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To me, however, the most interesting aspect of the story was the language that the media used to refer to the animal.Animal advocates have long struggled against the convention of reserving "who" for people, and using "that" or "which" for animals.I asked Philip Corbett, the standards editor for the New York Times, if the use of "cow who" reflected a change of policy. He told me that the Times style manual, like that of the Associated Press, suggested using "who" only for a named or personified animal. Put in "cow who" and you get nearly 400,000 hits, compared to nearly 600,000 for "cow that". If you substitute "dog" for "cow," the numbers get closer – more than 8 million for "dog who" and over 10 million for "dog that". More surprising, perhaps, is that using "who" apparently is becoming more acceptable even for animals who are not pets and are less likely than great apes to be thought of as individuals.In 2009, the European Union amended its fundamental treaty to include a statement that because animals are sentient beings, the EU and its member states must, in formulating policies for agriculture, fisheries, research and several other areas, "pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals".In a language such as English, which implicitly categorizes animals as things rather than persons, adopting the personal pronoun would embody the same recognition – and remind us who animals really are.
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