One of the first things I learned as a new vegan is that the preferred term for a household pet is “companion animal” rather than “pet”. The reason being is that the word “pet” implies ownership and ownership implies three things: possession, hierarchy and property, with property being an inanimate object; a thing.
What I also recently learned is that animal cruelty laws under the Criminal Code of Canada are currently listed under “Willful and Forbidden Acts in Respect to Certain Property”. This means that animals, from household pets to livestock, are considered property under federal law. Kind of speaks volumes to the level of importance we have animals on, doesn’t it?
The people in Alberta are looking to change that. Last month, on Sunday April 27, a rally took place outside the Legislature building to bring attention to the proposed federal Bill C-232 which seeks to remove animal cruelty laws from the property section of the Criminal Code. This would allow for tougher sentencing to those “owners” who abuse animals. According to the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, not much in regards to animal cruelty laws have been updated since the Criminal Code was first written in 1892.
I know there are many people with household animals who see their pets as companions and equals, not beneath them in any way. I think the effort to try to change how companion animals are referred to is not just about the words themselves but to challenge the many of us who have been raised with the view that a pet is something to own (which is certainly evident in the Criminal Code). Even though I wish “companion animal” rolled off the tongue a little easier, I do see the difference in how that phrase suggests a different relationship versus “owning a pet”. It can mean the difference between someone being under your care and something being under your control – two very different attitudes and approaches in how we relate to animals.
To read more about Bill C-232 or to sign the petition, click here.