lab rats “scientific research collaborators” or what.

    (Also, OMG you must see this adorhorrible video of two young chinchillas in brutal wineglass captivity! Shocking stuff. D: http://youtu.be/Fzl34XsslKg )

  260. ch
    ch May 12, 2011 at 3:17 am |

    @Bagelsan, not really. From what I gather, animal testing is even more of an animal-rights bugbear than veganism, and I know several people who are not vegans who are still adamantly opposed to testing on animals (I, personally, support it). Also, much of the animal rights propaganda on this ignores all that stuff about, you know, cancer, and acts like scientists are just torturing animals for their own sadistic pleasure or all animal testing is cosmetics testing or something.

  261. WildlyParenthetical
    WildlyParenthetical May 12, 2011 at 3:21 am |

    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids:

    “That concept is premised on the idea that humans have the right to treat animals badly; that’s why dehumanisation means bad things can happen to you.”

    …you do realize that treating a human like a really well-treated animal to whom nothing bad ever happens is still inherently abuse, yes?A person who’s denied agency does suffer from being denied agency even if the person controlling them has nothing but their best interests at heart and acts with the utmost care and concern.

    Yes, of course. And I tend to think that there’s injustice in treating queer people as straight, or straight people as queer, too, for example. In the end, though, this is partly about how we conceive of ‘equality’: I think that enormous violence and injustice occurs when we hang on to the equality-as-sameness story. So, I think that agency means very different things in different contexts, even amongst humans. It’s why, for example, there’s such a strong critique of the dependent/independent dichotomy in relation to disability, which is so often used to deny PWD agency (basically: the idea that any of us is fully independent is a fantasy that obscures a lot of thereby-devalued labour done by, for e.g., women, those of the working class etc, but it also allows the assumption that the dependence of those with disabilities is the grounds for denying them various kinds of agency.) The critique suggests that *different kinds* of independence are different articulations of agency, and require different supports (just as all independence does). My point here is that difference doesn’t need to be grounds for hierarchy, as is implied in ‘dehumanisation’ (and I think it’s hard to make the argument that dehumanisation hasn’t been about rendering people less than human so that they can be abused).

    Acknowledging difference? For sure! Totally down with that – it’s the grounds of social justice, for me. It’s why I think that to talk about ‘animal rights’ (I’m actually very wary of all ‘rights talk’) requires a reconceptualisation of what rights means, in ways I’m not convinced AR people always do, and which makes them open to the critique of anthropocentrism. (That said, the accusation of anthropocentrism is being used a bit on this thread to suggest that because we can’t know how animals feel, it’s okay to continue doing all the things AR activists protest, which as Andrea and Calla – who I think actually agree, but I might be missing something – are pointing out is a bit strange).

  262. Fido
    Fido May 12, 2011 at 5:34 am |

    Woof, woof woof woof.

    Arf arf arf, yelp.

    Howwwwwwlllllll!!!

  263. tree
    tree May 12, 2011 at 5:43 am |

    Calla: And when I bleed once a month, I don’t morn the loss of my eggs either. I’m not saying that if I were to ever have a child, I would treat that child the same way hens treat their chicks, but that an egg is not the same thing as a chick in the least.

    Anyway, a study earlier this year did show strong evidence that hens empathize for their chicks. http://www.livescience.com/13135-hens-show-empathy-chicks.html

    true! i ought to have clarified that i meant fertilised eggs upon which said hens are supposed to be sitting in order for those eggs to hatch and bring forth tiny fluffy baby chickens. in my time as caretaker of said chickens i witnessed A Certain Chicken cannibalising her own eggs. we yelled, “isabella, no!” but alas ’twas too late.

    she also later completely ignored her own chicks post-hatching and it was up to her sister, henrietta, to teach them how to peck and other chicken-y stuff. gosh they were cute.

  264. preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids
    preying mantis, president-elect of all mantids May 12, 2011 at 6:08 am |

    “Financial support isn’t the only kind; you gotta watch the market-creation end.”

    The market is more or less what I meant when I said financial support. Unless there’s some weird fund soliciting donations to fund the continued seizing of slow lorises from the wild, filming them doing adorable things, and then putting it on youtube. Which is possible, I suppose. I mean, maybe it’s a hipster thing I just haven’t heard about yet. It’s the sort of asshole thing I wouldn’t put past them at this point.

