by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 28
January 2021
Response
14:05

Does calling a man a pig perpetuate human supremacy?

Using animals as insults reinforces speciesism, according to PETA
by Peter Franklin

Have you micro-aggressed a sloth lately? Or a snake, or a rat, or a chicken? If so, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) would like to have a word with you.

According to their new campaign, “using animals as insults perpetuates speciesism”. No, I’m not making this up — this is what they’re actually tweeting out:

There are further tweets in the thread, containing such snippets as “snakes are clever, have family relationships, and prefer to associate with their relatives.”

Most commendable, I’m sure — but speaking about animals using human categories of moral worth is dangerous thread to be pulling on. After all, should we think any less of a species that practices cannibalism or infanticide? The answer is no, because only humans are morally responsible for our actions or able to make moral choices. It’s what makes us human.

PETA insists that “calling someone an animal as an insult reinforces the myth that humans are superior to other animals & justified in violating them.” But, clearly, humans are superior to animals — and that is precisely why we should not abuse them.

In any case, our zoological idioms have very little to do with our violations of the natural world. For a start, we use some animal names as compliments (e.g. lion) or terms of endearment (e.g. duck), but does that doesn’t stop us from killing the actual animals. Similarly, the use of animal names as insults is not the reason why we ill-treat them. For instance, we subject pigs to the horrors of factory farming not because of our distaste for swine, but because we like eating pork. As for the poor old sloth, it’s not a metaphor that’s driving it to extinction, but habitat destruction.

The PETA campaign is not a special case limited to animal rights activism, but illustrative of a much wider trend. I don’t just mean the use of woke terminology, but something that applies across all shades of political opinion — and that is the idea that we can change the world by changing our words.

The language we use is important; but it’s not all-important. As Alfred Korzybski put it, “the map is not the territory” and “the word is not the thing.” And yet politics is increasingly constructed around narratives that are unsupported by reality. Just look at the paper-thin claims of the ‘stop the steal’ campaign in America or the empty words of the EU’s vaccine policy.

Growing concerns over government effectiveness or economic productivity should begin with a long, hard look at the cult of comms. The post-modern obsession with language at the expense of reality is a universal solvent, undermining the ability of campaigners, politicians and businesses to actually get things done.

We need to shift the focus of our culture away from talk and back to action. So, with apologies to PETA, let’s stop rabbiting on.

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Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

they have descended into self-parody.

Jerry Jay Carroll
Jerry Jay Carroll
1 year ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

That happened a long time ago. No sensible person pays any attention to PETA. The media does because they are good for a laugh.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

I was walking along a footpath a couple of weeks ago and a big dog jumped up at me. The owner said to the dog, “You silly girl, what have I told you about jumping up at people?” Should she have said ‘girl’? Surely, ‘b****’ was more appropriate?

ian.walker12
ian.walker12
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Why did she call you people? Is your preferred pronoun they? 😁

Su Mac
Su Mac
1 year ago

Thank goodness for some reasoning power! Attributing human moral qualites to animals, like being a family lover to snakes is indeed ” a slippery slope”and displays the educational level of a child frankly. I suppose the meaning of the word “superior” is key here but yes – we are superior to animals, that is why we should not abuse them. We know better and we don’t need to. Speaking as a 30 year pescatarian.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago

While this may seem like a silly argument by PETA we do have to keep an eye out for possible (intended?) consequences. Just last year New Zealand granted ‘personhood’ to its Whanganui River, a landmark of tribal import. With the way things are going at the moment, is it not inconceivable that personhood eventually be extended to animals? This, of course, would tie in wonderfully with the aims of animal rights and vegan activists who no doubt would love to include the consumption of meat as one more item to add on the West’s rapidly growing list of ‘hate crimes’.

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian Dorsley

Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

stephen f.
stephen f.
1 year ago

Reading through all of the responses to this, I am reminded of an event that I worked at the US Capital (yes, that one) on the west lawn, with 10s of thousands in attendance. It was a PETA rally in the late 90’s. Many famous actors and musicians were there, and some philosophically minded persons, who-I am not making this up-had a serious discussion from the podium regarding how a person is a “species-ist” if when noticing a drowning rat and drowning baby, they automatically dive in to save the baby. They also had shirts that read “fishing is murder”. This all pre-dates the woke, twitter, etc. These people have always been nuts.

Judy Simpson
Judy Simpson
1 year ago
Reply to  stephen f.

I almost didn’t believe what you said about the drowning rat and the baby, but then I realised, you can’t make this stuff up.

Stephen Tye
Stephen Tye
1 year ago

“Calling someone an animal as an insult reinforces the myth that humans are superior to other animal” – that’s not a myth.

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
1 year ago

This is how crackpot movements go mainstream. It just takes one or two journalists to start a discussion along the lines of “amusing and wacky but do they have a point?”.

