Tag Archives: euphemisms

Coyote: Compare and Contrast

Nehalem Bay State Park coyote

Aggressive coyote at Nehalem Bay State Park. Photo has many attributions — It’s probably from the Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, via a visitor who snapped a photo of what is believed to be the relevant coyote.

On June 21, 2012, a 20-pound female coyote attacked a five-year-old girl in Nehalem Bay State Park in Oregon.  The girl is fine.  The coyote is not, but you wouldn’t know it from this National News article, which reports, both in its headline and in the text of the article, that the offending coyote was “removed” from the park.  That sounds like it was live-trapped and relocated, doesn’t it?  Only at the end of the fourth paragraph do we see what really became of the coyote — apparently it was “safely taken from the park by lethal means“.

“Safely taken”…by “lethal means”?  Not safely for the coyote, surely.

For contrast, here’s an alternative article, about the same event, whose angle implies the coyote was “tracked down and killed”.

Here’s an article that says the girl was “nipped” by the coyote; here’s one that says she was “bitten”; here’s one that says she was “attacked”.  Here’s an article calling the event an “encounter”, using a headline which carefully implies the coyote was not necessarily at fault (“Coyote killed after encounter left 5-year-old girl injured“), and specifically not using the word “bitten”, yet still using the word “attacked” later in the article.  And here’s one that deliberately emphasizes that the attack was made upon a “little girl”.  What do you suppose actually happened?

And, as a bonus, here’s the first article published verbatim by a different news agency without the original byline.  Notice that they changed the headline to include the word “attack”, even though the word “attack” appears nowhere in the article?

This is why I never trust information from just one source.  Journalists are supposed to be unbiased, but it doesn’t often happen that way.

Can’t Spell “Slaughter” Without Doublespeak

Even though it happens all the time, people hate talking about killing animals.  One of their favorite ways of avoiding the topic is to use euphemisms.  Rather than “killing” animals at the slaughterhouse, they “stun” them; rather than “dismembering” them they “render” or “process” them; and animals do not get crippled or maimed in transit to the slaughterhouse — instead they are “downed” — ad nauseam.

With this in mind: a quiet little law has recently been passed which makes it possible for the US to resume horse slaughter operations.  This sounds gruesome but it might be considered to be of net benefit to the horses.  Horse slaughter was originally banned in the US in order to reduce the number of horses slaughtered for meat, but the same number of horses still got slaughtered after the ban — they just got shipped to Mexico or Canada first.  The only effect of the slaughter ban was to add a horrific multi-day transit in un-air-conditioned cattle trucks to the horses’ experience.  So, we still need to do some work to solve the issue of horses in the slaughterhouse — but, in the meantime, at least we removed that awful transit experience.  Progress.

The Arabian Professional and Amateur Horseman’s Association wanted to show support for the Arabian Horse Association, which came out in favor of this law — but how to show its support without appearing to say, “Oh, good, we’re killing horses again”?  The APAHA decided to use a tragically awful euphemism:

The Arabian Professional and Amateur Horsemen’s Association voted, with unanimous approval, to thank the AHA Board for continuing your support for the re-opening of the equine terminal marketplace, and to join with the AHA in support of the reinstatement of equine processing in the United States.

George Carlin is rolling over in his grave.  The re-opening of the equine terminal marketplaceEquine terminal marketplace!  What on earth is the equine terminal marketplace?  They’re not going to slaughter — they’re going shopping!

Whether you support the rescinding of the ban or not — aren’t we all mature enough to admit, out loud, that humans kill animals for meat?  How are we supposed to solve the problem if we can’t even admit that it exists?  What was wrong with “We are happy that steps are being taken to reduce the suffering of horses bound for slaughter”?  Honestly, they could have just gone with the last paragraph of the original statement:

There are issues to address, certainly, and many different options available to improve the terminal marketplace, among them mobile slaughter units and live web monitoring of plants. As horsemen, breeders, and horse lovers, we are the ones responsible for dealing with these issues, making sure that the terminal marketplace becomes ever more humane, with a quick and dignified passing, without undue stress, and where the horse can go on to be useful to man after his demise, just as he has been for the last 5000 years.

Vegetarian Vegetable Soup

Various health- and ethics-related events have combined to make me extremely interested in obtaining much of my nutrition from vegetable-based sources.  Finding foods which have no meat in them can be, as previously described, a frustrating endeavor.  Meat really is unbelievably pervasive.  Until you’re looking for it, you really don’t see how “everywhere” it is.

