…hold on to your butts, as Samuel L. Jackson says in Jurassic Park. It means they also want to change the way we think about something. To wit, the editors of a new publication called the Journal of Animal Ethics want us to go all PETA, according to a press release issued via the Religion News Service:
A call for a new “animal language” has been made by some of the world’s leading animal ethicists who say words like “pests” and “vermin” send out the wrong message and even our most common terms such as “pets” and “wild animals” need updating.
The editors of a new Journal of Animal Ethics (JAE) published this month by the University of Illinois Press say derogatory words like “pests” and “vermin” should be dropped altogether and “pets” replaced by “companion animals”, while “wild animals” should be termed “free living or free ranging animals”.
“Despite its prevalence, “pets” is surely a derogatory term both of the animals concerned and their human carers. Again the word “owners”, whilst technically correct in law, harks back to a previous age when animals were regarded as just that: property, machines or things to use without moral constraint … In addition, we invite authors to use the words “free-living”, “free-ranging” or “free-roaming” rather than “wild animals”… For most, “wildness” is synonymous with uncivilized, unrestrained, barbarous existence. There is an obvious prejudgment here that should be avoided.”
I’m sorry, but when I hear about “free ranging animals” I think inevitably of this shtick by Bill Engvall:
One of the ways that you know people have taken up the burden of civilization is that they begin the process of giving up living in a state of nature. Another way to put that is that they leave behind what we could call, for lack of a better expression, a Darwinian struggle for survival of the fittest, and adopt ways that protect the weak. By that definition, wild animals are, indeed, uncivilized, and more power to them. Just don’t expect me to to speak in a way that pretends otherwise.
What this is about is seeking to convince human beings that they are of no more consequence, no more importance, and in fact no different, morally speaking, from the rest of the animal kingdom. I will buy that when someone convinces me that animals are capable of thinking and acting morally, rather than simply on instinct. And I continue to call rats and cockroaches “vermin” as long as cats call mice “dinner” (assuming PETA can’t find a way to convince felines to all become vegetarians).
(Hat tip: Joseph at Methodist Thinker.)
UPDATE: Just had a thought. There’s a certain ambiguity in the name of this new periodical. Is it to be a journal of human ethical thinking about animals, or a journal of animals thinking about ethics? If the latter, the editors are going to have a hard time finding a translator, since this guy not only couldn’t, sing, he’s dead:
UPDATE: I understand Chuck Colson has linked to me at his BreakPoint commentary on this same story. Welcome to all of you who have come from his column.