I is for Inhuman


Working on the vegan dictionary continues to be a very educational experience.  Finding words which are defined in a way that normalises animal exploitation, (such as animals being described simply in terms of how they taste or how they are used by humans; or horrible, violent practices described in a brief, matter-of-fact way as if they are perfectly normal and inoffensive) and then redefining them so that they tell the whole story, good or bad.  I’m finding out a lot of very interesting facts about animals I previously knew nothing about, as well as a lot of very upsetting things which are hidden from the general population in order to preserve the status quo.

Today I was leafing through the i section of the dictionary and, unusually, finding nothing that needed redefining …. until I reached inhuman, described thus in the Oxford Dictionary:

adjective:    brutal; unfeeling; barbarous

And the synonyms for inhuman, given in the thesaurus section, are:

animal, barbaric, barbarous, bestial, bloodthirsty, brutal, brutish, diabolical, fiendish, inhumane, merciless, pitiless, ruthless, savage, unfeeling, unnatural, vicious.

Now I’m confused.

Isn’t it humans who enslave and brutalise animals for pleasure and profit?  Isn’t it humans who are so unfeeling that they steal a baby from his mother and kill him so that they can have his mother’s milk for themselves?  Isn’t it humans who show no mercy to the billions of terrified, innocent individuals who are savagely and routinely killed en masse?

With the exception of the word ‘animal’ it seems to me that those synonyms should be in the dictionary next to the word human, not inhuman.

The thing is that humans, most of them, do think of themselves as good and kind, decent and compassionate, and the dictionary reflects that.  But, however good and charitable a human might be towards other humans, if their compassion doesn’t extend to other species then is not a part of them still barbaric, merciless, unfeeling, pitiless, ruthless and savage, albeit perhaps unwittingly so?  Even if they do not commit the fiendish acts themselves; even if they are horrified at the idea of hurting a living being; if they know about it and still choose to pay for it, are they not directly and deliberately responsible for it?  And isn’t that diabolical?

The good news is that it is entirely possible to make the Oxford Dictionary definition correct.  If all humans went vegan (as nature intended) then the word human really would be synonymous with compassionate, and inhuman would mean what the Oxford Dictionary says it means 🙂

13 thoughts on “I is for Inhuman

  1. Hey V. This might be off-topic – it does not concern animals directly. However, a fellow journalist who wrote about real estate used to object to calling someone a real estate “developer” – when what developers mostly do is flatten the land and, usually, pave it and put up a parking lot (to paraphrase Ms. Mitchell). At the same time, developers often destroy the homes and existence of many animals.

    I’m not sure what she wanted to call them. She was not a crazy environmentalist. Just a fair-minded person objecting to self-serving euphemisms.

    Keep up the great work.


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