Category: Language Matters

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 – killing for the public good?

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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Language Matters | Birders and ‘gamebirds’

Anyone who launches a campaign (any campaign) can be fairly certain that a) not everyone will agree with the campaign’s aims, and b) will tell you that ‘insert whatever it is you’re campaigning about’ is a waste of time. Sure, not everyone cares about (in this case) our wildlife, preferring to shoot it or ignore it rather than protect it. They’re almost bound not to agree. But ‘a waste of time’? Trying to change something you fundamentally disagree with is never a waste of time. Besides, it gives me a chance to explain in 1000+ words exactly why I think that raising a debate about the use of ‘gamebird’ is not a waste of time at all. I will say it again, in this birder’s opinion the term ‘gamebird’ has absolutely no place in birding, or in birding magazines, or in identification books. We’ll need to campaign more directly to get it confined to the waiting dustbin of history, but in the meantime fellow birders, fellow writers, and fellow activists let’s just please pledge not to use it anymore.

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Language Matters | Guest post: Bob Berzins

“One definition of vermin is people perceived as despicable and as causing problems for the rest of society and another definition is wild animals that are believed to be harmful to crops, farm animals or game or which carry disease. So vermin people and vermin animals really couldn’t be any worse. And no wonder our relationship with animals and birds follows much the same pattern I’ve described above, we split them into good and bad, with corvids in particular firmly in the “bad” camp. No matter what we do to corvids their numbers keep increasing, giving us permission to kill even more, because if we don’t they will cause us untold harm. In contrast, Ed Douglas’s Country Diaries in The Guardian are vivid experiences of wit and the joy of experiencing our natural world free from the prejudice of terms like vermin.” Guest post by Bob Berzins in support of our ‘Language Matters’ campaign.

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Language Matters | Guest post: Bo Beolens (Fatbirder)

“Shakespeare said ‘that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet’. Maybe so, but call it, ‘Manure flower’ and I bet half the people sniffing it would pull back in horror at the stench. We are, by nature, suggestible. Snake oil salesmen have been selling us crap at luxury prices for ever, because part of the way we believe is direct experience and part received wisdom. You can’t judge a book by its cover! But we do. Language is important, terms become reified, so tackling terms is an important step in removing connotations we don’t want. Every single thing we say or write carries sub-cultural capital.” Guest post by Bo Beolens in support of our ‘Language Matters’ campaign.

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Language Matters | A War on Wildlife Project campaign

Back in February this year we wrote a post titled ‘Language Matters: ‘gamebird’, game bird, gamebird?’ It was a response to the use of the term ‘gamebird’ in the judicial review Wild Justice and their legal team were seeking. Now of course Wild Justice has won a fantastic victory in the courts. We applaud the court decision of course, but we have been rankled by the constant use of the term ‘gamebird’ in media reporting. So rankled that we’re launching a campaign about the use by the shooting and hunting industries of terms like ‘gamebird’, ‘pest’, ‘vermin’, and ‘cull’ callled ‘Language Matters’. There will be a number of asks and a number of different elements which we’ll be detailing throughout the next few weeks. Ultimately though we would like to see the legal status of the horribly divisive term ‘gamebird’ removed because as we explain #languagematters…

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Language Matters | ‘gamebird’, game bird, gamebird?

Language encodes and externalises our thoughts. The way we use it, writes Charlie Moores, expresses externally what we think about the person, animal or object we are describing. Sometimes we use language too casually, without questioning, and sometimes outside influences affect the words we use. Over many years, for example, we have been persuaded by agricultural and hunting/shooting interests. So should we use ‘gamebird’ at all?

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