“Non-traditional companion animal” should replace “exotic pet”

Exotic pet - fennec fox.

This is about the use of words and particularly the description of a certain group of animals; in this case, companion animals which are non-traditional and which are often described as ‘exotic pets’.

It has taken a while for the British Small Animal Veterinary Association in the UK to get around to advising the citizens of the UK that the word “pet” is not ideal. Anybody involved in the animal world has been saying that for a very long time. The word “pet” is very commonly used. It’s very easy to say. It trips off the tongue. The news media use the word all the time. However, it is slightly derogatory and disrespectful of our companion animals.

Exotic pet -  fennec fox.

Exotic pet – fennec fox. Photo: in public domain.

It conjures up a picture of superiority of the human over the inferior companion animal, whose role is to decorate the home and entertain their masters. It is an old-fashioned, outmoded and out-of-date word. The description ‘companion animal’ or ‘animal companion’ is far better. Or you might use “domestic cat companion”. Or simply “cat companion”. The same would apply to dogs.

Also, the word “exotic” is unhelpful, the British Small Animal Veterinary Association argue, because it conjures up an invasive species (non-native species). For that reason, it is “problematic” they say. That’s because non-native species are often decried by many people. They have an image of being damaging to the environment.

The Australian government are the greatest disseminators of this concept when they consistently state that the feral cat on its continent is non-native and a massive killer of native marsupials and mammals.

There is, however, quite a strong argument for doing away with the idea of native and non-native species. It is a rather artificial concept bearing in mind that many non-native species have been in countries for hundreds of years. When does a non-native species become native? Can they ever be accepted by that country?

For the sake of clarity, a non-native species is one which has been brought to a country by humans and which does not originate in that country through evolution.

One person who thinks that the word “pet” is acceptable is Lee Monks of the Plain English Campaign. He told the Daily Mail that “exotic pet” was perfectly acceptable to him. And he believes that the word “pet” is not derogatory. The man is out of touch. He may know his English but he doesn’t know his animals.

Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA, has said, probably on numerous occasions, that animal owners should use the word “animal companion” as it shows more respect. She agrees with me that using the word pet “reduces a sentient being with a personality and emotions to an inanimate object – a possession to be used in any way the owner wishes”.

Grey parrot from Ghana

UK law on keeping wild animals needs to be overhauled

Exotic pets are popular in the UK. The word "exotic" means wild animal in this context. Under the Dangerous Wild ...
Read More
Sugar glider pet

Time to ban all exotic pets in the UK

Recently it was in the news that the UK would ban the keeping of primates as exotic pets which is ...
Read More
Otter holds on to his owners arm

Pet river otter clings onto human companion’s arm after a swim

Aty as a pet river otter. In the video you see him swimming at six a.m. in a very cold, ...
Read More
Gabriel parrot sanctuary

Amazing parrot rescue facility outside Denver, USA

The video provides the public with a very in-depth and interesting tour of a spectacular parrot rescue facility outside Denver, ...
Read More
Pet monkey kept by affluent Roman Egyptians

Wealthy Romans in Egypt imported monkeys from India to keep as pets

EGYPT - RED SEA COAST - 100-200 BC: The remains of pet monkeys, "sleeping like children", have been uncovered in ...
Read More
Ethel looking frightened

Timid emu has made the area around Doncaster, UK her home

NEWS AND VIEWS AND UPDATE: Her name is Ethel, and she is an apparently wild but gentle emu who appears ...
Read More
Share