PETA calls on Dictionary.com to change definition of 'animal' because its 'speciesist'

Bonnie Christian
Cattle roaming in the New Forest as livestock owners in the area have been asked to de-horn their animals to help prevent injuries to members of the public following a rise in injuries to walkers in the last year: PA

Animal rights organisation PETA is calling on Dictionary.com to change its definition of the word “animal”, claiming its current one is “speciesist”.

In a letter sent to the site’s CEO Elizabeth McMillan, the group's executive vice president Tracy Reiman urged for a new definition that reflected humans are animals too.

First published on Newsweek, the letter says: "Currently, the first definition for 'animal' begins, 'any member of the kingdom Animalia.'

“But the second definition incorrectly states, '[A]ny such living thing other than a human being.'

(Dictionary.com)

“This distinction implies that humans are not part of the animal kingdom, although we are.”

Dictionary.com lists "animal" as a noun with six definitions, including "any such living thing other than a human being," "an inhuman person; brutish or beastlike person," and "thing."

The letter continues: "The fifth definition, '[A]n inhuman person; brutish or beastlike person,' gets it partially right, since animals are people, too, but it's a derogatory definition, as 'brute' and 'beast' are given a negative connotation.

“Finally, further defining animals as a "thing" (definition six), making them sound inanimate, only deepens the false divide between humans and other animals and helps fuel speciesism, the misguided belief that one species is more important than another.”

The letter concludes that the site can give “animals the respect they deserve” by “reminding readers that humans are animals, too.”

The Standard has contacted PETA for comment.

In 2018, Dictionary.com hit back at a chart posted by PETA suggesting people stop using phrases that portrayed animals negatively.

The chart suggested swaps such as “feed two birds with one scone” rather than “kill two birds with one stone”.

In response, Dictionary.com tweeted: “Metaphor. A figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable,” and later tweeted its own tongue-in-cheek phrase swap chart that suggested how to “stop using anti-word language”.