• Becci Pigeon

'Who', not 'what': Groups urge Associated Press to use proper pronouns for non-human animals

Are animals a 'what'...or a 'who'?

A couple of months ago we wrote a post on the importance of language choice when discussing non-human animals and their rights. In it we mentioned (among other issues) the necessity of referring to animals as 'she', 'he' or 'they'--never 'it'--as well as 'who', not 'what'.

Now, an impressively long list of more than 80 activists and scholars involved in the animal liberation movement have signed onto an open letter from In Defense of Animals requesting that the Associated Press update their Stylebook recommendations for non-human animals. Currently, these recommendations are incredibly limiting, only applying the appropriate pronoun of 'who' to animals who have been named or whose sex is known.

It is a brief letter but a rich one, and I absolutely suggest giving it a read.

Mass media, which defaults to this guide in particular, has a great influence on our perception and therefore has an enormous responsibility to portray nonhuman animals as precisely as possible. This is especially true considering the overlap of nonhuman animals and social justice issues that are being increasingly covered by journalists.
Yet the current references to them as it, that and which reduces individual nonhuman animals deserving of our understanding, respect and protection to mere objects to be owned and exploited for utilitarian purposes.

Learn more about the campaign at Animals Are Not Objects or check out Chicken or Broiler, Cow or Steer, Owner or Guardian: Liberating the Language of Animal Abuse from United Poultry Concerns and Opinion: Animals Deserve Gender Pronouns, Too from NPR.

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