PETA to AP: Don’t Refer to Animals as ‘It’

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By: E&P Staff

The animal activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has written a letter to Norm Goldstein, the editor of the AP stylebook, asking that the book be changed so that pronouns referring to animals always be “he,” “she,” and “who.” AP responded by noting that the stylebook only uses “it” and “which” if the animal’s sex has not been established and the animal’s name is unknown.

PETA says that in a society that is recognizing animals rights more and more, the pronouns were what animals “deserved,” and the letter from Anna West, Director of Written Communications, noted that many magazines had already made the switch. The legal system, as well, recently elevated animals to a status beyond “property,” and now holds that abusing animals is a crime worse than vandalism.

“The public now recognizes that whales, who sing across oceans; great apes, who share more than 98 percent of our DNA; sheep, who can recognize as many as 50 faces after not having seen them for two years; and pigs and chickens, who can learn to operate switches in order to control heat and light in factory-farm sheds, are feeling, intelligent individuals — not objects,” the letter states. “Our language should reflect this.”

AP spokesman Jack Stokes pointed to the current AP stylebook guidelines, saying that the news organization already does what’s being requested. “It’s very specific,” he said.

Below is the exact wording of the “animals” entry in the AP book:

“Do not apply a personal pronoun to an animal unless its sex has been established or the animal has a name: The dog was scared; it barked. Rover was scared; he barked. The cat, which was scared, ran to its basket. Susie the cat, who was scared, ran to her basket. The bull tosses his horns.

“Capitalize the name of a specific animal, and use Roman numerals to show sequence: Bowser, Whirlaway II.

“For breed names, follow the spelling and capitalization in Webster’s New World College Dictionary. For breeds not listed in the dictionary, capitalize words derived from proper nouns; use lowercase elsewhere: basset hound, Boston terrier.”

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