This morning’s email brought in a lovely, inspiring post by one of my favorite bloggers, Dr. V. Titled “I have a dream too,” it details Dr. V’s hopes for helping animals in the future. One line stopped me short, though:
I have a dream that we stop putting our heads in the sand as to the fact that 5 million animal souls are euthanized each year and finally look that cold and grey number in the face.
This reminded me of another blog post that made me aware of something I hadn’t considered before: The use of the word “euthanasia” in the context of what happens in many shelters.
Christie Keith wrote:
…. “the last great gift, when you take your animal’s pain and make it your own.” That’s euthanasia.
It is so incredibly painful to hear that word applied to the killing of a pet for no reason except that she or he is homeless. Using a term that speaks to the loving end of suffering, the same mercy I wish I could have shown my mother when she was dying, is cruel and disrespectful to everyone who has ever made that last agonizing decision for a beloved pet.
It’s also disrespectful to the animals being killed, by acting as if what’s being done to them is a gift, or an act of mercy.
And above all, using “euthanasia” when you mean “killing” is a lie. Just stop.
For the rest of this powerful essay see Stop Calling It ‘Euthanasia.’
I’ve used the term euthanasia a lot because that’s what we’ve become accustomed to doing. And because I didn’t want to make others — especially shelter volunteers who have to face this horrendous responsibility — uncomfortable.
But there’s a reason that the “No Kill” movement has the name it has. It’s not the “No Euthanasia” movement.
So I reiterate Christie Keith’s plea. Words count. We as writers and bloggers can do this one thing that may help change hearts and minds. We can be mindful of our language, and tell the truth about what happens to healthy animals: killing, gassing, giving a lethal injection…even, dare I say it, murder.
But not euthanasia.
Update: Just so you know — I’m listening to my commenters. Although I wonder if it’s not a slippery slope to use certain words for one situation and not another, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that each situation is different. That’s why we have different words. And I would never, ever want to cause further pain to anyone charged with an impossible situation. Eric is right; the replacement of people with conscience with others to do the deed could be far unkinder.
I go along with Diane’s (inadvertent, because somewhat ironic) suggestion: Put down. As I mentioned, we use it to refer to sleep, but we also use it to refer to “downer” cattle. To my mind, it’s not as euphemistic as “put to sleep,” but not as inaccurate as euthanasia.