So I was wondering what the explanation is for differentiating between sentient and non-sentient beings and this not being speciesist? Are there distinctions between human rights and animal rights, and is this consistent with distinctions between animal rights and plant rights?
If any ARA activists could give be some background that would be great. It sounds to me that there are some distinctions based on capabilities, like sensitivity to pain, etc. With all this debate about calling cops pigs I would think that capabilities, like ability to understand English or perception of tone, would differentiate between the ethics of language use against humans and animals.
Theres a lot of this comparison "would you call a woman cunt if she was not around". Personally I do not think there is anything wrong with saying any of these words in a vacuum, its the social context that makes them empowering or oppressive. In other countries negro is not considered disrespectful, but here it is because people link it to the long bloody history of racism. Obviously with people you should call them by what they desire to be called, calling someone who identifies as Cherokee and Indian is no different from repeatedly calling someone by the incorrect name. The first time maybe there is a mistake or misunderstanding, but repeated use is just disrespectful. The second concern is that a degrogatory name is linked to disdain, and the meme is passed around and affects the thought of others. Using a slur with other people, even if none of them are of the offended group, just spreads this speech and idea and affects their speech and actions.
That being said, I think the capabilities of animals do not make this very applicable. An animal cannot distinguish between pet and companion animal. None of the names we use with animals were adopted by them, and almost all of the words came out of oppression. Do you think people developed and said the word pig out of love? No, the words comes from a time when pigs were killed, maimed, captured, and domesticated. Should we abolish the use of the words pig, swine, and sus domestica? No, that would be silly. Besides it is possible to decouple the oppressive thinking from the word. I think most animal metaphors are decoupled, I definetly would not think of lice when someone says lousy, and I would hardly envision a wolf as I wolf down my food. We call cops pigs because they get pissed off, not because we specifically mean harm to pigs.
In addition to the animals probably not giving a shit what they are called, it really seems that our language isn't linked to the slaughter of pigs. Pigs are eaten because of a long-standing tradition of pork consumption, and they have been bred to be food. People don't eat pigs because they were compared to cops. People don't treat male cows any differently just because railroad police are called bulls. People dislike leeches because they try to suck our blood, not because we associate them with manipulative companions. Some mental associations are harmful, the popular notions of sharks or snakes has certainly led to a lot of killing, but a word like loan shark seems fairly removed. Some human slurs are becoming decoupled, people will use idiot without meaning or taking offense to those with profound mental retardation (although retarded or schizo are obviously still hurtful). If anyone can get offended, that should be avoided. Just like if anyone can experience pain, that should be avoided. If we are going to distinguish between capabilities of suffering or sentience, cant we distinguish between capabilities of language.