Why PETA Called Piers Morgan a Pig
This week, PETA’s senior media officer, Jennifer White, went head to head with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain to discuss the ways in which we talk about animals and why we need to change. Unsurprisingly, Piers had a lot to say – but so did we.
Here’s what happened:
Is PETA Serious?
Language matters. By applying negative human traits to certain species (i.e. by calling someone who’s a cheat a “rat”), we perpetuate stereotypes about those species that are not only negative but also completely inaccurate. The truth is that rats are extremely empathetic. Research shows a starving rat will share their food with another starving rat (can’t say the same for all humans). They are also very protective mothers.
When we use the word “rat” as a pejorative, it invariably makes it easier to justify the awful things that humans do to them: we poison them, allow them to die slowly in glue traps, deliberately electroshock them in pain studies, mutilate them in experimental surgeries, and pump everything from cocaine to methamphetamine into their bodies. Might we think twice about doing those things if, when we called someone a rat, we were referring to their generous nature or to what a great mom they are?
What about the negative traits that we associate with pigs, who are, in fact, highly intelligent and social animals? Using “pig” as an insult reinforces the myth known as speciesism, which holds that humans are superior to other animals and are therefore justified in violating them. Imagine if we referred to people with high IQs as being “smart as a pig”. Would we then think twice about eating a bacon butty?
Is PETA Policing Language?
No one is trying to stifle free speech – we’re asking people to think about the words they use and what impact they have. Remember when people used to use expressions that clearly perpetuated misogyny, like “He throws like a girl”? Most of us know now that it’s not cool and no longer use them. As we evolve, so should – and does – our language.
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Why Is It Important to Watch Our Mouths?
Joaquin Phoenix said, “It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal,” and that’s what this conversation is about. It’s so easy to use words in kinder, more respectful (and accurate) ways that don’t reinforce negative stereotypes, so why wouldn’t we?
Still catch yourself using speciesist language? Don’t sweat it! Check out this list of animal-friendly idioms to get you started.
Of course, all of us at PETA will still let sleeping dogs lie, not hurt a fly, watch animal abusers like hawks, and talk about the elephant in the room (who should be with her matriarchal herd).
Want to learn more about speciesism and how to unlearn it? Click the button below.