I recently decided to read through a number of earlier issues of IDA’s Guardians International magazine, to remind me of how very much we, working together, have accomplished over the past 30 years.
I am so glad I did, because I came across two quotes by two very special individuals. Their words are important components of the ever growing list of quotes, opinion pieces and videos in support of our critically important work to change the way society perceives and treats animals. I was again reminded that it truly is way past time for our fellow beings, our animal friends, to be seen and treated as more than mere commodities, objects, property and things. Society’s failure to do so has been, and tragically still is, a major cause of so much of the abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation and killing that we are all working so very hard to prevent and to end.
This first statement was made by Jeffrey Prang, then Mayor of West Hollywood, the second city in our nation to replace the term animal “owner” with the term animal “guardian” in their animal related ordinances. Here’s what Jeffrey had to say:
“Animals need to be regarded as more than material property of an owner. Changing the title of animal ‘owner’ to animal ‘guardian’ is a symbolic move toward recognizing the importance and rights of animals. The term ‘owner’ denotes an apathetic relationship to material and inanimate things. The term ‘guardian’ denotes a positive and mutually beneficial relationship between two living beings, whose constant care, attention and affection are necessary for prosperity. The term ‘guardian’ instills respect for and appreciation of our animal companions.”
The second quote comes from an amazing individual, someone I will never ever forget, Dona Spring, who was a member of the Berkeley City Council. Dona, who was confined to a wheelchair for many years with crippling rheumatoid arthritis, was an absolutely courageous woman who fought tirelessly for the rights and well-being of the disenfranchised. Sadly she has passed away, but her words still ring true.
“I am very proud to be on one of the first City Councils who unanimously endorsed In Defense of Animals’ campaign for adding the language of ‘guardian’ to our municipal codes. Berkeley has been a national leader in the advancement of civil rights for persons of color, women, and the disabled, so it’s only natural that we would be at the forefront of the civil rights movement’s inclusion of other sentient beings.”
Changing existing mindsets and the words which we and others have used and lived with for most of our lives is no easy task. It does take time and much determination. But it needs to be a large part of our ongoing efforts on behalf of our fellow beings who need our support, advocacy and protection. I write to you and thousands of others today to ask for your help in educating others by sharing my message to you, as well as the messages of these others, far and wide, using your website, emails, social network sites, and all the methods and devices at your disposal. And please ask any and all animal protection, rights and rescue organizations you may belong to, to do the same.
I know you already have your hands full with your own lifesaving work. However I am hoping that you will find a few extra moments throughout each week to include this additional life saving effort. When you do, you will be helping hasten the day when the precious beings with whom we share our homes, our lives and our planet will no longer be mistreated, abused, neglected, thrown away, exploited, tormented and killed as they are today.
The quotes that follow, along with those from Jeffrey Prang, and Dona Spring pretty much say it all. However, I have also included a few links to opinion pieces, short videos and additional quotes that you may find useful in educating others. Please feel free to use some or all of them in the way you feel works best and most comfortable for you, to plant the seeds that educate, motivate and inspire others to do the same. As you know, customs and mindsets can be very difficult to change; they do require much patience and perseverance, but for the sake of our animal friends, change them we must. For the words we use affect how we and others think, and ultimately how we act.
“The word “owner” is outdated and doesn’t reflect the human/animal bond that exists in our culture today. The term “Guardian” denotes a higher level of responsibility towards another being. Although it is a simple language change that does not alter the legal status of animals as property, we hope that the increased awareness of the guardian language will elevate the status of animals in our community. We will use the word ‘guardian’ as another tool to fight animal abuse and exploitation.” Jan McHugh-Smith, former President, San Francisco SPCA
“The change from “owner” to “guardian” is imperative. Only through such changes will people begin to see animals as more than possessions. A change in terms has been successful in many instances in changing mindsets. No longer is the term “dog pound” used. Now, it’s “animal shelter”. We don’t “buy” a dog from the shelter, we “adopt”. Most companion animal guardians will also agree that they don’t refer to their animals as “it”, but use terms such as “him”, “her”, and “them”. These are changes for the better on a gradual progression to a better mindset for all people towards animals.” Chad Brown, Voice of Compassion For Animal Life
“How can we own another person? We cannot. Why then should we think we can own another being, a dog, a cat or a horse? The law may (say) we can, but the law also told us in the past that men owned their wives, parents (owned) their children, slave owners (owned) their slaves. I now realize how wrong it is to consider myself an animal ‘owner.’ Language is no trivial matter; how we use it affects how we think and then how we act. In Defense of Animals, (IDA) is truly achieving something remarkable. For the first time in history, people are being made aware of the fact that animals can no longer be considered a ‘thing,’ a ‘commodity,’ or an ‘object.’” Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author, When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie About Love
“Animals have been regarded as property for way too long. It’s high time we took on a more loving and responsible relationship with our kindred beings in the web of life on this beautiful planet. I always think and act as a guardian towards my kindred beings, never as their owner”. Jim Mason, author, An Unnatural Order
Well, there you have it. With all this information and the links below at your fingertips, you/we have the tools to educate and motivate others. Working together, we will slowly but surely change the existing mindset and paradigm, to raise the status of our fellow beings beyond that of commodities, property, objects and things. Let us open a floodgate of compassion and caring towards those beings we are trying so hard to advocate for and protect. Please let me know how you will be approaching this effort, and of your successes so I may share them with others. Should you have any question or concerns as to how to be most effective, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of our animal friends, I thank you so very much. I Iook forward to hearing from you.
With the deepest of respect and appreciation for your kindness, sensitivity, compassion and caring,
Guardian quotes and links to videos and essays.
Elliot M. Katz, DVM
Founder and President Emeritus
In Defense of Animals