Editor’s note: This post has originally been posted on 1st June 2017, and has now been updated and republished.
Animals, also called Metazoa, are multicellular, eukaryotic organisms in the biological kingdom Animalia, which includes the human species. Based on current scientific evidence one can assume that any animal with a centralised nervous system might be sentient, which means that we as humans can affect them through our actions, and for this reason we should give them moral consideration. Sentience refers to the ability to have positive and negative experiences caused by external affectations to our body or to sensations within our body. When a being has an experience, then this experience exists in that being or subject, as objects cannot have an experience. We do not know for certain what causes consciousness to arise. However, it is known that in the absence of at least a centralised nervous system, consciousness will not arise.
Therefore it makes perfect sense to refer to sentient non-human beings as “he/she” or “them/they”, or by species. The words “it” or “thing” should not be used to refer to a non-human animal, and “who” is used rather than “that”. If you do not know the gender, choose one: “he” or “she”. Even if your gender choice is wrong, it is more respectful than “it.” This is an important way of demonstrating respect towards non-human animals, and will stress the fact that non-human animals are not being regarded or treated as possessions or objects. Please note that this approach is not thought to reflect the complexity of human gender diversity.Continue reading “How To Treat A Sentient Being With Respect (Republished)”