Do you own a pet? Wait! Don’t answer yet. How you respond will say a lot about your view of life.
You see, according to Professor Andrew Linzey, director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, we shouldn’t even use the word “pet,” because the phrase is demeaning to animals. Instead, we should call a Labrador Retriever a “Companion animal.” And please, don’t use the word “owner.” That’s a demeaning term as well.
Of course, such language has its downsides. If some guy is reaching out to a canine with a temper, instead of shouting “Don’t pet the dog!” we’d have to warn, “Don’t manually stroke the companion animal!” But by the time we spit that out he could be missing a finger!
As reported by the U.K. Telegraph, Professor Linzey and his colleague, Prof. Priscilla Cohn of Penn State are quite serious. Linzey and Cohn say “We shall not be able to think clearly unless we discipline ourselves” to use appropriate language that reflects our proper “moral relations with” animals.
And what is that proper moral relation? Linzey and Cohn give us a hint. The word “owner,” they say, “whilst technically correct in law, harks back to a previous age when animals were regarded as just that: property, machines or things to use.”
Silly semantics or word games? I don’t think so. What Linzey and Cohn are suggesting is that humans and animals are equals. All of this is the result of a humanistic worldview. If we are not created by a loving God but rather evolved out of some primordial slime, then, yes, we are no more valuable than the common slug.
But we are not all equal. Humans alone bear the image of God. And animals cannot have “rights” in the way we humans do.
Should we care for animals as part of God’s creation? Absolutely! Christians have long recognized this. It was William Wilberforce, a Christian, who founded the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. But to treat them as equals or even near-equals? I don’t think so!