Horse in profile.

Watch your language! Horses are not “its”

FROM THE EDITOR

Horse in profile.
Horses are not “its”. They are living, breathing, feeling, sentient beings, and should be referred to as such, not as inanimate objects.

Horses are not its. Nor is any animal.

Inanimate objects are its. All animals, including horses, are living, breathing, feeling, sentient beings and should be referred to as such.

Let us be mindful to always use proper language when referring to horses, and all animals, using he, she, his, her, who and so on.

What difference does it make? A lot. Language shapes perception which in turn signals acceptability as to treatment. For example, you kick a ball; you do not kick a dog.

Those who exploit animals, especially for slaughter purposes, are very clever at manipulating public perception by referring to animals as inanimate objects, or its.

They also use other subtle but misleading and potentially dangerous terminology. In the case of horses, the pro-slaughter movement use such phrases as “unwanted” horses versus “homeless” horses, and horse “processing” or “harvesting” versus horse “slaughter”. This is a blatant attempt to divert public attention from what they in fact do — brutally kill horses for their meat — to something that sounds less offensive, more acceptable to the human ear.

However, this does not have to do with just slaughter horses. All horses are routinely referred to as its. Just about any modern day article or report you read involving horses refers to them this way. I also notice that people who comment on blogs and in various social media — people who love horses — refer to them as its.

Interestingly, when researching horse issues in newspapers and magazines of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, I notice that horses are always referred to as he, she or who. When did this desensitizing use of referring to horses as its begin?

It unclear when it began, but what is clear is that it is time we give them their just and proper reference. It is time we give horses, and all animals, the respect they deserve as living, breathing, feeling, sentient beings.

So remember. Watch your language! Horses are not its.

10 thoughts on “Watch your language! Horses are not “its””

  1. Yes Claire wouldn’t it be nice to be called by a proper name all of the time what an ideal world…..And if I’m not mistaken don’t people in France eat horse meat ? The thing we Americans don’t lack is our love for our Horses…The Izzy’s and Lilly’s and River’s , and all of the names we choose to call our four-legged family members….As I said earlier the only “IT’S” and people not worthy of names are the kill buyers, the “IT’S” that slaughter and the “IT’S” that eat our friends…..Who cares about what’s proper in the English language….Focus on helping STOP SLAUGHTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  2. Thanks Claire. Yes, we do have that issue in English. Interestingly, calling horses he or she was never an issue until recently. They seem to have become “its” — as all animals have — in the last decade or so.

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  3. I love your sentiment and agree that if you know the sex of an animal it is appropriate to say he or she, but when you don’t know the sex of an animal or a bird or a fish, it is grammatically correct to refer to them as it and yet not to denigrate or degrade the animal.

    I don’t find ‘it’ offensive yet I do find ‘she’ offensive when the animal or the person actually has a name, so equally we should refer to people and animals by their names and not just he or she. But of course if you don’t know the animal’s name but do know their sex, he or she is perfectly reasonable.

    ‘Horses’ for courses I think they say.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. The point of the article is not based on sentiment or being grammatically correct. It is about manipulating perception by objectifying a species through speech. Animals are not inanimate objects; they are not “its”.

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      1. You would love the French language then, every object is categorised masculine or feminine, something that the English lacks and which I have to explain to my students often much to their dismay.

        All the best.

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  4. I have always followed this practice. In fact, it’s never occurred to me to refer to an animal as an “it”. I blogged on a related subject in regard to using terms like “harvesting” or “processing”. Thank you for broaching this subject. Language choices are essential as guideposts to moral decisions and behaviour, especially when a social, political or any other cause is being foregrounded. The same type of linguistic obfuscation was used in the war when human beings were referred to as “cargo”, “product”, etc. The “harvesting of human organs” is a similar solecism. As a former language teacher, I say that all sentient beings must be respected by those of us other sentient beings who use language. Those who control language control minds, and language is a dangerous thing in the hands of the malevolent. Thanks, Vivian.

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  5. I am so glad to see this has resonated with people. Like all of you, I cringe when I see horses referred to as its. Such as in horse races, “it” broke “its” leg and had to be euthanized. No, he broke down during the race, and died. There are so many examples. Thank you for taking the time to leave your thoughts here.

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  6. THANK YOU!! Finally brought to the public’s attention! Whenever I read anything pertaining to horses and they are referred to as an “it,” I go ballistic and always make note of it. Any animal is NOT an “it” nor a “thing.” Yes, animals are sentient beings. A she or he or baby….and with names, if known. The “harvesting,” “processing” of horses is “telling.” Those pro-slaughter know horses are treasured by the general public and horrified they are S-L-A-U-G-H-T-E-R-E-D!! (((SLAUGHTERED))), i.e., BUTCHERED!! (ALIVE.) Do you ever read cattle, pigs, chickens are “harvested,” “processed?” All animals are sentient beings with more emotions, cognitive abilities than is recognized, even though research is proving more and more. Sentience is not acknowledged because animals cannot speak a recognized language. But they do let us know, they speak with their eyes and their cries. Again, *Thank You<3

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  7. Thank you for bringing that to everyone’s attention…….When one refers to an animal as an it they don’t seem to think they have as much importance….Example It was slaughtered instead of she or my mare Sally was slaughtered the two sound very different…..But really the people that are kill buyers and the people if you can call them that could really care less if there is a name attached to a horse or a face….They them selves are the IT’s…..To me they are the ones who are nobodies for doing what they do!
    They have choices not to purchase horse to kill and the it’s that work at slaughter houses have a choice to choose something different…..The many wonderful horses the he’s and she’s DON’T have a choice!

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