Let’s Talk About Language

Language, it’s what we’re all talking about, am I right?

Words are kind of important when it comes to communication, and it’s helpful to try and make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to language, and hopefully this will help.

I try to avoid deviating from common nomenclature, books like Cultish highlight how cultish language utilize either variations, or entirely new works (or acronyms) to help indoctrinate victims, and that’s something I’m conscious of and trying to avoid. Veganism is a social movement, not a secret club, so let’s try and use language people can relate to.

That said, there are a lot of loaded terms as well, and here’s my take on them.

Animal RightsGenerally speaking, animal rights mirror human rights, and the expectation is that similar considerations are given to ‘someone’, be they human or non-human.
Euthanize / EuthanasiaEuthanasia is the merciful killing of a terminal animal (including humans). This is when medical intervention will not save a life, and instead of suffering needlessly, they may be euthanized to shorten their inevitable suffering.

It’s important to distinguish that you cannot euthanize a healthy animal. It’s simply killing. To claim otherwise is to be speciesist (see below).
PetsThis is a pretty loaded term, and can be viewed as derogatory towards animals in our care. In a sense, it diminishes them, and furthers a speciesist hierarchy.
That said, the reality is they’re completely dependent on us, and this is the relationship we have whether we like it or not.

As far as language referring to caretakers, guardian is also nice, pet owner is frowned upon (it doesn’t seem very nice to ‘own’ another being!)

Watch for a ‘Are Pets Vegan’ blog post!
SpeciesismSimilar to racism or sexism, refers to discrimination on species.

Example: justifying animal testing is speciesist. If one is opposed to testing on humans against their will, it is speciesist thinking to try and justify this for non-humans.

Second example: ‘euthanizing’ pets at shelters. We wouldn’t kill humans at a human shelter if short on space, and it’s speciesist to somehow try and justify doing this to non-humans.

Speciesism is still deeply ingrained in our society, and even in the vegan movement. We should strive to avoid it as much as possible.

For a deeper dive take a look at the book Speciesism by Joan Dunayer.
VeganI stick with the Vegan Society definition:

“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

Hopefully we’re on the same page when it comes to these terms, feel free to share your thoughts, or post if you think there’s another term that should be included!

Edits & Changes
Here’s a log of significant changes and edits to this document.

* March 4th – post created!

Thanks for sharing!

Dave Shishkoff

Just check out the About page. =)

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3 Responses

  1. V says:

    I’m not sure I agree with the “euthanizing pets at shelters” part. The only alternative I see to euthanizing animals because there is no space, is to have put them on the street and let them slowly starve to death, or otherwise suffer. If we were talking about humans, then of course you could ask a human what they would prefer, and they might choose to be euthanised as opposed to living on the streets. Animals however, can not consent to this. Even then, in the case of a human, where the human can not consent because of decreased mental capacity or being in a coma, I would say that it is moral to euthanise them if it is almost guaranteed that they would only suffer otherwise. In that regard, I do not consider this to be speciesist as there is no difference between how an non-human animal is treated or a human.

    • I would ask the question: how many homeless people have asked to be euthanized? They can take their own lives easily enough, to be brutally honest. I think they want to live, even though conditions aren’t great.

      This description is partially influenced from my experience with other animals. They want to live. Desperately. There are so many examples of other animals tolerating the worst conditions, and giving every last bit of energy they have to continue living.

      In my own life, I adopt and care for hamsters and guinea pigs from rescues/shelters. Hamsters are incredibly persistent, and know as escape artists, not because they’re particularly bright, but they keep trying over and over to escape in various ways! That persistence also holds when it comes to living, and when my little guy Spencer, who was a senior hamster, picked up a respiratory infection, he fought so hard to keep going. He’d had a similar issue when younger, and overcame it, but sadly this time it overcame him. (And I did everything I could to help him, including acquiring an oxygen tank and making him a little oxygen chamber for relief.) I don’t know if I would have fought that hard.

      Suffering is an important part of life, and while there’s certain terminal instances, I don’t think it’s fair for us to decide for others. We see it endlessly with our own species, people in dire, often hopeless circumstances, and they don’t want to give up. (And it would be wrong to end their lives ‘for them’.)

      Even in a crowded shelter, while the quality of life may be deplorable, they still have their life, and hope of a better situation. It’s happened countless times where animals end up going from hell to a lovely home, and get to live out their lives as they deserve. There is zero chance of that if we end their lives for them.

      And it is speciesist, because we have so many situations with humans in awful conditions, and the conversation is never ‘well maybe we should kill them’. People in war-torn countries, or even overcrowded human shelters in wealthy cities – killing them to put them out of their misery is never a part of the conversation. Never. But it’s often a part of the conversation with non-humans, which is speciesism.

      If a non-human is in a coma, and it’s unlikely they’re to come out of it, then sure, just a like a human we pull the plug. But that isn’t the case with most non-humans, it’s usually also a result of our own mismanagement of our resources, and irresponsible humans, and they pay the price for it.

      That’s my take on it, hope some of that resonates with you!

  2. Matt says:

    I’m interested in that Are Pets Vegan post you mention, though I would assume you’re opinion is at least partially “Yes” given you’ve talked about having some rescue hamsters.
    For me, I really like dogs and do think that having a dog roommate could be vegan if it’s a rescue. The problem I run into is that I refuse to buy anything that isn’t vegan, and dog food usually isn’t vegan. It does seem that it’s possible to have vegan dog food, but I’ve not looked into it enough to know how legit it is. I thinking that buying any kind of animal food with animal products in it speciesism , since that’s basically deciding species can live while another cannot. While I understand that dogs and plenty of other animals need to eat other animals to live and there’s nothing wrong with them doing that, I don’t think I should be able to decide which ones live and which don’t.

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