    Anyone who’s actually stopped to think about it for two seconds should be pretty sure that these animals aren’t coming from a breeder in Des Moines or Yorkshire or *insert in-country locality of choice here*. They’re being seized from the wild for the private pet trade which, even if it weren’t traumatic for the animal, is fucked for countless other reasons and ought not to be supported.

  265. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 12, 2011 at 9:00 am |

    I have no problem with dogs, cats, hamsters, etc. as pets, but the thought of someone having a primate (like a slow loris) as a pet is kind of horrifying for me.

    I don’t have a problem with domesticated animals who are used to being with humans being kept as pets–dogs and cats (non-feral) are just fine for pets. As are some hamsters and fancy rats, etc.

    But I get really irate at people who get wild animals (or the offspring of wild animals) and keep them as pets. Slow lorises are adorable, and if you keep them in your home you are making them miserable. That asshole in NYC who had a tiger in his apartment did the equivalent of keeping someone in a closet for the better part of their childhood and young adult lives. People who keep chimpanzees and call them their babies and dress them are not only being unfair to their friends, family and neighbors (if/when the chimpanzee gets aggressive, which they do when they mature), it is unfair to the chimpanzee. Who should be out in the wild with other chimps.

    I get agitated when people keep servals as pets because damn–yes, they are beautiful wild cats, but they are wild, they bond quite strongly with whoever they are raised with (either other servals or people) and bond quite strongly with the area they are raised in. So you can’t relocate one easily–and this poor cat is SOL if the person can’t afford to keep them, if they can’t handle the serval, or if they have health issues or die.

    I mean look, I’m no animal rights “animals are just like us” type, but FFS, it’s kind of twisted that some people do this. It’s so disrespectful to these wild animals. Especially when there are plenty of dogs and cats in shelters that need homes.

  266. Nahida
    Nahida May 12, 2011 at 9:13 am |

    I would still use medicine tested on animals. I wouldn’t use cosmetic products (makeup, shampoo, etc.) tested on animals, though, and that’s what the vast majority of animal testing is for.

  267. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 12, 2011 at 9:20 am |

    Sheelzebub: People who keep chimpanzees and call them their babies and dress them are not only being unfair to their friends, family and neighbors (if/when the chimpanzee gets aggressive, which they do when they mature), it is unfair to the chimpanzee. Who should be out in the wild with other chimps.

    There was a great documentary/reality series a few years back called Escape to Chimp Eden, about a Chimpanzee sanctuary in South Africa. It documented exactly what you’re saying — that chimpanzees should never be kept as pets — but also showed the flip side.

    Because once kept as pets, chimps can’t just be returned to the wild. They don’t have the skills. So the folks who run the sanctuary have to work with them to help teach them skills, keep them healthy and well-fed, manage the dynamics that emerge among them, etc.

    As a matter of law, the sanctuary owns those chimps. As a matter of ethics, the sanctuary limits those chimps’ autonomy in some serious ways. The sanctuary is surrounded by an electrified fence. When chimps arrive, they’re kept in quarantine cells for months before being allowed to roam the grounds. The process of collecting chimps from their original owners often involves drugging and crating them, and so on.

    All of which, it seems to me, is a pretty good microcosm of the complexities of this whole debate. There are very few places in the world where humans and non-human animals don’t interact at all, and given that, the question often winds up being not whether we should impose ourselves on them, but how. How do we create a world in which the legitimate needs of humans and animals are all, to the extent possible, respected?

    A lot of (not all of, but a lot of) the policy preferences of the animal rights crowd make sense to me, but I arrive at them from a very different theoretical orientation.

  268. Allison
    Allison May 12, 2011 at 11:15 am |

    I want to keep my dog from voting because he’s anti-choice.

  269. Elisabeth
    Elisabeth May 12, 2011 at 11:44 am |

    When I read this post, my first thought was, hee! Jill must be looking to beat out “filling the gaps” as the most commented upon post.

    Bagelsan, et. al.
    I used to work in a lab where we had a poster that had a photo of people protesting animal testing, and underneath it said, “thanks to our testing on animals, these people have 20.8 more years (or whatever the exact number) to keep protesting.” I always kind of liked that.

