Companion Animals

Don't 'Own' a 'Pet'

I have no problem with owning a pet. But I do have problems with human carers of companion animals.

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Chuck  Colson

Do you own a pet? Well if you say you do, you are a purveyor of prejudice. At least that’s what some so-called “leading academics” are saying.

You see, according to the Rev’d Professor Andrew Linzey, director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, we shouldn’t even use the word “pet,” because the phrase is demeaning to animals.

Instead, we should call a Labrador Retriever a “Companion animal.”

And please, don’t use the word “owner.” That’s demeaning to pets -- I mean, to companion animals -- as well. Instead, call yourself a “human carer.”

Ay-yi-yi. What’s another phrase for a “leading academic”?

Of course, such language has its downsides. If some fellow is reaching out to a canine with a temper, instead of shouting “Don’t pet the dog!” we’d have to warn, “Don’t manually stroke the companion animal!” Of course, by the time we got the words out, the poor man could have lost a finger.

As reported by the U.K. Telegraph, Professor Linzey and his colleague, Prof. Priscilla Cohn of Penn State are quite serious. And they have a point: The language we use can shape the way we think.

Linzey and Cohn say “We shall not be able to think clearly unless we discipline ourselves” to use appropriate language that reflects our proper “moral relations with” animals.

Ahh. And what might the proper moral relation be? Linzey and Cohn give us a hint. The word “owner,” they say, “whilst technically correct in law, harks back to a previous age when animals were regarded as just that: property, machines or things to use.”

They even object to the term “wildlife.” Linzey and Cohn “invite authors to use the words ‘free-living’, ‘free-ranging’ or ‘free-roaming’ rather than ‘wild animals’”

Why? Because, they say, “For most, ‘wildness’ is synonymous with uncivilised, unrestrained, barbarous existence. There is an obvious prejudgment here that should be avoided.”

Of course, what we’re seeing here is Linzey’s and Cohn’s own prejudgment -- that Humans and animals are equals.

And that’s a perfectly natural conclusion if you hold to a secular, materialistic worldview. As I’ve said many times before, if we humans are nothing more than a random collection of atoms that evolved out of the primordial soup, then, yes, we are no more valuable than the common ground slug.

But the equality -- or near equality -- of animals and humans is a view that is creeping into the Church as well. The Telegraph says that Professor Linzey is a theologian who was awarded “an honorary degree from the Archbishop of Canterbury for his work promoting the rights of ‘God’s sentient creatures.’”

But we are not all equal. Humans alone bear the image of God. And animals cannot have “rights” in the way we humans do.

Should we care for animals as part of God’s creation? Of course. Christians have long recognized this. It was William Wilberforce, after all, who founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. But to treat them as equals or even near-equals? Never.

I’m with Linzey and Cohn on this: Words are important. Which is why you’ll never catch me stroking a companion animal.

Further Reading and Information
When They Start Changing Words
David Fischler | The Reformed Pastor | April 27, 2011

Calling Animals 'Pets' Is Insulting, Academics Claim

John Bingham | The Telegraph | April 28, 2011


To those Looking for Equality between Animals and
Look, I've loved every dog I've ever owned. They never went on vacation with us. They never went to the vet except for the occasional shot. They were taken for walks, ate, played and played catch. When they were near death, they needed to be put to sleep. That wasn’t cruel. Wanna know why? They were just pets! What's next? Marriage rights? Pet ... er ... companion divorce? And what's this nonsense about wild animals! A bear is a wild animal. Try having a meaningful dialogue with one if you happen to have an occasion where it's trying to eat you. I'd be willing to say that those looking for animal equality may question their beliefs about 10 seconds after they are run down by a wolf pack ... or a pack of hyenas (gottta be equal). Humans are humans and animals are animals, period. I figured that out in kindergarten and haven't looked back.
Words Important
"...Which is why you'll never catch me" using the word 'gay' [which most Christians swallowed whole-hog from the beginning]. mikesnow.org
Get off your high companion animal!
Paul, relax. There is a point to be made here and you are missing it.
Mr Colsen obviously has a lot more homework to do on this topic. Linzey never says animals and humans are “equals”, but that there are no “morally relevant differences” that would justify ill treatment of one and not the other. (The Argument from Marginal Cases) Also, it is totally inappropriate to identify Linzey's position with “a seculare, materialistic worldview.” Linzey is clearly a Christian theologian. Thirdly, while SOME Christians “have long recognized” our biblical duty to care for animals, the BULK of conservative Churches are still blind to the extent to which the world treats animals instrumentally as mere commodities to be poached, traded, and sold as mere material for financial gain. It is this reduction of sentient souls (nephesh) that violates what Linzey calls “Theos rights.” Fourthly, most Christians (even clerics) have no clear idea what constitutes the “image of God” in humans, nevertheless, that is irrelevant to how we ought to treat animals in THIS life. Human freedom gives us meta-natural options that are not available to other creatures—including the choice not to harm and abuse them for the sake of commerce. Do yourself (and us) a favor, Chuck, and read books by Linzey and Norm Phelps in DEPTH.