PETA is calling on the online resource Dictionary.com to reject speciesism by revising its outdated definitions of “animal.”
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) October 22, 2019
PETA sent a letter pointing out that humans are also animals and asking that the dictionary change its definitions of the word to reflect that. We noted that the current definitions foster a divide between humans and other animals that fuels speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview that often leads to discrimination and denigration of the “other.”
Dictionary.com has a responsibility to provide accurate and comprehensive definitions that serve people and don’t mislead them.
Dictionary.com incorrectly defines “animal” as “any such living thing other than a human being.” Animals are not “things”—they’re living, feeling, sensitive individuals just like anyone else. When it comes to all the important experiences that make up life—such as feeling joy, having loved ones, or suffering—we’re all animals.
Another definition of “animal” at Dictionary.com is a “brutish or beastlike person,” which is also problematic. Sure, we like that it alludes to labeling animals as people, too, but it’s unnecessarily derogatory. Words carry immense power. We must stop using language in ways that demean and attack already vulnerable populations.
The words that we use have the power to influence those around us. We internalize their meanings—whether consciously or not—and act upon those meanings in the real world. We now know that all animals have the ability to reason, have their own forms of communication, and can solve problems by means that we can’t always understand—yet many still suffer terribly at human hands.
Viewing nonhuman animals as little more than research tools, food, fabric, or entertainment is speciesism, and it has devastating effects on billions of living, feeling beings.
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