The social media hordes who love to parade their humane and caring natures (preferably at no cost to themselves) will latch onto the latest opportunity for conspicuous goodness. Demands for changes in the law of the land will surely follow. A type of language casually used by the unthinking masses will be banned for its corrosive ability to ingrain prejudice.

Stephen Murray
Stephen Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  Kiran Grimm

The concern of PETA about calling humans by animal names is surely a joke? Must we also stop calling dogs by human names? Down Bruce, Charlie, boy, Skipper, etc. etc? Why does society tolerate these nutters, just for laughs, perhaps?

Kiran Grimm
Kiran Grimm
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Murray

Other woke campaigns may have looked like a joke at first ““ until the fanatical righteousness of the campaigners turned the cause into a litmus test of a person’s moral worth. Laughter then becomes an offense.

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
1 year ago
Reply to  Stephen Murray

PETA are deadly serious about this – and seriously stupid.

Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
1 year ago

God I love how formerly borderline but reasonable organizations like PETA have gone off the woke deep end. They are now hilarious parodies of themselves. Monty Python could never have been so funny! Amnesty International has gone off the woke deep end as well. Instead of protecting Saudi journalists (a noble cause) they are after the “inhumane” treatment of prisoners in places like Canada, where they have internet, TV, enough food to make them obese, and enough conjugal visits to produce a large new generation of prisoners. At least their craziness has narrowed down the choices of where to direct my charitable contributions.

Paul Melzer
Paul Melzer
1 year ago

Certainly no surprise here: animals use “humans” as an insult.

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Melzer

You obviously got that straight from the horses mouth
(Mr Ed, perhaps?)

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

This makes me sound like one of the Woke brigade but they have a point. I have often wondered why we compare people to animals as an insult when the animals have done nothing to deserve it.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

maybe we expect more out of people given humans’ ability to act beyond instinct. I suppose we could use “sub-human” for such individuals, but this mostly exposes the bankruptcy of various activist campaigns. If THIS is your hill to die on……..

David Hartlin
David Hartlin
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

While calling humans animal names can be insulting to animals there is some basis to it.When a man is as indescriminant as a dog about where he puts his d**k,,he’s a bit of a dog.

Alex Camm
Alex Camm
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I am sure they are deeply offended

ck.harding
ck.harding
1 year ago

Tough luck, PETA, I don’t like it when people swear, either, but that’s their choice. Enough with people trying to compel (or repress) other people’s speech. As for the animal epithets, I give you William Shakespeare:

A pox o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!

John Jones
John Jones
1 year ago

I see.

So calling a man a “pig” is an insult to….the animal, not a sexist term directed at men?

This is the logic of the terminally woke.

Richard Pinch
Richard Pinch
1 year ago

I think it would be a mistake to assume that when PETA say something like this they are less than fully aware of the amount of publicity it generates for them and their cause.

Su Mac
Su Mac
1 year ago

I also like the quote at the “the map is not the territory” and “the word is not the thing”. Shame he had to chuck in the dismissive Stop The Steal reference at the end for no good reason…🙄

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

When I was walking along and this big dog jumped up at me the owner said to the dog, “You silly girl, you know I’ve told you not to do that.” Surely she should have said ‘b***h’.

Keith Payne
Keith Payne
1 year ago

It might be pertinent to point out that humans are animals: h**o sapiens. Whether we are superior to all other animals perhaps depends upon ones definition of superiority.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
1 year ago

This is a weird one I know. I eat meat. I buy from a local farm where animals are treated well, I pay a lot and I don’t have much. I don’t object to eating animals, it’s what animals do, but I do object to torturing animals of keeping them in cages. I loathe using the animals we eat as insults, cow, pig, chicken, sheep. It seems to demean them. Lots will say ‘if you’re eating them why does it matter?’ but I think animals eating animals is part of nature. Animals degrading animals isn’t.

That said I’m quite happy to call people snakes or lionhearted (that’s a compliment).

Iliya Kuryakin
Iliya Kuryakin
1 year ago

Not long before they’ll be banning James Cagney movies then.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago

Presumably, the notion that humans are supreme in relation to animals is used in the context of power and in particular the power to kill or imprison.

However, in terms of other abilities, humans are not always supreme and quite often are inferior especially when unassisted by technology.

On the animal name calling front, who actually uses those insults anymore.

Walking the Talk is more supreme than Talking the Walk whatever species you are. But it is funny how humans do seem to do a lot of the inferior option.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
1 year ago

What does PETA recommend as alternatives for “mink” and “vixen”?

Pierre Pendre
Pierre Pendre
1 year ago

I’m sure PETA are pathetically grateful to Peter for being the only person on the planet to take them seriously.

Dennis Boylon
Dennis Boylon
1 year ago

Peta has been around for decades. Nobody pays attention to what nonsense they say. Just desperate to get on the woke train… although that movement has lost its “luster”.