Recently I became aware of the existence of “vegetarian vegetable soup“.  It occurred to me, much belatedly as it turns out, to wonder why the manufacturer felt they had to make such a distinction.  Wouldn’t vegetable soup that has meat in it be labeled?  “Vegetable beef soup“, for instance?  Well, no.  Apparently, a lot of vegetable soup is made, at least partly, with chicken stock.  Or beef stock.  Or, as in my (previously) favorite soup, “beef stock”, “beef fat”, and “chicken fat”.

Apparently I am just late to the party and this is, and has always been, very common.  Here’s Martha Stewart doing it.  Some guy from the Food Network.  Emeril.  Here’s Wolfgang Puck at least suggesting you use (his) free-range chicken stock when you make your “vegetable” soup with meat.

I am trying to avoid eating factory-farmed animals.  Soup manufacturers are hiding them in my vegetable soup!  It’s not just Campbell’s, either — I don’t mean to pick on them.  I spent several minutes in my grocery store’s soup aisle turning over cans, and only the “vegetarian vegetable” soups, and one “vegetable” soup, did not feature animals or their derivatives in their ingredients.

I once ate at a steakhouse where meat was so pervasive it appeared in the salads and the vegetable side dishes as well.  The other day I ordered a “tomato and basil” soup which the waiter and the menu both forgot to mention contained large chunks of chicken.  Meat is everywhere!  I keep expecting to find meat in my toothpaste or my toilet paper.

Fortunately, I am not the only one who has noticed meat “hiding” in my food products.  The Carnivore’s Dilemma offers a hint for vegetarians and others looking for animal-free foods: look for the word “pareve” on the label, assuring those keeping kosher that the food contains neither dairy nor meat.  Cyberparent offers a handy list of euphemisms for meat-related products which may be appearing on an ingredients list near you.  And the Vegetarian Society works on “outing” badly-labeled products as well as offering a list of officially approved products which have been determined to be 100% animal-free.  They also have suggestions if you find a badly-labeled product and you’d like to do something about it.

Someone Else Can See It

It’s not that the scientists are lying, exactly, about what they’re doing.  It’s not that they’re hiding it, either, really.  Everything they do is written down as a proposal, approved by various subcommittees, recorded as results, and stored in case someone wants to look at it.  The problem is more one of communication:

“Yes, [I found it],” said Arthur.  “Yes, I did.  It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

Like the plans to demolish Arthur Dent’s house, the descriptions of what people are doing in laboratory experiments are there — just very, very difficult to find.  Most people don’t bother, or aren’t even aware that there are any descriptions out there to find.

For example, you can find, if you search online, some perfectly ordinary “rodent guillotines“.  You may be able to find a page, as well, explaining why some research animals might need to be euthanized via guillotine (it allows the researchers to collect samples uncontaminated by euthanasia chemicals).  Here’s a page describing research reassuring scientists that decapitation is painless (notice that it’s in response to research saying decapitation isn’t painless, and that it corroborates the original findings, but simply chooses to interpret them differently).  You can find masses of pages describing the euthanasia techniques, including decapitation, used by different facilities (look at all those colleges!  Did you know that your college tuition funded this kind of thing?  Would you have gone to that college if you’d known?)

…how would you know to look for this if you hadn’t worked in one of these facilities?  I wouldn’t have been able to come up with the search terms (“decapitation”, “euthanasia”, “rodent”, and “SOP”, if you’re wondering).  It wouldn’t have occurred to me that this even went on.  What other practices do we just need to know the search terms to find?  (Try “cervical dislocation”, “neonates” and “scissors”, “captive bolt”, “hog stunner”, and finish up with “AVMA guidelines euthanasia” to see the full list.)  It’s not like the information isn’t out there…it’s just that nobody is calling it to our attention.

What triggered this today was a random blog post from someone else mentioning that, hey, we’re not really saying a lot about this, are we?  Has anyone else noticed that people are being really quiet about this?  Why?


Making it even harder to figure out what exactly is actually going on, people keep using obfuscatory words to make sure nobody knows what they are talking about:


  • lab animal – “animal model”, or even just “model”, “organism”, “subject”
  • monkey, ape, chimp – “nonhuman primate”
  • cage – “housing system”
  • euthanize – “terminate”, “cull”, “cut from the study”  (They’re actually even trying to stop using “euthanize” now, because it’s such a “charged word”)

Meat Industry:

  • killing – “stunning”

(Note: this is just a list of ideas to which I intend to return later.  Additions are welcome.)


