Should we get rid of the word 'pet'?

Francesca Specter
Yahoo Style UK deputy editor

Four-legged friend, furry companion, faithful hound, cat baby, loveable feline – refer to your dogs, cats and bunny rabbits however you like, just don’t call them pets, advises PETA.

The comments were first made by Ingrid Newkirk, president at the animal rights charity known in full as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in an interview with the Daily Mail.

Newkirk suggested referring to animals as “pets” makes us treat them as a “commodity” rather than sentient beings.

“Animals are not pets – they are not your cheap burglar alarm, or something which allows you to go out for a walk. They are not ours as decorations or toys, they are living beings,” the 70-year-old activist told the publication.

PETA has suggested we should stop using the word "pet". [Photo: Getty]

“A dog is a feeling, whole individual, with emotions and interests, not something you 'have'.”

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She added: “How we say things governs how we think about them, so a tweak in our language when we talk about the animals in our homes is needed.

“A pet is a commodity but animals should not be things on shelves or in boxes, where people say, 'I like the look of that one, it matches my curtains or my sense of myself.”

The debate was raised again on this morning’s ‘Good Morning Britain’ show, with Senior Media Officer at PETA, Jennifer White, representing the organisation’s view.

While White stressed that the organisation was not trying to “ban” the word pet, she explained: “We’re encouraging people to use a better one”.

“We’re not telling anyone it’s offensive, we’re suggesting people could use the word companion because it means so much more,” she added.

But it would seem GMB’s viewers weren’t too sympathetic to the suggestion – with some 96.6% voting against dismissing the word “pet” in a Twitter poll circulated by the programme.

White rebutted host Piers Morgan’s suggestions that they should rename the organisation because it contains the word “pet”, asserting, “It’s an acronym”.

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PETA has hit headlines in the past for encouraging people to change their language in sympathy with animal rights issues.

Back in November 2018, they requested that the village of Wool in Dorset should rename itself “Vegan Wool”.

Also in late 2018, PETA suggested people stop using terms and phrases which are “derogatory” to animals including “kill two birds with one stone”.