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Putting animal protection in the dictionary

JDM061011clam.jpg
The delicious giant clam.

Danwei noted on Monday the initiative to halt Shanghai's animal Olympics. Last week, commenters on Chinese animal-lovers' forums were concerned with the attitudes underlying cruel treatment of animals.

A poster on a Fujian website for the protection of small animals indicted the venerable Xinhua Dictionary for anti-animal discrimination. Examples:

[butterfish]: Flesh is tender and fatty with a delicious flavor.
[fin]: Fish fin; refers to the fin of a shark, a delicacy.
[razor clam]: Flesh has a delicious flavor.

Says the poster, "Today, when we mention animals we can only think of eating!" Southeast Express, which broke the story in print, quotes an editor of the Changchun Animal Protection Alliance website (CAPA, formerly the China Animal Protection Alliance):

These definitions aren't really wrong, but they turn animals into tools for humanity's subsistence and development. And dictionaries exert a subtle influence on children, so we hope that in further editing of the dictionary, the protection of animals can be taken into account.

CAPA clarified its position in a statement released over the weekend, which revealed that the examples reported in the press were only one part of a comprehensive survey of dictionary definitions (excerpted):

What we discovered were not exclusively definitions of the food uses of animals. It's just that of the five examples we provided to journalists, four had to do with food uses of animals. So the journalists mistakenly thought that we were only looking at food-related definitions of animals. "Today, when we mention animals we can only thing of eating!" does not accurately represent our position. We also found the following data:

[dog]: as in 狗腿子 [dog's leg]: thug, running dog, one who performs evil tasks for a powerful person.
[raccoon dog]: Skin is highly valuable. 一丘之貉 [a hill of jackals] tarred with the same brush, refers to bad people.
[cattle]: Strong, useful for plowing fields or pulling carts. Flesh and milk are edible. Horns, skin, and bones can made into things.
[animal, beast]: Figure of speech for barbaric or immoral: 兽欲 [animal desires], 兽行 [brutality].

We are not calling these definitions incorrect, but we feel that they are inappropriate. They are too one-sided, emphasizing only animals' utility. Some people have divided animals into grades and have introduced a concept of good and evil. These are not beneficial to humans' understanding of animals. We hope that a friendly method can be used to describe animals.

Furthermore, we are not saying that animals cannot be eaten, only that the dictionary has too many definitions reading "flesh is edible" or "flesh is delicious." For some animals, this is even the only definition, giving the reader an impression that the animals are born for eating, and ignoring the position and value in the environment.

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Comments on Putting animal protection in the dictionary

Aren't plants often defined the same way? Oh, the humanity!

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