On Speciesism and the Relanguaging of Reality
The primary reason I wanted to blog was to point out the way our language belies our behavior when it comes to nonhuman animals. The relanguaging of reality to conjure up a contrary image used to be a mere fascination for me. But now it’s a cause for worry.
I worry that the average American doesn’t find anything odd about the phrase "humane slaughter." I worry that the concept of "ethical veal" can actually make someone feel good about eating a calf. I worry that the "lethal removal" of cougars (and read Deb for commentary and action to take), despite including the word "lethal," doesn’t cause more ire.
And when I read that some people might not want to eat veal because it comes from a baby, I find myself thinking: So you’d rather him suffer longer before you eat him?
And for those upset by the prospect of eating a baby, what about lamb? What about eggs? Here’s an educational tale that goes under the category of Too Much Information, but it’s worth telling.
INT: DOCTOR’S OFFICE
Mary is getting an ultrasound of her ovaries.
That’s a follicle, you know, it holds an egg.
(pointing to oblong bubble)
No, that. What’s that?
Oh, that’s a sac of fluid. It came from the egg when you ovulated.
Oh, so it’s like the egg cracked and that’s the egg white. Just like with eggs you have for breakfast.
Exactly. . . . Wait . . . I never thought of it that way . . . Ewww.
I’m so glad I don’t eat eggs.
It is odd that they’re called eggs, though. Amazing that we haven’t created a word that would make them sound less like what they really are. Then again, as my technician who looks at human eggs all day demonstrated, it’s altogether possible that most people aren’t connecting the idea of an egg with the reality of an egg.
I worry about the culling of birds, mushing dogs, Greyhounds, race horses, day old chickens and sea lions, as if culling them is a relief, as killing them would have been cruel.
I worry that when I speak of the enslavement of animals, people get offended, as if enslavement is a condition applicable only to humans. I worry that we don’t refer to what we do to animals as rape, when we are indeed raping them, according to several definitions.
I worry that when I comment that "what I find most unsettling is that there is no hint that bringing sentient beings into existence for the sole purpose of dominating, exploiting and slaughtering them, when there is no need to, might also be some kind of crime," someone named evie responds, "for 1 split second I thought you were speaking of humans. Yikes."
Speciesism, in addition to our propensity for wanting to turn away from the atrocious things we do, has created a jargon that is now common usage. Those who exploit nonhuman animals have been allowed to label what they do and what they "produce," and the mainstream public has lapped up and incorporated their language, thereby lulling themselves into a false sense of what it means to be humane or just.
So what can you do? Attend to the precision of your language, and clarify the language of others when you can, whether in conversation or in a letter to the editor or a producer. Yes, we could all spend entire days doing this; I’m aware of that. But we are such a minuscule minority, and we need to step up and combat the lies that have become reality for most people as they become unwitting accomplices to the multi-billion dollar business of dominating and slaughtering sentient beings and destroying the planet.