Stop Calling Animals ‘It’
Non-human animals aren’t objects, they’re someones
At its core, veganism is simply a philosophy that rejects the exploitation of animals. However, the vegan movement is full of different ideas, expanding and broadening as time passes. Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, is, in her words, “…a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things.” Intersectionality is what inspires some animal rights activists to fight for the rights of oppressed slaughterhouse workers or for expanding access to fresh produce for those living in food deserts, and allows us to make links between structural racism and misogyny and the violence perpetrated against animals.
Language is one of the next big frontiers for the vegan philosophy, and we as activists have an opportunity to influence others to change something that may seem innocuous to the average person: Referring to other animals as if they’re objects.
There’s no arguing that the way we choose to express ourselves can impact our own perception and those of our audience: so why not use language to bring us closer to animals?
Recently, a stranger asked me about my dog, Daryl, whom I adopted from a local shelter. “What kind of dog is it? It looks like a German Shepherd.” The question took me aback. “HE is probably a German Shepherd mix, but I’m not sure,” I abruptly replied. This stranger didn’t mean any harm, and her words certainly didn’t bother Daryl. But it reignited my passion for a philosophy that I adopted a long time ago: not calling other animals “it.”
By now, we all know that the way we use language can shape our ideas and culture. Parenting experts release novel-length guides to using language to bring up children, how certain words and phrases impact their perception of the world and reward systems. Linguists and psychologists have developed programs for trauma survivors that center almost exclusively on using…