People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights organization known for attention-grabbing publicity stunts, recently launched a new campaign to rid the English language of idioms that the organization regards as offensive to animals. Analogizing the matter to the use of “racist, homophobic or ableist language,” PETA claimed that replacing phrases such as “bring home the bacon” with alternatives such as “bring home the bagels” would remove “speciesism” from daily conversations.
PETA posted a list of allegedly offending phrases with PETA’s preferred alternatives as well as flash cards to be used in educating school children in the use of “animal friendly language:”
As reported by several outlets (here, here and here), the reaction on social media was swift and caustic. While many of the tweets and other comments found the initiative to be either humorous or absurd, others found the comparison to racial, gender and disability discrimination to be offensive.
This attempt at re-engineering English came in the wake of several recent and controversial initiatives by PETA that have been reported:
♦ PETA officially requested that Issigeac, a medieval village in the French province of Dordogne, change the name one of its streets — Rue de la Saucisse, which translates into “Sausage Street” — to something more “vegan friendly.”
♦ PETA requested that the village of Wool, located about 200 km southwest of London, change its name to “Vegan Wool” and apparently offered “cruelty-free” woolen blankets to the 2000 inhabitants if they agreed. What PETA apparently did not know is that the village name comes from the ancient word “welle,” meaning well or water spring.
♦ PETA purchased a billboard in San Jose, California, with the image of a woman with an “egg face” and with the statements: “Face it — you can’t claim to be a feminist and still eat eggs. … Eggs and dairy are a product of the abuse of females.” The egg billboard followed PETA billboard ads last summer in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia bearing the message that “meat interrupts your sex life.”
To return to animal-based idioms, while these antics might be dismissed by some as falling into the categories of “bats in the belfry” or “crazier than a road lizard,” it is more likely that they are “crazy like a fox.” Despite the social media ridicule, PETA managed to generate a great deal of publicity for its issues.