Calling Other People “Pigs” and “Dogs” as an Insult Belittles Animals’ Talents and Abilities, Too, PETA Says
For Immediate Release:
October 8, 2018
Audrey Shircliff 202-483-7382
Norfolk, Va. – Today, PETA responded to Twitter’s call for feedback on a proposed new policy that would prohibit users from posting tweets containing “dehumanizing language” with a letter wholeheartedly endorsing the policy, but for two reasons, not one.
PETA notes that using expressions that suggest that humans are gods, and that it is somehow demeaning to be compared to lesser mortals, meaning other living beings—who, it turns out, have emotions and can cope in their own worlds without soiling the environment or waging wars (or calling someone “a pig” or “a dog,” for example)—is supremacist and speciesist. To attempt to disparage fellow human beings in that way has repercussions that extend far beyond the hurtful intention of the words, including normalizing violence against animals and desensitizing people to their suffering.
“The words we choose and the way we phrase things influence how humans and nonhumans are regarded and treated,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “Given that it’s a biological fact that we are all animals, PETA urges people to stop using language that denigrates others who happen not to be human, and we commend Twitter for doing the same.”
PETA’s motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way.” For more information, please visit PETA.org.
PETA’s letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey follows.
October 8, 2018
Jack Dorsey, CEO
Dear Mr. Dorsey,
I am writing on behalf of PETA and our more than 6.5 million members and supporters worldwide to commend you for your policy prohibiting language that is used in an ignorant, derogatory way to attempt to debase human beings. This is perhaps a bigger and more socially pressing area of discussion than you may yet realize.
PETA has always worked to urge people to stop using language that is meant to hurt the feelings of others or that denigrates those who happen not to be human. We hope to break the bad habit of calling animals it” instead of “she” or “he,” as if they were objects and something rather than someone. We are pleased to see that Twitter is working to stop hate speech and the prejudices that accompany it, including sexism, racism, bigotry, and, we hope, speciesism.
Hurling insults such as “pig,” “snake,” or “dog” is unacceptable on two levels. It is meant to sting—never mind that people who have spent time around pigs know that they are intelligent animals who lead complex social lives and show empathy for other pigs who are distressed. They have rescued drowning humans and alerted their guardians to fires. Snakes are clever, have rich family lives, and prefer to associate with relatives rather than with strangers. If taken many miles away, they can find their way back to their habitat, even if it takes them two years. Dogs have personalities as varied and distinct as those of the humans who adore them. They can understand some 400 words of human languages simply from paying close attention to us. We speak not one word of their language.
Our words matter, and our language can have profound repercussions—for both humans and nonhuman animals alike. Using phrases that trivialize cruelty to animals—such as “I don’t have a dog in this fight”—or making animals the target of our derogatory language desensitizes the public and paves the way for cruelty as well as the normalization of violence against animals.
Today, well-read people and many others recognize that animals, including our own species, are thinking, feeling individuals capable of experiencing joy and suffering, love and grief, fear and courage—and our language must evolve to reflect this. We appreciate the conversation that you have started about this important issue.
Very truly yours,
Ingrid E. Newkirk