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One Critical Factor on How We View and Treat Animals

How we view and treat animals.

Language can have a powerful impact on how we view and treat animals. How we use language can have a powerful influence on how we perceive certain things, and those perceptions can stay with us and influence others. It is easy to disassociate ourselves from a living being when we refer to the body of a pig that is consumed for food as bacon; or saying leg of lamb rather than lamb’s leg. Animals are also used in derogatory ways when describing someone such as “she is a fat pig,” or “they were just like an animal!” or “you are a dirty dog.”

We have normalized language such as this to the point that it is not questioned. I am eating a thing, not a body; not a sentient creature who wanted a life without mistreatment and fear. The one action of meat eating dismisses an animals’ sentiency.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / Israel against live shipment

How our use of language influences the way we view and treat animals.

The place where animals raised for food live is a CAFO, otherwise known as a concentrated animal feeding operation, a far cry from the simple farm life still portrayed on milk cartons and in children’s books where everyone (including the animals) are happy and carefree. These are also known as “factory farms” which are massive confinement facilities for the meat, dairy and egg industries. Due to the millions of animals imprisoned in extremely small spaces in CAFOs, over 3 million tons of waste is produced yearly. Of course, the responsibility of the CAFOs is to manage that waste so pollutants do not enter the air, contaminate ground water, and/or runoff into and contaminate surface water bodies. Food is brought to the animals. No grazing, no raising of children, no natural interaction with each other in a factory farm. These animals are treated like products and presented that way in the marketplace. The gruesome and inhumane slaughtering process is hidden.

Photos: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals Media

California’s “happy cows” and words like “cage-free” help the consumer to separate himself/herself from thinking about the conditions animals face leading up to slaughter and to feel guiltless. The objectification and ultimate consumption of animals who are treated like objects and machines contributes to what writer Carol Adams calls animals being regarded as “being-less.”

It is worth considering a conscious revision of our language in order to realign with how non-human animals should be valued.  We are all interconnected, a part of Nature, not apart from Nature. It may very well begin on your plate and thinking who is on it rather than what.

Choose compassion.


Participate and be heard in a healing art workshop for animal/planet loss. Are you ready?