    In general though, to experiment on animals, you have to take an ethical and humane treatment of animals class, where you learn how to avoid inflicting any unnecessary pain or suffering on animals. You also have to go through a pretty strict application to do an experiment, where a panel of judges decides if your research is worthy enough and if animal testing is actually necessary, and if it is necessary, that your experiment is being conducted as humanely as possible. If your experiment will inflict pain, you need to have a damn good reason it does, otherwise you won’t be allowed to do it. It’s not like anyone in a lab coat can order a chimpanzee and torture them.

    But anyways, whenever anyone claims emphatically “but people are animals!” I always think of “Discovery Channel” by the Bloodhound Gang…”you and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals…”

    Also, there is a way to get around our specieist, kingdom-ist language: the term “carbon-based life form.” Like, “ooh, I love it when carbon-based life forms chase their own tail!” You don’t have to thank me too profusely for solving the specieist language problem.

  270. Florence
    Florence May 12, 2011 at 11:55 am |

    Allison: I want to keep my dog from voting because he’s anti-choice.

    BAD DOG.

  271. Brandy
    Brandy May 12, 2011 at 3:47 pm |

    Regarding animal testing: I can’t speak for all vegans, but personally, when I say I’m “against” animal testing, I mean that I’m against using it when there are alternatives available that do the job as well. I also think that the organizations that test on animals have a responsibility to seek out new methods of testing, and to make sure that the animals they do use are treated humanely.

  272. Brandy
    Brandy May 12, 2011 at 3:50 pm |

    That said: there are people out there who say things like “why test on animals when we have prisoners to torture?!?!?!” and that is fucking horrifying.

  273. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 13, 2011 at 12:54 am |

    Actually, i think most vegans are against animal testing. But not so against it that they’ll refuse to reap the benefits of it — i.e., I don’t think vegans refuse to use any medicine that was tested on animals, or that contains animal byproducts. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think vegans still get (and get for their kids) the MMR vaccine, flu shots, etc.

    I guess that’s more what I was getting at; not many people would turn down life-saving heart surgery, or refuse necessary insulin, despite both of these things stemming from the use of dogs in medical research. I’m just giving them the benefit of the doubt by assuming that people who are saved by animal testing support it — though I suppose you can never overestimate how hypocritical people are. :p Everyone’s like “where the fuck’s that cure for cancer, stupid scientists??” and then turn around and whine about the darling lab mice (and cut funding for the NIH…)

    My point is more that most people (including vegans) are just fine receiving medical treatment, even though it has cost many animal lives; that’s an animal sacrifice they’re okay with making. But then you get a few particularly sanctimonious people who can’t fathom choosing to eat animals, or own them, or wear their wool, as if medicine were a loftier reason to kill animals than food and shelter. Ideologically it’s exactly the same — at some point human lives trump animal lives, though everyone squabbles about where exactly that point is.

  274. Spot
    Spot May 13, 2011 at 5:45 am |

    Fido: “Woof, woof woof woof.

    Arf arf arf, yelp.

    Howwwwwwlllllll!!!”

    Arf, arf, arf? WOOF! WOOF WOOF!!!
    GRRRRRRRRRR
    Yip, YIP, WOOF-WOOF-WOOF, Grrrrrr

    GRRRR

    Yaaaawwwwnnn…

  275. Puggins
    Puggins May 13, 2011 at 9:31 am |

    I sympathize with animal rights groups to a certain point- I’m not a vegetarian, and I’ll probably never be one, but I certainly believe that even animals that will eventually wind up in my stomach should be treated humanely. I understand and respect the viewpoint of those who don’t believe in eating animal products.

    But I don’t understand why someone with a basic understanding of modern society would release a statement that is so divorced from current thinking that it would serve to undermine that person’s core mission. There’s more attention being directed to these recommended guidelines than there has been to the meat processing/animal slaughtering industry in years (or EVER).

    And no, not all attention is good attention. When you’re the butt of a thousand jokes from both sides of the aisle, you’ve just just marginalized your voice THAT much more.

