Animals & Media, along with In Defense of Animals, sent a letter to the head of the Associated Press in March of 2021, with over 80 signatures of support from animal and eco protection organizations, leaders, and scholars, including Dr. Jane Goodall, requesting that the AP update its guidelines on animals, especially on personal pronouns, to avoid objectifying language like “it” in describing individual nonhuman animals.
THE FOLLOWING SUGGESTIONS HAVE BEEN ON OUR WEBSITE SINCE 2015:
We suggest the AP add a category for “Speciesism” to say “see animals.”
Then replace the current Animals section with the following:
Animals. While each animal species and individual, including humans, is unique, all animals share a status as fellow sentient beings. To avoid an anthropocentric (speciesist) bias against nonhuman animal species, the interests of nonhuman animals should be included in stories affecting them. Treatment of animals should be evenhanded, non-condescending, and free of assumptions and stereotypes.
If the animal has a known name, use his or her name and capitalize it (Ex: Wicker). When an animal’s sex has been established, use the appropriate personal pronoun. Elliott gets excited when he goes to the dog park. The mother cat, who heard her kittens cry, ran to her basket. The bull tosses his horns. If the sex of the animal is unknown, follow the rules as used with humans, so as not to refer to anyone as “it.” Try to rewrite the sentence with a plural subject so that the gender-neutral “they” would work. If the subject must remain singular, either choose “they” or use “his or her” or “he or she” rather than the inanimate “it.” Regardless of sex, use “who” rather than “that” or “which” when describing any animal individual. The dog, who seemed to be lost, barked when he or she saw us approaching. A chick is often hesitant to leave the nest for their first flight.
For citation purposes, this page was last updated March, 2021.