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Sometimes, dictionaries need updating.
In their definitions for certain animals, widely used dictionaries still include harmful, inaccurate slurs that are meant to insult humans.
For example, the definition for “pig” includes “a dirty, gluttonous or repulsive person.” An alternate meaning for “snake” is listed as “a treacherous or deceitful person,” and a “dog” can mean “a despicable man or youth.”
Such definitions make people think of animals as dirty and stupid, for instance, and are inaccurate. They also fuel speciesism—a belief that humans are superior to all other animals.
Calling humans various types of animals is meant to sting, yet it should be a compliment. Pigs, for instance, are intelligent, lead complex social lives, and show empathy for others. Snakes are smart and family-oriented. Dogs have personalities as varied as those of humans.
Words matter. Perpetuating the idea that animals are sly, dirty, or heartless or that they have other negative traits desensitizes people and paves the way for the normalization of cruelty to animals.
Dictionaries have the power to create a more inclusive world by labeling harmful animal-based slurs as such or removing them from definitions altogether.
Please join us in urging The American Heritage Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary, and Dictionary.com to take action now!