18 February 2017
- We must change the language we use to discuss the killing of other species. It’s well known that the language we use to refer to nonhuman animals (animals) can be used to hide or sanitize the often rather egregious ways in which we use, harm, and kill them. Words such as euthanize, dispatch, harvest, and cull are frequently used to refer to instances in which people with different motivations and intentions, kill healthy animals, usually “in the name of humans.” It’s about time these polite words are changed to the harsher word, murder, because that’s what it really is. However, time again, others and I are told that only humans can be murdered, because that’s the way legal systems view killing other-than-human animals.
Two recent essays in New Scientist magazine in which the word “murder” is used in the title to refer to nonhumans caught my eye, and got me to revisit that restricted use of the word. The first, by Veronika Meduna called (in the print edition) “Murder most foul,” centers on New Zealand’s goal of killing all animals they call pests by 2050. The title of the online version of Medua’s essay is called “The great extermination: How New Zealand will end alien species,” and only accessible to subscribers. What’s important here is that the word “murder” is used in the print edition to refer to humans killing nonhuman animals.
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