  276. Emily
    Emily May 13, 2011 at 11:26 am |

    Jill:
    Also, totally serious question: Why is it ok to neuter animals?

    Another totally serious question: Why is it ok to own animals as pets?

  277. rae
    rae May 13, 2011 at 6:24 pm |

    This thread is hilarious and I’m definitely enjoying all the good-natured feminist self-parody.

    That said, substantively I’m actually on the animal rights side here. A few scattered thoughts:

    - I understand the concern that animal rights raises the question of fetal rights, but there is a really big difference between the two, namely bodily autonomy. The fetus is in your body, thus you have an inherent right to kill and/or eject it. The cow is not in your body, thus you do not have an inherent right to do whatever you like to it (even if you may have a situational right to do some things to it under certain circumstances, those require independent justification). Even an adult human being does not have the right to use another person’s body for life support; thus, elevating the status of non-human rights even to the point of equivalence with the status of human beings does not pose a problem for abortion rights. Also, btw, cats get abortions.

    - From both an animal liberation and anti-capitalist point of view, the ownership paradigm is problematic. While it’s true that we circumscribe the freedom of pet animals for the sake of their safety, I see that as less analogous to the way I take good car of my car because I own it and want it to stay in good condition, and more analogous to the way we care for children even though that sometimes means not letting them do exactly what they want because it’s dangerous. The idea that the animals we live with are property is disturbing to me, because I do not relate to my cat (or previously, dogs) as a possession. Our relationship is one of mutual affection (which she communicates to me quite clearly by snuggling up to me and purring) where I make sure her needs are met and protect her from doing things that could harm her (like falling off the third-floor balcony).

    - I tend to be kind of disappointed by the way vegetarianism is spoken about on this blog. For some of us, it’s not just a personal choice like eating a low-carb diet, it’s a serious ethical obligation. I don’t proselytize, and I am not rude to people who are simply consuming meat in my presence. But when the subject comes up, I am typically pretty aghast at the lack of consideration people have for the animals they eat. At the very least I think it’s important to respect for the depth and seriousness with which veg*n ethics are often held, similarly to the way you would respect someone who adheres to a religious diet out of moral conviction. It’s a sensitive subject, but I think it’s a very important one.

  278. preying mantis
    preying mantis May 13, 2011 at 6:58 pm |

    “Why is it ok to own animals as pets?”

    Is it okay if we don’t “own” them so much as “rule them with an iron fist”? Because I just imposed a crippling regressive tax schedule on the cats and don’t plan to repeal it until Amnesty International steps in.

  279. JP
    JP May 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm |

    rae: At the very least I think it’s important to respect for the depth and seriousness with which veg*n ethics are often held, similarly to the way you would respect someone who adheres to a religious diet out of moral conviction.

    What we owe others who adhere to peculiar religious practices is toleration. The claim that, instead, we owe them respect lacks serious philosophical support (as has in recent years been aptly argued by Simon Blackburn and Brian Leiter in their discussions of religious liberty). Respect, too, would be much easier to come by if the local proponents of veganism were in the habit of proffering good faith arguments, rather than surreptitiously issuing religious edicts while only pretending to engage in the sort of open discussion that is at the heart of building a moral community.

    The most dispiriting thing is, as I’ve pointed out on the other animal rights thread, that there isn’t a lack of such arguments in the philosophical literature (some developed by prominent women in philosophy). They just haven’t been offered by any of the vegans here.

  280. ans
    ans May 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |

    Jill:
    I think anyone who is not themselves a companion animal should perhaps take a step back and allow the voices of companion animals to be centered in the conversation here. I feel like we’re speaking for them and about them, instead of engaging in conversation with them about their own priorities and needs. That is not good social justice, and I find it deeply, deeply problematic.

    Surprised nobody called you out on this yet, Jill. And I know you hate that phrase but really what else is there to do. Sure looks like you’re mocking all the folks who’ve complained in the past that this blog has ignored or poorly covered their oppression and called for greater inclusion and respect for their voices? Are you not directly mimicking their language? Regardless of this particular post’s topic, this says to me that you just don’t get it (I certainly got that feeling reading through the comments on Yee’s book), in fact you resent these kinds of critiques whether they come from POC or animal lovers, and it makes all your past apologies ring rather hollow.

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