Monday, December 14, 2009

Please Don't Call It Euthanasia!

Euthanasia: the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy. (Webster’s 10th Collegiate Dictionary).

The vast majority of animals killed in pounds are not hopelessly sick or injured, and yet so many of the e-mails I receive, articles and rescue posts I read, or people I hear speaking about animals in the pound who are about to be killed say that they are going to be “euthanized.” This is not euthanasia. Being killed when you are healthy or treatable and want very much to live is not a “good death” (the literal meaning of the word).

I would like to appeal to everyone involved in rescue and animal advocacy (and everyone else for that matter) to stop using the word euthanasia when describing an animal who is not terminally ill or irremediably suffering, but is being killed by the “shelter” only for ostensible lack of space. We must stop using euphemisms that hide the truth, even in an attempt to be “politically correct.” To use this word in this way is not only inaccurate, but it plays into the idea that killing is the best thing for the animal, even if he/she is healthy or treatable. It gives the killing an aura of legitimacy and kindness that it should not have, and it therefore helps to perpetuate the killing. Words are powerful, and the words we use, and hear used, affect our attitudes and world view in profound ways we often don’t even realize. (Look for more on this idea in a later post).

When I have made this appeal in the past, I have been asked what word I suggest be used instead. While there are a number of words that would be much more accurate than euthanasia, the most obvious, straightforward, and accurate choice is simply killing. There is no need for dramatics. I’m not advocating that people use inflammatory words like murder or slaughter (although some would argue that these words are even more accurate). I am simply advocating that we speak the truth and do not continue to use a word that is not only grossly inaccurate, but also does a great disservice to the animals.

So I ask you to please join with me and pledge not to use the word euthanasia when referring to killing healthy or treatable animals. And when you hear others using the word, please also remind them to do the same. If we all insist on this correct usage, we can change the way people talk about killing for space. Of course, this will not stop the killing, but it will put it in its true light, and that will go a long way to help people see it for what it really is, and that can only be a step forward.