When I shop for eggs, I wish to buy eggs which have not been factory farmed.  I know that standard living conditions for factory farmed laying hens in the United States involve up to five hens being crammed into a wire cage approximately one foot cubed, suspended above a trough full of droppings.  I appreciate the effort that the hens have put into creating those eggs for me to eat, and I do not show my appreciation for hard work by cramming birds into tiny spaces and watching them peck each other to death.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m weird that way.

I want to fund the farmers who “pay” their laying hens (and any other animals they may have) with the standard package anyone should get for hard work: food, water, shelter, and medical care.  The problem is finding these farmers, because all the other farmers (or, rather, the massive corporations who employ those farmers, who produce most of our commercially raised eggs) have figured out that most people don’t like picturing chickens crammed into little cages.  They don’t want to actually stop doing that — that would be inconvenient and expensive for them — but they want us to think they have, so we’ll keep buying their eggs.  So they use euphemisms.

They started by calling the eggs “organic”.  That sounds nice.  We associate “organic” with things made without pesticides, without additional hormones, without dosing the animals with unnecessary antibiotics.  Surely animals being raised in “organic” conditions are happily out at pasture, frolicking with the butterflies?  Nope.  “Organic” does not imply a single thing about an animal’s housing conditions.  “Organic” eggs may come from hens which are not chemically treated, or at least not chemically treated above and beyond some extremely loose standards set (sometimes) by the USDA, but the hens are still crammed in little cages.  Little “organic” cages, possibly.

I’ve also heard “pesticide-free” and “vegan diet”.  All right, those are nice — I’d prefer not to eat pesticide-laced chicken, and I know that some large factory farms feed their living animals the ground-up remains of their unusable, dead animals — but neither one really affects the day to day existence of the chickens.  They’re still in little cages, although they are now a little less chemically altered, and less likely to catch horrible diseases from eating their ground-up predecessors on the assembly line.

A euphemism that’s becoming more popular now is “cage free”.  That sounds good, doesn’t it?  In fact, I bought “cage free” eggs (at twice the factory-farmed price) for a couple years before doing the research I should have done earlier.  “Cage free” does mean that the chickens are not crammed into tiny cages, yes.  But instead they are crammed shoulder to shoulder into huge barns, where they fight and have panic attacks every time the overhead lights turn on or off.  (In fact, many barns are kept dark most of the time, to “calm” the birds.)  They can technically move around, but there are thousands of other chickens in the way.  This may be better than standard, but it is still hardly a bucolic idyll.

In a similar vein, I have seen eggs from hens with “outdoor access”.  This means they cut a small hole in the side of the barn, with a yard about big enough for ten hens.  The remaining 10,000 hens in the barn never see this hole, or the yard.  But, technically, they have “outdoor access”.

The phrase which turns out to accurately describe “hens which are allowed to live much like hens should” is “pasture-raised” (or, as on the eggs that I buy, the legend “Our hens are kept on grass 24/7!”).  This means the hens are actually, honestly, kept outdoors.  It can be done, you know.  Even with a couple of hundred hens.  You bring them in at night and they lay eggs for you, and then during the day they go out and are hens.  You rotate them to new pastures regularly, so the old ones have time to regrow and recover, and you get some fine eggs from those happy, happy hens.

You know the big corporations are not pasture-raising their hens.  If they were, it would be all over the carton, because I am happy to pay six dollars a dozen for eggs if I know (and I do research to the best of my ability) that the hens which produced the eggs in question have been appropriately, handsomely paid for their work on my behalf, and I am sure the big corporations would love to get six dollars a dozen for their eggs.  (Standard, factory farmed eggs in my area go for a dollar fifty to two dollars a dozen, normally.)  Likewise, I pay twice the normal price for “pasture kept” milk and butter (“guaranteed kept on grass” and not “grass finished” or “organic” or “hormone-free”, although generally pasture-kept animals are also “organic” and “hormone-free” as well).

(I keep saying “the normal price” when I mean “the price of factory-farmed eggs”.  This reflects somewhat on our culture, and it also annoys me.  “Factory farmed” may be considered “normal” right now, but it should not be.)

Anyway, this whole mess offends me.  It’s part of a bigger picture, where scientists replace “lab rat” with “animal model”, and use even more horribly twisted language to disguise, as much as possible, that they’re letting kids slice up live mice for fun.  I can’t get into that right now, but this little mess, with “cage free” and “pasture”, is a start.