Category: Language Matters

Language Matters | Guest post: Dr Adam Cruise #2

“Throughout South Africa (and indeed Africa and the rest of the world), as humans expand deeper into the wilderness, they come into more contact with wild animals. Humans describe these forms of contact as ‘conflict’. The word ‘conflict’ is defined as a serious incompatibility between two or more opinions, principles, or interests; or a prolonged armed struggle . This implies that wild animals are consciously asserting their interests to undermine human goals and assuming the role of combatants. Such implications promote human antagonism towards wildlife that can exacerbate the problem further, hinder resolution and can result in people directing their anger and frustration on wildlife with potentially adverse conservation outcomes for endangered species. But even more importantly, and more fundamentally, this type of language use distorts both the lives and life projects of the other animals, as well as our experiences of them and our interdependencies within the land community.” Guest post Dr Adam Cruise

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Language Matters | Guest Post : Dr Adam Cruise

“The same process of language reform needs to occur in order to tackle human dominance over other animals. The biggest obstacle has to do with the word ‘animal’ itself. French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, was one of the first to highlight this particular problem. The word ‘animal’ has come to represent all beings that are not human, or it represents humans that act like wild animals (supposedly). The original Latin word is ‘animalus’, which means ‘having breath’. Humans also breathe. They too have flesh and participate in the world as every other living being does…Due to this objectification in language, humans easily ignore the sentience and interests of other animals and a switch to seeing them as pure objects that may be utilised, is easily made.” Guest post by Dr Adam Cruise

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Language Matters | Guest Post: ‘Campaigns’ against the Awesome Sea-life Hoards

“No one wants a slack market, except the squid, and no one’s asking them…So the more you look at this whole chain of cause and effect, the less enlightened it looks, and the more it looks like a ceremony, complete with trumpets and drums, followed by extortion. As in “We see what you’ve got, we’ll have some“. In this sense maybe the military overtones of the word “campaign” are appropriate. It is a hostile surveillance effort, in the sense that the survey, and then the fishing, results in the premature end of a large portion of squid. And yet, the military overtones only ring true if there is a worthy opponent, an also-hostile opposite-party. An opposite-party which is a threat to you and yours. Which, in this case, there isn’t. No Evil Squid with lasers attached to their heads will be on guard to defend the rest of Squid-dom. They were just down there minding their relatively innocuous squid business, maybe eating, maybe breeding.” Guest post by Jamie Newlin

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Language Matters | Smokescreen/Trail Hunting

The so-called Hunting Office was burnt badly when webinars discussing how to avoid being caught illegally fox hunting were leaked by the Hunt Saboteurs Association. An interesting element of the reaction to the webinars has been the way many of us have seized upon the word ‘smokescreen’ that was used in the webinars. The word has a literal origin as in laying down a cloud of smoke to conceal military operations, but it is more usually used now to mean “something designed to obscure, confuse, or mislead”. Several of the speakers in the webinars used the term while suggesting ways to create an element of doubt about whether, for example, a scent trail has been laid or whether a hunt had ‘accidentally’ killed a fox or not. ‘Smokescreen’ will now forever be linked with these webinars, while we’ll happily take whatever stick foxhunting hands us to poke them with, it’s worth taking a pause here because hunts have actually already been using a smokescreen for fifteen years – and that’s the very phrase ‘trail hunting’ itself.

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Language Matters | Guest Post: Tracy Keeling

“As The War on Wildlife Project’s regular readers will know, it has launched a campaign centered on the idea that ‘language matters’ in discourse on the natural, living world. I couldn’t agree more. It’s conventional logic by now that language matters in relation to human affairs (who are, of course, also part of the natural world). These days, sexist terminology raises eyebrows (or law suits) not laughs, because that’s the case. But the language we use in relation to the non-human living world matters too. Indeed, language has undoubtedly played its part in the sorry predicament we now find ourselves in environmentally. But it also has the potential to help us get out of the mess – if we’re willing to challenge and change our lingo.” Guest post by Tracy Keeling

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Language Matters | Guest Post: Liv Cooper

“Our society has a deep-rooted, seldom recognised, and unfounded intolerance of wildlife being what it says on the tin – wild. This intolerance is an unobtrusive destroyer of biodiversity, with a secret weapon that allows it to take hold in our minds from a young age, which is, of course, language. We’re raised on words such as’ weed’,’ pest’ and ‘vermin’, all of which have strong connotations with dirty, unwanted plants and animals that are uncontrolled and offensive. These labels wield enormous power, being able to justify actions of the destruction of a species under a simple and dangerous concept, that “they’re not supposed to be here”. Even for nature-lovers and conservationists, it’s easy to be blinded by these labels, with a lower value put on certain species from the moment you learn of them, branded with worthlessness and blame. ” Guest post by Liv Cooper

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Language Matters | Eco-Woke

…talking of which brings us to ‘eco-woke’. Oh dear, Beefy. This is the hook on which you will eventually be hung. It’s such a nonsense of a phrase. It might get senescent club members rustling the pages of their Telegraph in appreciation, but it actually only telegraphs the utter ignorance of the person that uses it. ‘Eco-woke’ is no doubt intended to be an insult, a redneck attempt at putting down anyone who doesn’t kill things for a giggle – but it is a huge red flag being waved by the sort of dimwit who rejoices in their climate change scepticism or clings to the belief that killing something is the best way to conserve it. We are facing catastrophic warming and biodiversity loss, the destruction of ecosystems across the entire planet. We are on the brink of an existential crisis. Flaunting the fact that you haven’t woken up to that isn’t clever or brave, it is moronic…

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Language Matters | Cull – its just killing

We recently launched a campaign looking at how our use of language fails our wildlife. When did we start to agree that foxes were ‘vermin’ or that Wood Pigeons were ‘pests’, for example? What on earth has chasing a small animal with a pack of hounds got anything to do with modern understandings of ‘sport’? There are numerous terms and phrases that belittles or demonises wildlife, and in this post we will be looking at a word that does exactly that but which like ‘conservation’, ‘control’, and ‘manage’ seems to be on a form of ‘mission creep’: cull. ‘Cull’ has been fully embraced by a range of industries to suggest that whatever mass killing takes place, it’s being done with reluctance, for us, to help us, and it has (honestly, guv) absolutely nothing to do with protecting the [insert as appropriate] industry that is doing the killing or for which the killing is being done. And because of our selfless care and consideration isn’t it fair that we [insert as appropriate] should be compensated? By the taxpayer of course…

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