People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is now asking that we all stop using the term “pet” to refer to animals. The president of the organization, Ingrid Newkirk said this week that “pet” is a derogatory term, and also said that animal owners should be called “guardian” instead of “owner.”
Newkirk released a statement to PEOPLE Magazine explaining her group’s position:
“Referring to an animal as a ‘pet’ or as ‘it’ reduces a sentient being with a personality and emotions to an inanimate object—a possession to be used in any way the “owner” wishes. Contrary to some reports, we are not seeking to ban these words; we’re simply suggesting that it would be more respectful to refer to the animals in our homes as ‘animal companions’ and ourselves as their “guardians” in the same way that all social movements concerned with cultivating respect have made appeals to stop using terms that are racist or sexist or that otherwise imply that the subject is less important than the speaker.”
A PETA spokesperson appeared on the daytime talk show “Good Morning Britain” on Monday to talk about the word usage.
“A lot of people at home who have dogs or cats will call them pets and refer to themselves as owners and this implies that the animals are a possession, like a car for example,” White said on the show.
“When you refer to animals not as the living beings as they are but as an inanimate object, it can reflect our treatment on these animals.”
The New York Post has more details on the appearance:
The crux of White’s argument hinged on her belief that referring to an animal as a “pet” creates a “perception” of that animal being disposable — a point she tried backing up with a seemingly non-related point that people who are gifted pets for Christmas return them to shelters by January because “the novelty has worn off.”
Naturally, those appearing alongside White – including “Good Morning Britain” hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, and publicist Nick Ede – had opinions.
“You’re trivializing all the work [PETA has] done by basically trying to change a name,” Ede started.
“I am an owner because I bought my dog and I own it,” Ede continued, equating the term “owner” with “ownership” and the idea that to own something means “having some kind of care for something and taking responsibility.”
At the end of the interview, Morgan asked White if they’ll be changing the name of the organization because PETA has “pet” in it.
“I think you’re missing the point,” she responded.