There’s a time and place for euphemisms. When you don’t want to tell your dinner guests you have explosive diarrhea, you likely opt for “my tummy is upset”. At work, chances are that mass firings will be referred to by management as “downsizing”. I once had a boyfriend who was almost permanently “in between jobs” which was an alternate way of saying “My girlfriend has to work her ass off twice as hard”.
Though when applied sparingly, and gracefully, they are useful tools for helping us take the uncomfortable edge off of an otherwise pointy truth. They pleasantly obfuscate. They create a nice distance between the speaker and the reality in question.
But when it comes to the suffering of other animals, humans have developed a sickeningly extensive vocabulary of euphemisms. This linguistic distancing is proof that the human psyche is simply not built to handle the way we treat animals.
I want to create a running list that focuses on these euphemisms. I’ve got a small list started below. It’s far from complete, as the ways in which humans obscure the details of animal use are seemingly endless. Add your own as comments in this post, and I’ll add them to the overall list.
“euthanized” (rarely is this term used to describe animals who have had their life ended for unavoidable medical reasons)
What other reason is there for employment of these sorts of terms, if not because we are empathetic individuals who are (deep down) ashamed of what we are complicit in? And how come the institutions that use the word ‘humane’ are almost without exception, doing things that are undeniably inhumane? It’s reasonable to conclude that euphemisms like these are nothing more than security blankets to people, whose consciences no doubt routinely whisper: “Are you really comfortable with this?” We’re not comfortable with it. And the animal-use industries knows it, so in addition to hawking their goods, they offer us metaphorical security blankets, intended to soothe us into complicity. Ditch the blankets, people! I ditched mine, and I’ve never slept better.